Archive for November, 2006
INSIDE-OUTSIDE November 30, 2006 | 12:19 pm


Here’s Giles posing as a cat.

DID I MENTION IT’S, LIKE, COLD? November 30, 2006 | 11:26 am


Frost on the windows.

THE WOMEN IN GAY MEN’S LIVES November 30, 2006 | 10:52 am

Reading the most recent post by gay prof about his love for Wonder Woman reminded me of what irks me about the gay movie/tv show genre’s representations of women, especially the “fag hag.” Women in Eating Out and Will & Grace love their gay male friends because they are trying so desperately to complete their lives with a heterosexual relationship and constantly push the queer quality of their friendship into “normal” territory. Also, there’s a fawning quality to their characters and an off-putting self-centeredness. I wonder how much it is that there are women like this out there or if it’s gay men’s twisted desire to be loved by women as forbidden objects. But whatever. I’m not really all that interested in “real” representations so much as I am in transformative ones — ones that enable us to rethink how people are in the world.

Anyways, gay prof points out that queer icons, unlike fag hags, are women who blend and bend gender and challenge what gets relentlessly rescripted as normal masculine and feminine traits. I like that understanding of women who are queer icons.

On a related note, author Brent Hartinger talks about the “gay genre” in movies and television. His discussion treads the usual grounds of assimilation and acceptance (gay people have made such headway in being accepted that there now can be movies that just incidentally have gay characters! woo!). On the one hand, yes, I agree it’s great that movies with gay characters don’t have to thematize homosexuality or make it the central issue anymore. And frankly, the “gay genre” as coming-out narrative is quite overdone and frustrating in its lack of complexity about issues that gay men face (even in what happens to people in coming out). But I’d prefer to think that the best movies with gay characters, content, perspectives, and so on help to queer/skew normative assumptions about gender and sexuality, and in that respect, it’s sad that queer movies are now just like every other movie.

GILES’S COLD QUESTION November 30, 2006 | 08:57 am


Why doesn’t the sun warm me? Oh, the unbearable cold!

SOUL ASYLUM AND PLACES OF MUSIC November 30, 2006 | 12:20 am

Ah, alternative rock of the 1990s. Since arriving in Minnesota, I’ve seen Soul Asylum’s name around a lot as a local band. And now the radio is playing their song “Somebody to Shove.” I think my first non-classical music cd, after the Aladdin soundtrack, was Soul Asylum’s Grave Dancers Union, which had that creepy album cover.

My memories of some music I listen to are inexplicably much more rooted, much fuller.* Listening to those songs conjures for me a sense of place, especially, and a moment in my life. Soul Asylum is high school in my bedroom, lying on the floor staring at the ceiling for long stretches of time. Sarah McLachlan’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy is the high-ceilinged room of the addition to my parents’ house and hours spent in front of drawing paper and canvases. Tori Amos’s From the Choirgirl Hotel is my cousin’s apartment that I sublet a couple summers in New Haven some five years later. Tori Amos’s To Venus and Back is New York City’s subway system — the trains and stations — as I commute to and from work, to and from friends’ places, to and from all that is New York.

No one album has become as strongly entwined with a place or moment for me since I started graduate school. I don’t know how much that has to do with age, the situations of my life since college, or something else. I don’t listen to music the way I did anymore. I used to browse music stores for hours, sampling many many albums of artists I had never heard before taking one home. I would open the cd as soon as I left the store, pore over the liner notes, and listen to the music on repeat for weeks. These days, I pick up music almost haphazardly, choosing albums by artists I already know or newer ones I’ve heard on the radio. But I often don’t listen to the albums immediately or all the way through, focusing only on the radio singles, the catchiest tunes, the recognizable tracks. I abandon them just as quickly as I pick them up, accumulating them but not immersing myself in the sounds.

I want to lose myself in an album again. I want to find music that pulls me into another world and weaves itself insistently through the places of this world, echoing off the walls of my apartment or through the streets around me.
______________
* It should be noted that while I love the music that evokes a sense of place for me, not all other music I love evokes such a sense of place. For example, some of my favorite musicians like Björk, Christina Aguilera, James Blunt, Holcombe Waller, Erasure, and Mariah Carey don’t do this for me. Also, music doesn’t seem to conjure other kinds of memories and sensations; it’s always about a specific place and moment rather than a taste or a smell or an idea or an emotion.

DOGS AND HUMAN LANGUAGE November 29, 2006 | 10:16 am

Yesterday, I watched bits of Dogs and More Dogs, a PBS/NOVA program about the evolution of dogs. I was drifting in and out of sleep while dozing on the couch, but I did enjoy the show. It presented the two common theories of how dogs branched off from wolves as domesticated animals — the first theory focusing on how Stone Age humanoids actively bred for tamer wolves and the second focusing on how human settlements with concomitant waste sites selected for scavenging wolves who were less afraid of humans. Though I would throw my chips in with the latter theory, I like how the first theory, in some scientists’ accounts, also incorporates a bit about the origins of human language. In these accounts, the relationship between wolves and humans led to a need for verbal/vocal commands that helped develop human speech.

The other tidbit that was interesting was how dogs developed floppy ears, different fur colorings, and barking. As characteristics not seen in wolves, it doesn’t make sense that these traits could’ve been actively selected for in breeding programs. However, a Russian geneticist breeding tame foxes in Siberia discovered that after a few generations of such breeding, floppy ears, different-colored fur, and barking began appearing. This research suggested that some of these characteristics are correlated with a “tameness” gene — linked to the decreased production of adrenaline. Kinda cool.

GILES’S MATH QUESTION November 29, 2006 | 08:18 am


How does one calculate the integral of a function?

LEGACY CHOCOLATES November 28, 2006 | 06:12 pm

OMG I just discovered heaven today. Legacy Chocolates has this amazing chipotle truffle. MMMMMMM.

CONDEMNED November 28, 2006 | 10:50 am


There are still lights on in the stairway of this condemned building.

GILES’S WORK QUESTION November 28, 2006 | 10:48 am


If I leave my post, will the squirrels breach our barricades?

CHANCE ENCOUNTERS November 27, 2006 | 03:05 pm

Yesterday morning while getting my soy mocha at Dunn Bros, I ran into the adjunct I observed last month. He’s also a full-time staff member on campus and did his master’s in the English program. He’s really the only person from my school that I’d run into elsewhere up until yesterday (the other two times were also at Dunn Bros).

Yesterday afternoon I ran into a faculty colleague at Cupcake. She was there with her husband and two sons. It was their first time there. They tried it at my recommendation.

Yesterday evening while grocery shopping I ran into a student. “Mr Lai,” he said as I browsed the cookies on the shelves. He was not in class today.

EXTRA CREDIT AND MANTRA November 27, 2006 | 10:29 am

This is the extra credit assignment I am giving my students today:

COLLAGE (Visual Interpretation Extra Credit Assignment)

With images and text you find in newspapers or magazines, construct a visual interpretation of either Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” The interpretation should illustrate some scene or character of the story you have chosen. Or, it should capture a theme, idea, or argument of the chosen story. Be creative!

Your interpretation should be on 8-1/2″ by 11″ paper (standard letter-size paper). You must use only images and text that you cut-and-paste together (in other words, no drawing or writing of your own). On a separate sheet of paper, write a quick explanation of your visual interpretation.

My mantra for today, trying to ignore whiny student e-mails, is, “I will stay upbeat and positive about teaching.”

GILES’S WEEKDAY QUESTION November 27, 2006 | 10:13 am


Why do you leave me alone on weekdays?

REJECTION AND TWO IN A BED November 26, 2006 | 05:04 pm

Boo hiss. My dog parking paper got rejected by the cultural studies conference. Guess I won’t be going to Portland, Oregon.

For fun this vacation, I read Paul C. Rosenblatt’s Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed System (first chapter available as pdf file at that link). I think it’s a great project to explore what it means to sleep in bed as a couple and all the issues and comforts that arise from that behavior. As a work of social science based on interviews, though, it strikes me in the usual way — that the statements the author makes, though meant to be descriptive, come across as normative and also unimaginative. This is especially the case in Rosenblatt’s conscientious efforts to discuss gender difference and cultural meanings of gender. For example, when he discusses feelings of security in couples, he surmises that women like their men’s more muscular, strong bodies to protect them. While I don’t doubt his interviewees make these comments or suggest them, it seems rather pointless merely to repeat such statements without questioning the assumptions in them. I guess what gets me is that much of this kind of work isn’t trying to critique even if it is trying to theorize, and I don’t think it’s good to theorize without critiquing. This particular book also seemed to have a lot of typos. I must have a copy of the first printing.

PS I’ve been rejected from plenty of conferences, but each time it still is upsetting. Ugh. I should’ve checked my e-mail before getting a cupcake. Now I don’t really have a cupcake to look forward to as solace.

GILES’S IRONIC QUESTION November 26, 2006 | 03:34 pm


How long can I stay still?

CUPCAKE QUESTION November 26, 2006 | 01:24 pm

I’m sifting through some files of material from Englishy courses I took in college (yes, I still have those papers) and come across a final examination from an American Studies course on Ethnicity and Dissent in American Literature and Art (Professor Bryan Wolf) in spring of 1997. The first question reads:

I. CUPCAKE QUESTION (20 minutes, 10 points)

Peer long and hard at the cupcake before you. Write an essay on the image or symbol that appears on it. If the cupcake has no image, make up your own. If the image is too blurred to read, write an essay on the difficulties of interpreting and decoding racial narratives. If none of the above appeals to you, then eat your cupcake and write an essay on ethnicity, food and the culture of consumption.

I do vaguely remember the experience of this exam and question. And yes, they gave us each a cupcake! I am totally stealing it for one of my classes in the future. I’ll save you from the horrid response I wrote though I did get 10 out of 10 points! I wrote about segregation. The response begins, “A chocolate cupcake topped with a thick layer of white vanilla frosting sits, half-eaten, to my left,” and uses phrases like “basic right of all humans,” “inherently wrong,” and “unwillingness on the part of people to associate with others.”

Another thing I noticed on the exam that I’ll probably steal is the last question asking for our least favorite reading and favorite art discussed with accompanying reasons. I think it’s a brilliant idea to make this feedback question a part of the exam (unsurprisingly, I got full credit for the question — as did probably most people). My response was much more detailed than anything my own students have ever given me in evaluation forms. That might just be me but probably has to do with the exam context, too.

RARE PHOTOS OF GILES MONSTER November 26, 2006 | 11:19 am


Contemplating freedom.


I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

GLOBAL ORGASM November 26, 2006 | 11:05 am

Mark your calendars: Global Orgasm Day, December 22, 2006. I don’t know about the positive energy thing, but the idea reminds me of the scene in Amelie where the title character imagines how many people (men) are having orgasms in the city at a particular moment.

KING OF THE COUCH November 25, 2006 | 08:00 pm

MOCHA ME AND CONFERENCES November 25, 2006 | 06:48 pm

I’m totally jonesing for a soy mocha. I’m going to try to keep myself from getting one tonight, though, or else I might have trouble getting to sleep. Plus, those things are expensive at a little over $3 each. Oh, what to drink or eat to take my mind off the mocha? I have some cheapo hot chocolate at home… or maybe some chai… or oolong tea… or cranberry soda….

I’m also pulling together a couple of quick conference paper abstracts. One is for the ALA conference in Boston in May 2007 and the other for the SHARP conference in Minneapolis in July 2007. For the first, I am responding to a call for papers through the Circle for Asian American Literary Studies about Asian subjects in science fiction. I’d like to do a reading of Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl, one of my favorite books, in terms of how she blends mythology/origin narratives with futuristic science fiction narratives. For the second, I want to do a brief overview of small presses that have been important in publishing recent Asian American literary texts (Coffee House Press, Kaya Press, and Kitchen Table Press are some examples). Neither of these topics has much to do with my dissertation or other works-in-progress, though.