DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT OBSESSED WITH MY DOG.

Wednesday, January 31, 2001

On the bus this afternoon there were a few law students talking about grades. It sounds like the law school here is very competitive. The students seem to place a lot of importance on their rankings and the GPAs. Makes me glad that I didn't decide to matriculate there. Also disconcerting was a comment one of these students made about how students with 4.0 GPAs seem to go into public interest law. The way he put it, such career choices were a waste of intelligent lawyers' time. I'm glad to hear that those students who excel in learning the ropes of the law do intend to work in the public interest sector. (From what I remember of the application process and available funding, though, I have a feeling many of these students probably had public interest scholarships that require them to go into public interest law for the first few years of their career in order to receive the full scholarship help.)

      >> 3:47 PM
 

[Sleek.] My friend who is a web designer has put up his personal web site.

      >> 12:08 PM
 

I often wonder how experience influences / precedes the work of social and political change, especially when I hear people claim a privileged, revolutionary status to identities and experiences that are "more" oppressed. Poor people are inherently suspicious of the economic structures of exploitative capitalism. Gay people want to overturn heterosexist ideology. Women want to dissolve patriarchy and gender-binarism as hierarchy. But while these experience positions certainly have a lot to do with some people's development of radical politics, they cannot alone (necessarily and sufficiently) determine those politics. They cannot account for why a man might be a feminist, a heterosexual person a queer activist, etc. And obversely, for example, there are plenty of gay "activists" -- often prominent gay men -- who seek to expand notions of patriarchal family structures rather than critiquing them and the effects (some good, perhaps, but much not) they have on women, men, and children. But what then, can we make of the development of particular political consciousness? I am far from even beginning to figure these things out for myself. But I was reminded today by a post over at [worsethanqueer] about these questions. Slander tackles some of these issues of experience, truth, and ideology. A couple of excerpts:

And though experience is (erroneously) seen as the valued mode of apprehension, as a reliable means of knowing, the experience of "being a girl" is never stable or singular, in meaning or lived reality (e.g., ask someone who is transgendered). Nor does the experience of being a girl or a tomboy or working-class or Asian American or any combination thereof, et cetera, guarantee a specific political position. (I feel certain I've said this about a million times elsewhere.) The meaning of any given "experience" is never inherent or fixed-- it must be articulated, it is itself based on representation. Or as Joan Scott writes, "Experience is at once always already an interpretation and is in need of interpretation....It is always contested, always therefore political."

. . .

And I'd like "experience" to be taken as another kind of evidence, the evidence not of "truth" but of the workings of ideology, maybe, the evidence of how the personal is profoundly political. (It's a subtle but powerful difference.) I want somehow that this might lead to a critical recognition of discursive architectures, I want them to remember that the political is constituted in social and cultural forms outside of their own experiences.

If I could only think and write like Slander...

      >> 7:42 AM
 

Found a web site -- [Citizens for Legitimate Government] -- that allows you to choose various letters to have faxed to your representatives in Congress. The letters express concerns about the lack of Congressional concern for the voting debacle, ask representatives to block Ashcroft's appointment as attorney general, and explain what is at stake in letting Bush appoint members to the Supreme Court. There is a lot of information on the site as well, and makes political participation easier for those of us without fax machines and time to send off letters by post.

      >> 7:21 AM
 

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

A few weeks ago, came across [crankygirls] via [slander]. It's the new on-line location of writing by one of my [heroes] of writing and criticism. Also wanted to note here (so I don't have to search a long time for them again) [exoticize my fist] and [QAPA resources].

      >> 4:42 PM
 

Some people are so rude.

The first receptionist I talked to at Chapel Hill Dermatology wouldn't even give me the time of day. She was impatient with everything. I told her I needed to make an appointment. She asked with whom. I said I wasn't referred to any specific dermatologist. She insisted again that I tell her which doctor. I have no idea who these doctors are. I told her any doctor who can see me Tuesday or Thursday afternoons. She then proceeded to say Dr. So-and-so is available Wednesday the 7th at 2:45. Hello? When I told her, no, I cannot make it to a Wednesday afternoon appointment, she practically sighed in frustration. I told her again an appointment Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, please. She finally said, Thursday the 15th at 3:30 Dr. Someone could see me. I asked her if there were any times in the next week. After she threw some more Monday and Wednesday times at me, she said, I have another line, hold on. And then she put me on hold. Grrr.

But then almost immediately another woman picked up the line and asked if I needed any help. I explained to her that I had been talking to someone else, but we hadn't really gotten anywhere. This woman was much more helpful. I told her that I would like an appointment Tuesday or Thursday in the afternoon. She looked at the four doctors' schedules and found an appointment for me on the 8th. And then as I was giving her my information and everything, she was very patient and thorough. Friendly. I wanted to ask her name to thank her personally again later, but didn't.

This second woman sounded like an older woman. She was very laid back and her voice had that quality of experience. After she had gotten down all my information, she told me, oh Dr. King is a "lady." She said she always tried to remember to mention to the "gentlemen" making appointments if their doctor was a lady because some gentlemen have problems with lady doctors. That knowledge doesn't exactly make me feel any better about gender relations in the region. I actually feel more comfortable having a woman as my doctor unless I know a male doctor is gay. The doctor who saw me at UNC today, male, made me a little uncomfortable because I didn't know if it would be wise to reveal that I am gay. He asked me how I came to worry about the mole on my back, and I said, my partner noted that it seemed to be getting bigger. I hate having to conceal things like this. Fuck the mental constraints of heterosexism! If only I were confident enough to take on any problems that might arise from being more open. (So much for thinking I'm out of the closet.)

So the current diagnosis: the mole on my back is "atypical" and "suspicious," but probably doesn't mean anything seriously bad. The doctor at UNC Student Health recommended I have it removed in any case. Hence, the referral to Chapel Hill Dermatology. I was so nervous at my appointment today. It didn't help that there was a student (undergrad?) shadowing the doctor and inspecting me, too. I should have said that I wasn't comfortable with the second person, but it didn't occur to me until afterwards. When I'm nervous, I don't think.

After the morning rain, today has been sunny. I guess the stormy forecast was for last night. Haven't been exactly cheered by the brightness, though.

      >> 3:41 PM
 

Fitting that it's rainy today and possibly stormy later.

      >> 10:06 AM
 

Monday, January 29, 2001

Preoccupied.

Joe noted this weekend that a mole-like thing on my back seems to be getting bigger. Since then, it's been feeling strange, a bit sore, a bit numb. And I think the feeling / non-feeling is spreading around the left side of my back and arm. Am going to doctor tomorrow afternoon. I hope I can make it until then.

      >> 7:07 PM
 

To Read: ["How to Solve the World's AIDS Crisis"] (from [The New York Times Magazine]).

      >> 9:00 AM
 

Cryptic? I'd gone to bed already last night when Joe came in to the room and said, "You know I read your journal, right?" Hmmm.... Did I say something naughty?

I don't think it was part of my slew of strange (often disturbing) dreams last night. I managed to combine being in a foreign country (somewhere in Europe where the language is not English), getting milkshakes, being with my sisters and brother, becoming a giant robot (animated/anime), killing without remorse, the Challenger disaster, and Cyclops from the X-Men in the evening's entertainment. I know that [yesterday] was the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. Saw some television shows and news reports in commemoration of the lives lost in the explosion. For some reason, I remember watching it in class (third grade?). I don't know if we watched the take-off live or if we were watching a news report recounting of the event.

      >> 8:29 AM
 

Sunday, January 28, 2001

I don't think I've really come across an article quite like Mr. Walsh's on the [recount debacle]. Very refreshing and I think important that someone (who claims to be a Republican) can think outside the question of who he wants to win the election to the issues at stake in the recount process and the obstacles thrown up by the Republican party. Ideologically his views might still be suspect -- his perception of democracy, for instance, as cure-all -- and based on principles that I find hard to agree with, but at least he is questioning the scare tactics and discriminatory thinking of his ex-party. I like this sentence, "Don't be fooled into thinking that because you share some common views with someone it is acceptable to overthrow democracy and install a despot in its place."

      >> 9:17 AM
 

I've decided I've got to implement a daily drawing thing into my life like I've done with this daily writing / blogging thing. Maybe every morning I can get up a quarter of an hour earlier than I usually do so I can take out my sketchbook and make some doodles.

      >> 8:55 AM
 

Friends are so great.

Went to a birthday dinner party for a friend (given by his parents who were in town) at Vespa in Chapel Hill last night. It was a yummy and fun evening. I had a chicken dish with artichoke hearts and a cognac sauce. The conversation was friendly and humorous. I felt a little awkward as usual because I am not sooo talkative. And I was sitting across from another shy (but nice) person and I felt like we were this barrier between the people on our two sides. I felt like we were cutting off the flow of exchange between the people at the very end of the table and those towards the middle. But everyone seemed to have a fairly good time.

I like my classmates a lot. I don't think I've "fallen in" with groups of people so quickly as I've done here. I wonder if it has to do with experience, the fact that I am less anxious about finding friends (because I'll always have Joe), or something else. In any case, I'm not complaining. Elizabeth and Andy are awesome in particular because they insist that what I say in class makes sense, even though I feel like I ramble on incoherently and am [visibly] shaken and nervous.

It was my sister's birthday yesterday, and I didn't get around to calling her or sending her any gift or card. I really just don't know where this month went. Argh.

      >> 8:43 AM
 

Friday, January 26, 2001

I think it's really depressing that my fingers, hands, arms, legs, etc. are still really bony, but I've developed a fold of fat along my waistline. I guess my glorious late-teen-health-without-exercise years really are gone. I put my hand in front of the document camera in the classroom this afternoon, but then withdrew it quickly when I saw how skeletal my hand looked projected in larger-than-life size on the screen at the front of the classroom.

      >> 4:33 PM
 

Ah, a [review] of Wong Kar-Wai's latest film, In the Mood for Love. I should check to see if it's playing anywhere nearby. From the review: "In the Mood tells its story more through body language than dialogue." Why am I so intrigued by non-verbal storytelling?

      >> 11:16 AM
 

It is soooo cold.

On the bus today, someone was telling his friend about going to see the Backstreet Boys in concert tonight in Charlotte. It was a family outing with his wife and kids. Driving four hours to see the BSB seems a bit extreme to me. I may like them for my own twisted reasons, but I don't think I would really want to see them in concert anyways. It was just a funny scene in the bus because here were these two middle-aged men in the back of the bus talking about a BSB concert. When the guy first mentioned BSB, a few heads turned further up the bus to see who would be saying such a thing. (I mean, a man admitting to going to see a BSB concert? Close to suicide if you're a college student here, I think. But he wasn't. And he was going for his kids. Yes.)

      >> 7:10 AM
 

Thursday, January 25, 2001

Spending way too much time in front of my computer today. Maybe a web authoring tool would be helpful at times. But I just don't like having a program write messy code. I like to know where the tags are, what they're doing. I guess it's part of my perfectionist mentality -- I must have control over everything and know what is going on at all times...

      >> 10:19 PM
 

[Better World] archives are up!

      >> 5:23 PM
 

An [explanation] of the search engine results for "Dumb Motherfucker." (These people claim responsibility for it... I don't know if they're entirely responsible, though...)

      >> 12:12 PM
 

Argh. Why does speaking in class make me so nervous? In larger classes (more than five or six students), I clam up pretty permanently. I've been trying to be more talkative. Today in class there were many moments at which I wanted to raise a point. By the time I could formulate my thoughts into coherent phrases, someone else would have spoken on a similar line. Finally at the end of class I made an attempt to say something before my thoughts were formed enough to be understandable. I rambled on for about a minute. And no one seemed to have much of an idea what I said. The worst part, though, was that I got really shaky. My hands were trembling and I had to work hard to stop them. It was awful.

      >> 12:03 PM
 

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Oh, web design. I need to work it. If only I could spend a week just tinkering...

E-mail exchanges with [Shyaku] have also got me thinking about drawing again. While I am quite sure at this point that I won't be pursuing any explicitly art or graphic design oriented career, I want to continue exploring how visual arts help me think. I think a large part of my intellectual explorations has dropped by the wayside in recent years because I've steadily stopped drawing or painting altogether. One of the most important aspects of drawing for me is in learning to see things differently. From what I remember, Betty Edward's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a very interesting book that teaches creativity and perceptual shifts through drawing. She explains that a lot of people who "can't draw" have hang-ups in translating visual shapes through the conceptual categories they have of the objects. The problem is that we don't really see things when we draw. We see a cup, for example, and draw what we see in our minds as a cup. It takes practice and lots of conscious un-learning to stop drawing what we think is the cup and to start drawing the image that is the cup.

In any case, drawing has always been a way for me to think outside of words. Despite my fascination with words and writing, I also think that trying to draw boundaries around writing and other ways of seeing and knowing is only limiting. There is something about the act of drawing, too, of working to see things without conceptual constraints, that stimulates thoughts in unique ways. My art teacher in high school, Rosemary Jensen, was wonderful in encouraging the free reign of thinking while we pursued the creation of visual art. She would often tell us about how various stimuli fade away when she draws. For example, intense concentration on seeing things while ignoring conceptual images occupies the mind in such a way as to make her stop hearing music playing in the background.

      >> 6:51 PM
 

From my friend Fuzzy:

Go to [www.yahoo.com], in the search type in "Dumb Motherfucker" (put it in quotes) and look at the first return. Amazing.

      >> 5:28 PM
 

Instant latte = best thing since sliced bread. I love coffee, but I'm not much of a connoisseur. If it tastes like coffee, it's good to me.

I fell asleep last night with my glasses on. In the middle of the night, I woke up to find that my glasses weren't on my face anymore. After a bit of searching, I found them in the middle of the bed. I put them on the nightstand for safekeeping until the morning. When I woke up, I found that my glasses had been bent out of shape -- not in any major way, but enough to throw off the alignment of the lenses to my eyes. I have such poor eyesight that any slight shift in the placement of the lenses before my eyes can give me headaches for days. Today was not such a great day, as a result. I felt dizzy with a slight headache the whole time. I hope my eyes adjust fast. Maybe it's time to look into that Lasik eye surgery thing. Even if they can't correct my eyesight to 20-20, I think any improvement would help get rid of this horrible problem of not being able to adjust to tiny changes in the orientation of the lenses to my eyes.

      >> 4:45 PM
 

One of the strangest searches to find me: ["gas gauge" frantic -racing -nascar -basketball -baseball -football -sports]

      >> 7:15 AM
 

Clouds are cool. I used to be obsessed with them in high school. I took pictures of them. I wanted to draw them, but never managed to capture the feelings I got from them. I watched them all the time. This morning, I saw some amazing clouds. There was a whole swath of them across half the sky. They were dispersed fairly evenly, almost in rows, with just enough space between to show the sky. But the most amazing part was the color. These clouds were just translucent enough to glow orange with the morning sun's light. So, the eastern half of the sky was orange, and the western half a pale blue. Very nice. Wish I had a camera with me.

      >> 6:53 AM
 

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Ha ha ha! Just stopped in at [ooooner.com] and saw [this post] on conservative religious bumper stickers in North Carolina. After posting [this morning] about yet another one of these bumper stickers, I started thinking about what bumper stickers are and do. They really are an interesting example of the proclamation of personal beliefs. They are almost always argumentative slogans, asserting particular points of view over others in concise phrases. Because of their brevity, they necessarily draw on larger discourses, trammeling very important details and the effects of rigid authority. But I guess there are some bumper stickers that are more ambiguous. For one example, there are image bumper stickers like rainbow flags that stand in as markers of identity and ideas rather than as specific perspectives. (Of course, rainbow flags generally mean "gay-friendly" or "I am gay" . . .) What do you [think]?

      >> 5:21 PM
 

I'm applying for a teaching fellowship for next year to teach freshmen composition courses. The application process is fairly simple. All that's required is filling out a form with contact information and submitting a vita and a letter of recommendation. Turning in these materials earlier today made me think about the much more elaborate and tortuous application processes I've gone through in the past. Mainly, the difficiulties lay in the need to write statements of intent and personal statements. Of course, there was the application to college (for which I wrote an essay on why I like ducks) and graduate school. I also applied to law school and library science school. I am quite pleased with the essays I wrote for those applications.

Last year I applied for a research fellowship / internship at the [National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Policy Institute] in New York City. I was not chosen for the NGLTF fellowship, but I did interview with two of the directors of the Institute. They said they liked what I wrote in my [cover letter] and [writing sample]. Guess I was completely underwhelming at the interview. But I feel like I've got somewhat of a feel for this application essay format. It's not nearly as intimidating as it used to be.

      >> 5:00 PM
 

Three things from a morning drive:

(1) Listened to [Jocelyn Enriquez's] album Jocelyn. Wondered if the popular song (at least in California in the early '90s) "A Little Bit of Ecstasy" has anything to do with the happy drug that's been in the media so much lately. Whether or not it is (probably not?), it could very easily be the anthem for ecstasy users everywhere:

a little bit of ecstasy
a little bit of you and me
a little bit of set you free...

(2) Heard on the radio: "Are you concerned about a close friend, an employee?" An advertisement for [123nc.com], a for-fee service allowing on-line searches of North Carolina's criminal records. Talk about surveillance and privacy issues. One could argue that criminals deserve the full censure of anyone who can get their hands on their records, but sometimes you just gotta let things go...

(3) Saw another bumper sticker: "Why Worry? God's in Control." Now I don't want to say that religion is bad. I've gone to church services before and I really do have a concern for the spiritual well-being of myself and others. But a lot of religious fundamentalism just grates on my nerves. The complacency of that statement, the assertion that the status quo is life as decreed by God, implies that those who are poor, discriminated against, etc. are so downtrodden because God said so. And somehow, that's just not my vision of The Creator. I realize that part of my uneasiness with critical thinking (and I think an uneasiness shared by most everyone in the world) is its almost-insistence on a paranoid vision of the world -- where everything is wrong. But critical analyses of the conditions of the world around us are really for the purposes of creating a better world, one in which there are fewer injustices, where people know what is at stake in their decisions, actions, comments. It's hard to give up a naive belief in the "right-ness" of things as they are. It's an easier way to live in this harsh reality. Just accept it. It's fate. But why not just realize that life is not perfect. Things can change. We are all agents in the creation of our world. It's up to those who care enough to change it. And I hope that someday "those who care enough" will be everyone, not just those who need to change the world in order to survive.

      >> 8:15 AM
 

[Aha!] 24 January 2001 = Day One, Year of the Snake.

      >> 12:36 AM
 

My dad just sent me an e-card wishing me a happy new year, reminding me that it is the year of the [SNAKE] -- me! Now if I can only figure out the actual day of the new year... On a more somber note, that means I'll be a couple-dozen years old come the end of December.

      >> 12:33 AM
 

Monday, January 22, 2001

Well, I finally decided I might as well put up on this page a list of blogs I read regularly. I'd been resistant to it for who knows what reasons. I suppose it's partially the wish to remain anonymous as a reader of blogs. (Referrer logs can pinpoint you only if someone follows a link from your page to another.) Although really, for all it's worth, I don't plan on checking these blogs via the links on my page. I'll continue using my bookmarks. So why bother putting them on the page?

I don't get the sense that many blog-happy people stop by my page. Seems that my visitors are either old friends or people who find me through [Google] searching the [strangest terms]... But I suppose for the interested, it might put my blogging in the context of those webbers I read. Am I in some sort of cyber-conversation, talking to myself? Yadda yadda.

      >> 11:53 PM
 

Just came across [the daily dean] and will probably add it to my ever-growing list of daily reads. (Another minute out of my day.) Browsing through tdd's archives, came across [this post] on the exhibitionist / personal details / privacy aspect of journal blogging. It's odd because these issues have sort of slipped from my mind since December or so (around the same time of tdd's post). I guess the question of privacy and fears of possible terrorist activities stemming from what I reveal about myself have become irrelevant as I realize that nobody really cares what I say. Someone would really have to go out of their way to read carefully through the slew of posts I make each week just to interfere in my life. And that's just implausible given my invisibility, the way I blend so effortlessly into the background, a veritable wallflower in the room of life.

      >> 11:09 PM
 

Listening now to Barbra Streisandís Back to Broadway album. Itís been awhile since Iíve listened to B. Iíd forgotten how amazing her voice is. Itís achingly beautiful and soothing. The songs she chooses, though at times of more sombre tones, always gesture towards hope and happiness.

Something else I was thinking earlier this evening: Thereís a character in the comic book Excalibur named [Meggan]. She is a metamorph, a mutant with the ability to change her shape at will. However, she is also an empath, someone profoundly connected to others through the realm of emotions. Before she learned how to control her shape-shifting abilities, and even after, she was physically altered by her emotions and those of people around her. Around happy people, her form would become radiant and beautiful. Around angry, spiteful people, her body would become twisted and ugly. I never used to identify with Meggan too much, but these days, I am beginning to realize more and more that the emotional world around me has a strong influence on me.

      >> 10:06 PM
 

Sunday, January 21, 2001

I have this uneasy feeling that I forgot to log out of [blogger] on the computer I used in the library earlier today...

Two big news items of the day: Bush's first full day as President. Jackson's illegitimate child (or rather, the act that created the child). Makes me wonder how the stories are being played off each other. Is there commentary about moral (family) values and/or hypocrisy?

      >> 6:12 PM
 

Ah. This is more like it. Cold, but amazingly bright and sunny. My kind of weather. Good bye rain and overcast skies.

      >> 1:57 PM
 

Questions of copyright, property, ownership. These are big issues for me, so big that they tend to disappear into the background of my thoughts. But when I try to puzzle it out -- never for very long -- I always begin by wondering why we need to own things, how we can say something is ours, exclusively. I suppose I should read [The Communist Manifesto] for some thinking about communal property, but in essence, while I can hardly imagine not having my things as mine, there is also something fundamentally unnerving about how ownership seems to be a part of economic processes that create inequalities in living conditions among people. And maybe this is more a problem of the distribution of resources than ownership. But to think that there are people who have millions of dollars, lots of houses, cars, planes, yachts, etc., and then to contrast them with the homeless and those who struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs . . . that's just a huge problem for me. What gives the rich the right to own all the stuff they have -- in many ways, keeping things from others who could use them more fully or to fulfil basic survival needs -- when there are so many poor who don't have enough?

And while we are living very much in a material world, technologies of reproduction and duplication are fast developing to allow the generation of plenty. I'm not saying we're anywhere near being able to make food easily and efficiently from basic atomic components, but if we look at the world of the virtual, at digital files, and think about how the proliferation of data and transmission has allowed an expansive re-working of how we communicate in the world, it is hard not to imagine what might lie in our future if we could somehow translate the ease of digital technology's copying to the replication of molecular structures.

(This thought stimulated by this [post].)

      >> 5:54 AM
 

The reigning logic has always seemed to be that there are two types of people in the world: those who make things happen, and those who watch things happen. It's a world of actors and observers. Which one are you? And I always thought, well, okay, that makes me an observer, even though I knew the putative claim was that actors are the only people who matter in the world. In high school, though, I heard a sort-of-joke-addition that there is in fact a third type of people -- those who wonder what happened. And I laughingly included myself in this group. Clueless was the implication. But now that I think about it, wondering what happened is in fact a step above merely watching. Wondering is thinking, trying to figure out why, not just what. So definitely, yes, I am one of those people who wonders what happened.

      >> 5:28 AM
 

Ummm...'kay....

Joe in the other room is having a laugh-fest in his sleep. Giggles giggles. Wonder what he's dreaming about.

      >> 5:03 AM
 

Saturday, January 20, 2001

[We Didn't Start the Weblogs]. Hee hee.

      >> 3:19 PM
 

It's been dreary, dreary, dark and wet. In e-mails, phone calls, my friends tell me that they are suffering from the sadness induced by these drab conditions. And here I am, too, lonely. What can we do to get away from it all? Fuzzy wants to move to Texas or some other sunnier place. My sister realizes that her SAD is as much linked to her feeling unable to paint, to immerse herself in her art. It's a complex dynamic. I'm sure the sun would give us all a much happier outlook on our lives. But there is more to it than the sun. Why do overcast skies force us into negative introspection? Why do we feel so powerless, unfulfilled?

      >> 3:13 PM
 

Just made banana bread. It's not edible. I didn't check to see whether I was using unsalted or salted butter because I wasn't going to go to the grocery store just to get the right kind of butter for this little procrastination bake. Turns out I only had salted butter. If I had been thinking, I could have noted that before I added the 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Still might have been too salty, though.

Oh well.

      >> 2:49 PM
 

Friday, January 19, 2001

Just back from an evening with graduate students and faculty of the [English department]. The occasion was a get-together featuring food, drinks, and comedy skits. The evening, organized by [AGES], was called "Twelfth Night."

I had a good time. Lots of laughs. Reminds me of just how social this department is. And people really just have fun. The comedy skits were mainly send-ups of the literature profession, the seriousness of criticism, and the narrow-mindedness of specialization. Some students also did impressions of various professors in the department. Andy did a skit on the [SITES lab] and we interns' lack of computer experience and ability to do anything to help people with their technical problems.

Now, sleep.

      >> 11:38 PM
 

John Ashcroft? Frightening.

So what is it with this Republican defense rhetoric -- that Ashcroft will uphold the law, even if the law is not in keeping with his beliefs? Why not appoint someone whose beliefs do accord with the law, then? I think it's entirely disingenuous of Ashcroft's defenders to claim his "integrity" in such a way. They draw on this idea that The Law is immutable and objective. Just take the case of Missouri's Judge White and Ashcroft's "honest assessment" (from a New York Times article) of White's record of court decisions as showing White's laxity regarding criminals. Isn't this an obvious example of how Ashcroft interprets and defines laws and "facts" to his own liking? He will make his own laws. He will change civil rights legislation and its interpretation. Hell in a handbasket.

      >> 7:40 AM
 

Thursday, January 18, 2001

I am soooo sleepy. Can't even think. Must... read... about... philosophy... of... language... and... Russell's "the"...

      >> 8:51 PM
 

Oh my God. Tomorrow is the last day of [Clinton's presidency].

      >> 8:50 PM
 

Joe's gone to St. Louis, MO, for the next few days.

      >> 3:46 PM
 

Translating emotions. Diary-writing and emotional excess? One reason I perhaps am more "open" and able to keep an on-line journal is that I don't see my writing as revealing very personal emotions. Reading through my posts, I don't get a sense of how I feel about life day-to-day. I suppose there are a few posts that are more revealing, but in general, I don't think this is the case. It's always been really hard for me to figure out what it is I am "feeling" -- to figure out which label to choose for my current emotional state. Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I angry? Am I confused? And beyond that first step, I would then have to figure out why I feel that certain way.

Emotion-less characters in books, on television, and in movies have therefore held considerable interest for me. How do their stories express their attempts to come to terms with what emotions are, how they deal with them, how they understand them? I feel so often like I am an android or robot, something mechanical. There is a mild sense of arbitrariness to how I sometimes describe how I feel. I pick an emotion to fit what others want to hear.

. . .

      >> 12:50 PM
 

Found out from Elizabeth yesterday that the FOX Network show Temptation Island raised some controversy with the Raleigh affiliate. The show was pulled from the air by the station last night (they aired the newer Cosby Show in its place). However, station 40 (I don't know their call letters nor their network affiliation -- it appears they have none -- they seem to air a hodgepodge of programming from various networks) picked up the episode. Apparently, the Raleigh FOX affiliates were concerned that the show would erode family values -- not because of its premise -- but because one of the participating couples (not married) had a child and they did not disclose this fact (which would have disqualified them for the show) until recently.

In any case, I started in watching the show on station 40, thinking that this would be an interesting experience. I figured that the show would be a bunch of soft-core porn. But while there were plenty of bare-chested men and scantily-clad women, the show played more like Blind Date and other dating shows than anything more revealing. I lost interest quickly.

      >> 12:41 PM
 

Wednesday, January 17, 2001

I had to write an [intellectual autobiography] for one of my classes today. The purpose of the exercise was to get us students to think about what interests us, why we are in graduate school, what questions we are trying to answer. If I had been more diligent, I would definitely have wanted to spend more time on this assignment. As it was, I was true to form, leaving it off to the last minute. It was a little difficult to start the assignment because I feel that I've written down at various times so much of what led me to where I am in my formal studies. Writing in this blog can have its down-sides. I didn't get a chance to elaborate on the questions I am obsessed with now, though.

      >> 4:01 PM
 

Grrr. Argh. I had to make an hour-long detour from my evening studies last night. I realized shortly before eight o'clock that I had left the folder containing all the information (syllabi, notes, handouts) for two of my classes somewhere on campus. I hoped that I had left it up at my carrel in the library -- somewhere fairly out-of-the-way. But I also had this sneaking suspicion that I had in fact left it in the high-traffic computer cluster on the first floor of the library. So, with Joe in tow, I raced over to Chapel Hill. As I entered the library, I was about to get in the elevator to go up to my carrel when I decided to check the computer area first. And lo and behold, there it was! A blue folder, with a piece of paper on top of it, sitting ever so innocently on one of the computers I had used yesterday afternoon. I checked to see if anything was missing. Luckily, I don't think I had anything in there that would be worth stealing to the average UNC student.

Then, it was a mad race back home. I think I frightened Joe with my driving. I needed to get back in time to watch Angel, though. I wasn't thinking and didn't put a tape in the VCR to record it before I left. I managed to make it back just in time. I even caught the preview for next week's new Buffy.

      >> 6:56 AM
 

Tuesday, January 16, 2001

In "Writing as a Mode of Learning," Janet Emig argues that the attributes of writing -- its multi-representationality, integrative re-inforcement, self-provided feedback, connectiveness, engagement, personal nature, and self-rhythmed pace -- make it one of the most effective modes of learning. Her argument is persuasive, but she attaches to this understanding of writing as learning a particular hierarchical understanding of verbal and written languages that places the written in a higher order, as a secondary cognitive process. She sees talking, on the other hand, as natural, naked, organic. It seems to me that the relationship between talking and writing, listening and reading, is perhaps more complicated, that the verbal and the written are perhaps more similar than Emig gives them credit for being.

I say all this because my own experience with talking and writing, listening and reading, does not seem to fall in line with the dichotomy that Emig sets up. Talking is a profoundly unsettling act for me. It is far from natural, naked, and mundane. Writing, on the other hand, while none of those things either, is a far easier task for me to pursue. If I had to insist on a natural vs. artificial distinction, I would reverse the poles of her argument. However, I would prefer to argue that the distinctions Emig makes between verbal and written are useful considerations, but only insofar as they point out the meanings that we collectively infuse in verbal discourse and in written discourse. What would be an interesting project would be to explore why exactly we understand orality and literacy the ways we do.

Overall, though, I do agree with Emig's enumeration of the cognitive particularities of writing that contribute to effective learning. For some people, these attributes also inhere in verbal communications.

. . .

It's so strange. Is [this man] my alter-ego, shades of me and writing? Or perhaps I am his alter-ego, shades of him and his writing... Short of saying his reflections in writing could well be my reflections in writing, I often find something eerie, uncanny in all its homely-unhomely senses, in his words.

      >> 2:56 PM
 

Overheard outside: "I didn't take a shower until five in the afternoon yesterday!"

I used to walk up to the twelfth floor dining hall of Kline Biology Tower for lunch after my morning science classes. I would be exhausted, but still breathing, upon reaching the top of the stairs. It's very depressing that now when I walk up to the sixth floor of Davis Library where my carrel is, I feel equally exhausted. I don't think I would be able to make it up twelve floors without stopping to rest in my old age. (Kline Biology Tower used to whistle in the wind. It was an eerie sound, especially at night. It actually sounded more like moaning, perhaps like the sound a banshee makes.)

      >> 1:39 PM
 

Why is [EarthLink] being so uncooperative? Just spent half an hour trying to log in to the network.

Tuesdays look like they'll be my errand days this semester. Don't know how much I'll get done today, though. I plan on staying on campus for awhile after class to do a lot of reading that I didn't do over the long weekend. I'll definitely need to stop at the grocery store. I hope to cook dinner tonight (instead of resorting to delivery pizza or frozen dinners). Laundry I'm just not even going to think about -- although that leaves me little choice but to tackle it on the weekend, an unsavory thought. I also need to make some bank deposits and cash withdrawals, but I can do that at the ATM machine conveniently located in The Pit on campus.

Off to start the day!

      >> 7:04 AM
 

Monday, January 15, 2001

I'm listening to [90.7 FM, WNCU] this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day evening. Joe is a guest on the "Let's Face It" program. He should be coming on any minute now...

      >> 6:05 PM
 

Jerma and [Beth] came over last night to help Joe with a practice job-talk run and for dinner. I made a few dishes for the meal -- a lentil-tomato salad, pan-fried potatoes, black beans and rice, kale, and lemon bars. I think I made just enough food, too. Either that, or not quite enough, but not so little that people scampered to eat each and every morsel. It's hard cooking for more than two people. My mind just can't grasp the quantities needed.

      >> 7:52 AM
 

Sunday, January 14, 2001

Celebrate and commemorate [Martin Luther King, Jr. Day].

      >> 10:24 AM
 

I wonder if I still have copies of the various indictments I wrote of my parents to them. I share with my friend Joyeeta this peculiar form of communication with our respective parents. We both find it easier to express our frustrations with our parents in written communiques. I haven't written any letters to my parents in awhile, though. One reason is that I am no longer living at home, even for summers, and haven't been for years. The other is that I learned they have a way of interpreting what I write in ways I never intended. (As Oz said once on [Buffy], "I'd call that a radical interpretation of the text.") In other words, the attempt at facilitating communication invariably fails. My mother, especially will interpret whatever she wants from any text. Case in point, she understood Jen's actions at the end of [Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon] to be her act of contrition for disobeying her parents' desires for her to marry the wealthy aristocrat's son. And of all the possible interpretations of the ending, that was one that was most precluded by the story. So in a way, you could say my parents were my most effective teachers of the vagaries of interpretation.

In related news, I know I still have somewhere in a sealed envelope the first "coming out" letter I wrote to my parents. I never gave it to them, later coming out to them over the phone instead. I'd be interested to read that letter now, but am reluctant to break the seal. I do remember asking them at the end of that letter not to be angry at themselves or to close themselves off from other people regarding and because of me (although they already do that anyways).

      >> 9:05 AM
 

[Shyaku] kindly e-mailed me recently. As I was browsing his page this morning, I began to think about my own relationship to poetry-writing. As much as I've written and thought about writing here, I have not really approached the subject of poetry. Part of the reason is that I remain hopelessly lost at sea about what "poetry" is. I do not consider myself a poet, although there is a trail of poems I have left behind me. In one sense, I consider poetry a radically more personal medium than even diaries. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it is because I approach poetry-writing with a far greater sense of reverence. And of course, there are poets I have read and admired from the nineteenth-century on who have explored the co-extensiveness of poem and self (Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson, etc.).

What trips me up about writing poetry are the demands of form and meter. I suppose my working definition of poetry is writing that pays particular attention to form and meter and how they shape, influence, and reflect meaning. My sense of rhythm is just lousy (evidenced, too, in musical forays). I'm going to resurrect two poems from my past that have somewhat funny histories as examples of what I do with poetry (and rhythm).

The [first] poem came from a genuine desire to express the gratitude and emotional relief I felt when my best friend Fuzzy precipitated my coming out. (Rather a cheesy and transparent poem.) What I notice today, in reading the poem, is how it shows my obsession with the body -- the physical -- as a complicating entity in expressing self (though what is the self but the body?). I think this was one of the first poems I wrote and rewrote by marking with scansion. There are some lines that I think flow as I wanted. Others just fall flat.

I did in fact show this poem to Fuzzy upon completion of an earlier draft. She mentioned it to someone we knew in common (gay graphic design student) to whom I gave my poem as the text for a project he was doing. It was kind of cool, actually. He printed up the poem in its numbered fragments on separate pages. He then bound the pages between pieces of leather, tied up with leather strips. It made a very aesthetically striking whole. He then put scanned pictures of the project on his web site, strung together in a way so as to simulate a particular opening of the package, an unwrapping, unveiling, freeing of the poem.

The [other] poem has a slightly more interesting (twisted) history. I wrote it, in fact, to be found by my parents to make them feel bad. (I'm an evil son.) I had just finished my sophomore year in college. Earlier that school year was when I finally admitted to myself my homosexuality (see previous poem). Shortly after realizing this block in how I perceived myself, I began to question my academic and professional pursuits. At this point, I was still the diligent pre-med student. I wasn't doing too well in my science classes, though, unmotivated by the supposed-ultimate goal of my education and particular assumptions and perspectives on life made by the various scientists who taught me. (In contrast, my philosophy and English classes were proceeding splendidly.) I decided that first semester that I would no longer keep up a charade of being interested in pursuing the pre-med track. I even got up the nerve to tell my parents. They were not happy. But there was only so much they could say to me, all the way across the continent.

Fast forward a few months. The school year has ended and I have returned home for the summer. My father sits me down and lectures me on the imprudence of pursuing a non-science / non-medicine career. I founder in despair for awhile. I literally stop eating. I don't talk to anyone. I barely leave my room. I start working on this poem, though not seriously considering suicide, seriously considering how my parents would feel if I were to commit suicide. About two weeks after I have returned home, I get up one day to go to a friend's graduation ceremony. I take the car, not telling my parents I am going. I leave the poem on my desk. After the graduation ceremony, I drive around for a few hours. When it is sufficiently late for my parents to have returned home and found me missing, I drive to the other side of [the Bay] and drop in on my sister and her (then-)husband. I act like a crazy man, starved, angry, almost violent. They take me out to dinner. I rant about how I am going to throw my life away, becoming a doctor. (At this point, one might call me on my privilege and the triviality of my concerns.) After awhile, I calm down. My sister tries to explain that I don't have to do whatever our parents want me to for me or them to be happy. My (then-)brother-in-law tells me that my parents had called them, worrying. They had found the poem, faxed it to my sister, asking her what it means. So yes, I finally felt bad about what I had done. Repent, repent, repent.

But it makes for an interesting poem, yes? I am actually more pleased with the metrical movement in this poem than the other. It is decidedly fragmented and jolting. I like the way the line breaks push, pull, frustrate smooth reading. If I were to go to an open-mic night or become a slam poet, I would read this poem in a very specific way. I can hear it in my mind as I read, certain parts stalling, others speeding through.

      >> 8:11 AM
 

Saturday, January 13, 2001

Long weekend, need to fill it with things. What to do? Looking back over the last few months, I feel as if I do not do much of anything. Aside from reading, writing, thinking, I do not have much contact with people outside myself. There is Joe, but with his work and stress, we hardly do anything except lounge around the apartment, in front of the television half the time, the other half in front of our computers.

What can I do?

      >> 1:05 PM
 

Friday, January 12, 2001

Over in my "academic" on-line persona, I have started a new blog, [palimpsest]. Though in practice it will be merely a list of quotations from things I read, I am thinking of my mind as a palimpsest, with the things I read each day writing thoughts and ideas on my mind that fade in time, especially as new things enter it. I like the idea of the palimpsest because what it suggests is that in the reusing of a writing surface, what has been written before constitutes a part of that entity, whether or not it is readable anymore. It reminds me of paintings, too, and famous painters who reused their canvases for various reasons, painting over what they had done before. I think palimpsests also speak to the transitory nature of web sites in general. Though more and more sites have archives now, they still remain constantly changing and growing entities.

I had considered keeping a running list of books, essays, and articles I read each week. I think this project will be a little more engaging.

      >> 3:24 PM
 

Pointed out to me by the baby: [Male Lust]. Seems like something worth reading. Don't know if I would necessarily agree with the views on sexuality and masculinity, but probably will probably find various points to reconsider in my own thinking.

      >> 7:12 AM
 

Thursday, January 11, 2001

Foiled again! I was sitting down in a coffee shop this afternoon when I spied outside on the sidewalk someone I know. I surprised myself by getting up and going outside with the intent to talk to him. Just as I was about to call out to him, though, I noticed that he was with two other people. At that point, my resolve to signal my presence disappeared and I sulked back into the coffee shop. Why am I so easily scared off by people I don't know (and those I know, for that matter)?

I was in the [departmental] office earlier, talking to the graduate program assistant Mona. She's a very talkative one. We chatted for at least fifteen minutes about what's been going on in our lives since mid-December. While I was in there, I looked at the bulletin board containing polaroid photos of all the first-year graduate students. Funny thing is, my photo was hanging a bit crooked. All the other photos were placed at neat, grid-like angles. Mona told me that she had tried on many occasions to straighten my photo out, but it just refused to stay straight. At times, my photo would disappear off the board, too (ending up on the desk or off to the side of the display board). Kind of appropriate, I guess. My photo is mimicking my inability to fit myself wholly into institutional and social structures. At least, that's how I see myself at times.

Aggravation of the day: my car repair / maintenance bill came out to $764.73. I'm being hustled.

      >> 5:22 PM
 

It appears that I will be thinking a lot about writing and language in classes this semester. I guess that's a good thing, even though I already find myself fixated on these things. Maybe it'll get me out of the circularity of my own thinking about writing through exchanges of ideas with others. I'm taking a required course on teaching composition. It ought to be interesting, especially since I've never taken a composition course before. How exactly do you teach someone how to write? Learning the mechanics of teaching in making lesson plans, etc., will be very helpful in building my confidence about teaching, too.

I missed the made-for-MTV movie about Matthew Shepard's murder. (I'm sure I can catch it sometime in the next few weeks, though.) Their "blackout" of programming to broadcast information about [hate crimes] is laudable. It'll be interesting to see what sorts of reactions and activism this move inspires.

      >> 1:32 PM
 

Took my car in today for the 30,000 mile maintenance. Just talked with the people at the shop. They told me that there are a few things that need to be done. Extra charges: $400. Fun.

"That certain kinds of marks and noises have meanings, and that we human beings grasp those meanings without even thinking about it, are very striking facts." ([William Lycan], Philosophy of Language) Thought about how language works lately? It really is amazing to think about how words encode meaning. To what do particular words refer? How do we deal with the fuzziness of meaning?

I'm in one of those blogging-aphasia moments. When I'm not in front of a computer, I think of things I want to log here, but when I do sit down in front of a computer, I can't think of anything to write. Oh well.

      >> 1:13 PM
 

Why do I keep falling asleep by nine pm? I was extremely tired yesterday, though. When I don't get my nine hours of sleep a night, my body feels fragile, bones ready to break any moment. I am in poor health, it seems.

Are undergraduates at [UNC Chapel Hill] really heavy drinkers? I wonder. The other day, I heard sooo many people talking about how they got "trashed" and "went out drinking." Sample conversation:

Undergraduate (UG) #1: I was sooo stressed out about my papers.
UG #2: Yeah, me too. Instead of worrying, I went out to the bars and got trashed.
UG #1: I should've done that more. I went out last night and got pretty sloshed.
UG #2: Yeah.

Maybe this is how most undergrads at all universities are. Maybe I was just out of the loop?

      >> 6:36 AM
 

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

It's nice to see the full moon still in the sky when I drive to work. What a beautiful celestial body.

I don't know if this getting up early in the morning thing really is for me. I signed up again this semester to cover the early morning shift in the [SITES lab] Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I guess when noon rolls around, I'll at least feel that I've been up a number of hours. Anything to encourage my sense of having-done-stuff.

      >> 7:04 AM
 

Tuesday, January 09, 2001

What the?? Where did the snow come from this morning? It's a good thing I started off early today or else I would've been late to class. It took me ten minutes to remove the snow from and defrost the windows of my car.

Soooo cold today (waiting for the bus outside). Times like these, I wish I were back in California, when a sunny day outside means some warmth, at least. The problem is that I hate being too-warmly dressed, so I often opt to leave behind the layers and the heavy coats when perhaps I should just wear them. Ah well. A few colds and flus later, I should learn.

      >> 3:21 PM
 

The logic behind the childhood game, "Duck, duck, goose." (This is for you, Better Fangs? :F.)

You and your friends sit on the soft, warm grass in a circle. The sun shines happily on all of you. Smiles, smiles, all around. Your best friend gets up and starts walking around the outside of the circle. Skipping, walking, skipping. She starts patting each person on the head as she passes, calling each person "duck." Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck. All is well with the world. You laugh and you talk. All the while, "duck, duck, duck..."

Suddenly, the wind picks up. It is a chilling wind, and it brings clouds tumbling out of the mountains to cover over the sun. It is then you feel the hand on your head, the presence of your friend behind you. "GOOSE!" she screams. Lightning flashes, dead leaves blow up against your back, and you leap up. How dare you! Your best friends squeals with delight at your reaction and races around the circle. You pursue her, knowing you cannot let her get away with calling you a goose. But alas, you are too slow, and she careens around the circle into the space you left empty behind you. She completes the circle anew, laughing along with the others, all untainted ducks. The skies clear, the wind dies down. You smile.

You start walking around the circle, the sun beaming its light and warmth on you. You begin to skip a little, yes, even you. And soon, duck, duck, duck...

      >> 6:33 AM
 

Classes start today. Eep. My sleep schedule has been thrown off a bit. Hope I can make it through the day.

Have been feeling a little queasy, like there's something at the back of my throat that I need to throw up. Not a happy feeling. It's worse at some times than others. Right now, I can feel something icky at the back of my throat, but it's not making me too nauseous. Other times, I feel like heading for the toilet.

Have a pleasant day.

      >> 6:09 AM
 

Wow. Who knew that such debates raged? Just been reading about [The Sokal Hoax] from 1996 in which physicist [Alan Sokal] took it upon himself to play a joke on what he considered the "faux" left of academia. The debate he ignited really shows just how much was at stake in the knowledge various disciplines. I find his "hoax" entirely distasteful, not only because it comes across as childish and vindictive -- though Sokal would balk at such characterizations -- but also because it appears that he does not understand how satire and parody works. He claims to have written his hoax article as a way of waking up the Left, of which he continually asserts he is a part. But he should know that parody can never afford validation for anyone associated with its target. The work of parody is precisely in its undermining of everything its target believes -- and in these days, that means the entire politically left / progressive, comes under attack with his hoax.

The other interesting aspect of these debates (as shown in the articles collected by the editors of [Lingua Franca]) is in how much the ideas surrounding science studies and cultural studies are so contentious, both in academia, between disciplines, in the mainstream media, and the public. Something that I don't think Sokal has acknowledged is how much his "hoax" did get entirely out of hand. Did he really not realize that conservatives like George Will wouldn't take his hoax as fodder for criticizing "radicals" in the academy? But more importantly, he could not have known that it would become the catalyst for debates ranging from the efficacy of spending tax dollars on higher education to the issues around teaching non-traditional perspectives (i.e. non-Western exclusivist) of history.

What is most troubling to me is how Sokal not only misread the cultural climate and his sources, but even what his own intentions were when he published his hoax article. On his [faculty web site], he has posted his hoax article, his revelation of the hoax, and various articles about the whole affair. It seems clear to me that while he believes his attack was on a postmodern theory laden with jargon and faulty logic, he was really more concerned with the encroachment of non-specialists into matters of science. He really wanted to warn off people not trained in the sciences from writing about its philosophies and its effects. And I think after this whole debate erupted, he might have realized perhaps that this was what he was thinking, but could not admit such culturally conservative views in his defense of the Old Left. He claims that a straightforward critique / reading of these postmodern theories with the purpose of discrediting them would have been tedious. So instead he decided to ridicule the whole enterprise of socially and politically aware readings of science work.

Augh.

      >> 5:37 AM
 

Monday, January 08, 2001

I really liked Elise Harris's review of All About Love, so I [looked] at some other reviews/articles of hers on the web. Her story on contemporary views of saving marriage, ["Can Marriage Be Saved?: An Unsentimental Case for Matrimony"], in [Lingua Franca] caught my eye. In this article, she looks at a recently developed "public health" approach to saving marriages, particularly through the work of Linda Waite in The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially. The argument of Waite and others like her is essentially that there are quantifiable benefits for both men and women in marriages, and therefore men and women should stay in marriages. Why is this a new idea? Critics of marriage and the nuclear family don't really argue that there aren't economic or health benefits in marriage. Rather, the critique has always centered on the restrictive nature of marriages and the ways in which they construct and reinforce unequal gender roles. Harris does a splendid job of presenting the views of Waite and Co. while providing an appropriate perspective on how their pseudo-neo-feminist work is in fact remarkably conservative, revealing how it capitulates to gender norms.

      >> 5:06 AM
 



She takes her experience, neatly elides her own role in shaping it, universalizes and transliterates her frustrations into pop sociology.

-- Elise Harris, ["That 4-Letter Word"]


In her review of bell hooks's book, All About Love: New Visions, Harris pinpoints exactly the discomfort I had with hooks's presentation of love. While I like hooks's insights, I am often troubled by the way she presents her ideas as universal truths. This presentation is especially ironic given her work on (white) feminism's blindness to race in its depiction of a universal woman.

Following the work of pop psychologists and new age spiritual revivalists, hooks takes on the task of reclaiming love as an affirmative practice. The first important step she takes is to define love, refusing to leave love an elusive "something." In the first chapter, she gives love "clarity" by taking on M. Scott Peck's definition of love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth" (from The Road Less Traveled). From there, she examines the impact and dimensions of love and lovelessness in justice, honesty, commitment, spirituality, values, greed, community, mutuality, romance, loss/death, healing, and destiny (these words also make up the titles of her chapters).

I especially like what hooks writes about love as honest, non-exclusive, non-limiting. Her definition of love necessarily looks towards community, refusing the insularity of nuclear families and even one-to-one couplings that supersede all other bonds of love and friendship. However, I think part of my discomfort with All About Love is in the fact that hooks's visions are so close to what I believe about love, but just slightly off, creating this odd state of out-of-focusness. While I agree with how she sees love as an active process, as a commitment to being as opposed to an emotion that is, I often do not agree with how she presents these ideas and how she interprets cultural phenomena. Early on in the book, for example, she leans precariously on a nostalgia for 1950s traditional family values, portrayed in television shows like Leave It to Beaver, as what love should be.

One thing that hooks brings up is the conflict between loving someone as they are and loving them enough to seek growth and total self-actualization. It is a difficult conflict to resolve because often wanting someone to change can appear or become an insidious need to control that person. Even with oneself, the problem exists (as I commented on just [awhile] ago). I like this idea of loving self / someone else so much as to want the best for that person, but the idea of self-actualization of a "true" identity doesn't sit well with me. This reliance on "true" selves is something that hooks uses throughout the book as a way of tying love to a transformative power. I, too, believe in this transformative power, but am not sure there is such a thing as a "true" self revealed in honesty. Rather, I like to think of this power as a way of transforming how we treat each other, strangers, lovers, family, friends, and all. The work of love, then, rather than revealing true identities and moving away from a realm of power, control, and manipulation, demystifies that realm and encourages mutual consideration rather than single-minded egoism.

This is the sticky substance of my discomfort -- that there is something universal about people's need to seek love. I like hooks's vision of this utopian world of love, care, respect, etc. But I think that mobilizing essential needs and personalities is always problematic. In fact, hooks criticizes popular conceptions of gendered-beliefs about love (as in John Gray's bestselling work, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) as detrimental to the actualization of her vision of love. However, she sees these popular conceptions simply as wrong (and her understanding as right), not that they, as essentialized beliefs of gender-qualities, create meaning that devastates and demoralizes.

I hesitate to recommend this book to some of my friends because of these reservations I have with hooks's underlying rhetoric. Still, what she proposes as the process of loving is very much in line with what I am working with in my life. It is a beautiful vision, and one that I hope to continue pursuing (though much work must be done) in my own little world, if not the world at large.

(I read this book as part of a paper I wrote last semester. It was a helpful counterpoint to the work of radical feminists and queer theorists who have worked to divest love of many of its cultural implications with romance, patriarchy, racial hierarchies, etc. I was happy to return to one my favorite works, Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. In this incredibly lucid critique of women's oppression and the concluding visions of a utopia free of gender constrictions, Firestone dares to ask explicitly, "Do we want to get rid of love?")

      >> 2:59 AM
 

Sunday, January 07, 2001

The world of weblogging is expansive. Upon discovering the world of weblogs and journals, I became engrossed in the writings of many people. I have been following quite a few [weblogs] of the more individual flavor since I began my own one-person's-thoughts weblog. But I've been getting more into communal, discussion-type weblogs lately. I was invited to join [BuffyLog] awhile back, and I am loving the discussion there. The ideas that come up in group weblogs like [MetaFilter] and [cmoore's blog] are fascinating in a new way. As the Metafilter "About" page explains, "This website exists to break down the barriers between people, to extend a weblog beyond just one person, and to foster discussion among its members."

I must say that this is exactly what I see writing doing for me. While what I do alone is of fundamental importance to my thinking, it all must lead me to communicating with others, with generating social understanding and knowledge. It is that next step in how I perceive my own critical development, one I am only beginning to take now.

      >> 4:43 PM
 

Writing. Joe reminded me earlier today that I am really "in the business" of literature because of writing when he mentioned an MFA program I might be interested in. I'm still thinking that maybe a creative writing program / degree might be worth pursuing. It might get me into the mindset of writing more, of working through the ideas that I have instead of just noting them mentally.

Writing stories and/or novels is not something I have ever been able to embrace fully, though. The act itself remains more of an ideal than a reality, something I imagine myself doing rather than something I do. And part of the holdup is this notion that I've grown up with (one that's been ingrained in me by my parents' ideas about art) that those who write are inherently geniuses of prose (or poetry or whatever). Artists are all prodigies, their talent clear from early childhood. So what of someone like me, no longer even a teenager, who has not produced anything stunning or recognized?

My sister and I have had conversations about these issues, in large part because she faces similar doubts and concerns about her pursuit of her work as an artist. There are various components to this ideology of inherent talent in artistic prodigies that impinge on our exploration of creating art as a process. The fact that I am not a published writer at age 23, that my sister is not a well-known artist with gallery and museum shows, is proof enough in our parents' eyes that we are not artists, that lives spent in making and discovering art are futile. My father has mentioned on many occasions that I should send out things I write to magazines to see if they could be published. My mother recently asked me if what I write in graduate school now will be published, whether what I write in fact has any forum for publishing at all (since I am not writing fiction).

It is hard for me to respond to my parents' entreaties and questions because they simply miss the point of my fascination with writing. And while I must admit that in order to pursue a career in writing, I will have to publish, to make money through writing, I am very hesitant to look to these goals as the reason for my writing. The history of literature provides me with many examples of brilliant writers and artists who never published while they lived, not just because they weren't "recognized" then, but because they did not even seek to publish their work (Franz Kafka springs to mind). Which raises the question, why did they write?

Before I proceed further, I must acknowledge that there is a certain mystique to being published. It would be awesome to see a work of mine in print, on a bookshelf at the library or bookstore, an entry in catalog databases. To hold a book of mine in my hands is something I sincerely hope to do one day (this hope is coupled with my interest in the physical object of books, their weight, texture, visual register). I might add that web journalling, publishing my own website (especially since the recent leap onto my own domain name), is a sort of intermediate step in this process of writing and publishing -- it allows me to think that I am not writing solely for myself (because my parents tell me that's a worthless task) even as I am freed from many of the constraints that publication in magazines, etc., might place on how I approach writing.

So why do people write if not for publication, fame, money, etc.? As I've noted before, writing provides me with a forum for thinking, for grappling with issues in my life and in the world that I cannot turn over easily just in my mind. It has also been my way of thinking things through, simply because I have not really developed the aptitude for discussing ideas with other people (I like to think I'm improving on that aspect, though). In conjunction with reading, writing has been how I have come to understand and express my life and myself (to myself and others). I just remembered that I, in fact, wrote my [statement of intent] for [graduate school] on just this aspect of writing and living.

However I think about it, it all boils down to this: I need to write more -- more in my/this journal, more critical essays for classes, more short stories, more general essays. Despite what I feel is my lack of experience in writing, I know that this is what I want to pursue. Who knows if it will be for the rest of my life. But for now, this is what will give my life meaning. This is what will help me to understand what is out there, as well as what is inside.

      >> 1:31 PM
 

Saturday, January 06, 2001

No, I'm not ready yet.

Last night Joe and I hung out with Jerma and Beth. We had dinner and then sat around talking for hours. It was a lot of fun and some very interesting topics came up. Turns out Jerma is really intrigued by the idea of property, like I am. She talked a bit about a man (named Desoto) who wrote about how differently the US and other countries conceive of buildings as property to be valued and considered (or not) assets. Then we talked about how ownership and property as concepts are really very fascinating to think about. Intellectual property, copyrights, etc., of course, are the hot topic now -- but seldom with a truly critical look at what it means to own something at all. With music and writing, especially, there is really very little discussion about what it means to copyright the sounds of music, vibrations in space, or ideas that have no real material essence.

Joe and I are having dinner again tonight with these two friends. I'm sure we'll have a great time. We're supposed to bring wine, but neither of us really knows anything about wine. Oh well.

      >> 2:21 PM
 

Welcome to my new home.

      >> 11:11 AM
 

Zzz's time. I need to pick up an html-authoring program so I don't have to sit around fiddling with tags and numbers for hours trying to get things to work.

      >> 1:00 AM
 

Friday, January 05, 2001

I can't believe I did it, but I did. I've sprung for a [domain name] and [host]. I'll probably migrate the stuff on these pages to that account once it's all set up. This way I can be more schizophrenic and develop an academic personality for this site and what I have now for the other. See you soon.

      >> 4:11 PM
 

Overheard at The Mad Hatter's Bake Shop early this afternoon someone adovcating the removal of all auction-items from sale on the Internet (in response to [Yahoo!'s] recent agreement to remove items such as Nazi memorabilia from its auction site). His argument: that putting things up for sale on the web takes away the "work" involved in traditional ways of hunting down hard-to-find objects (sifting through stuff at flea markets, making phone calls to people who might know of things, etc.). Kind of interesting. I can see how one might lament the loss of happenstance in searching for things at places like flea markets (not that this man mentioned it). But to extol the element of hard-work in finding antiques, etc. as something to be cherished in and of itself? Strange.

I guess for this guy, the allure of collecting hard-to-find objects is exactly in the fact that they are hard to find. A slightly different take on the joys of acquisition. It's not the having that's fun. It's the tracking down of the to-be-had object that is fun. I wonder what this guy does with the stuff he collects once he's found them? Maybe he has a little book detailing the search history of each object. That would be kind of interesting to see...

      >> 3:18 PM
 

Ah...hand-coding entries....

I wish I were a different person. This world is full of contradictions. It is full of double-think in that 1984 kind of way. But perhaps it is not all so negative. What is odd is that there are so many things we must juggle in our lives that force us to accept at one and the same time contradictory ideas. New Year's Resolutions are one such example. They embody this desire for change, for self-betterment (I love using made-up words). They are about bolstering one's self-esteem. And yet, they note exactly that there are things that one does not like about oneself, things that one wants to change. So, to love oneself as one is must exist along with wanting something better, something different.

It's no wonder resolutions are so hard to keep. The built in contradiction makes for easy self-sabotage. One can easily begin to feel worthless, with low self-esteem, because of the very goals that are supposed to make one a better person. It's a difficult task. And I don't believe that we can do without it, really. Otherwise, there'd be no impetus for changing habits that we dislike or that are detrimental to our well-being. Dilemmas, dilemmas...

      >> 8:36 AM
 

Thursday, January 04, 2001

It confuses me that there are so many webloggers out there who lament a tower-of-babel-like crush of weblogs. The complaint seems to be that there are too many "frivolous" weblogs out there, filled with non-thought content. And this brings immediately to my mind the question, what exactly constitutes appropriate material for weblogs?

One weblogger even suggested (perhaps a bit comically) that there should be a certification process for weblogs -- weeding out the uninteresting material from the stuff that really matters. All of this sounds to me like the exclusionary anxieties of "established" webloggers who are angry at the influx of "newbies" into a cadre of the select, the early, the first. I suspect I am noticing a lot of these complaints on weblogs lately because of the huge increase in weblog production after mainstream publications' coverage of the self-publishing / web journalling phenomenon. The webloggers who were well into writing before these pieces hit the press are perhaps a bit peeved that an elite (as in known only to a select few) world they were a part of suddenly is a much larger world filled with strange, different newcomers.

This sense of being first, of therefore knowing what weblogging is really about, pits the older webloggers against the newer, those who came onto the bandwagon after it became well-known, popular. (I was a fan of such-and-such a singer, actor, writer, comedian, celebrity long before she became famous.)

I think it is entirely pretentious of anyone to assume that they know what weblogging (or writing, for that matter) is really about. Because, not to sound too much like a relativist-solipsist-whatever, there are as many realities to writing as there are writers. And I think the beauty of weblogging and the Internet is in the possibility of realizing those differences. As a weblogger, I don't feel constrained by established or institutional guidelines of what or how to write. (Still, I realize that I'm far from writing in a vacuum or entirely as I please.) I think it's wonderful that there are so many people out there creating their own weblogs. And whether or not their writings are relevant to my life, whether or not they are insightful, beautifully written, or "good," I really believe that they do something for the webloggers. Writing, after all, is more of a process than a product for consumption. While audience, readership, communication are all important aspects of the consciousness of writing, they all must ultimately be subordinate to that very consciousness of writing, the intention, the desire to express.

      >> 4:13 PM
 

A day of sightings. I don't know why exactly I am so reluctant to greet acquaintances when I see them by chance in public. I suppose a large part of it is the fear of not being recognized, something that's happened to me on many-an-occasion in the past. In any case, today was odd in the fact that I saw numerous people I know in my short jaunt outside.

The first person I saw was this guy in my class this past semester. I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was walking back to my car on campus. I didn't say anything. He didn't say anything, either. The second person was Patrick, but this was while driving. I'm pretty sure he was in his car just ahead of me. At that point, I called him at home and left him a message (I'd been meaning to call him anyways). The third person was Sean, someone I definitely do not know very well, but recognize (and should be recognized by). This was at the laundrymat. I actually paused for a second outside the laundrymat after spotting him inside, debating whether or not I should just turn around and go home. But then I went in anyways, loaded my clothes into the machines while trying not to look up and into his direction. Then, I went and sat outside in the warm sun to read. Lo and behold, a short while later, Sean came out and sat on the bench near me. Then he asked, "Excuse me, are you Paul?" So he did recognize me and bothered to approach. How nice. We had a pleasant conversation as our clothes spun away inside the laundrymat.

Given some of the positive experiences I've had in running into acquaintances in public, I'm not sure why I still dread so much these encounters. I know sometimes when I go out (especially while in NYC), I want to be lost in the crowd. I want to be an anonymous face, not to know anyone and not to be known by anyone. It gives me a sense of freedom -- I can be alone and unfettered by social expectations (what to say, what to ask about, etc.). But it still doesn't explain why I often change my path, cross the street, walk by a store I was about to enter, just to avoid someone...

      >> 3:36 PM
 

Mmm....gingerbread....

I really don't want to get my day started. I just want to sit around the apartment all day like I did yesterday, watching tv, surfing the web, napping. (I did manage to get a haircut yesterday, though.) But no, I must go do laundry, make lunch, return library books, buy a poster, possibly drop my car off at the repair shop for maintenance work (and to fix that pesky loose plastic covering on the underside), and probably other stuff I'm trying hard not to remember I have to do. Ah well. Some days are just errand days.

      >> 8:36 AM
 

Wednesday, January 03, 2001

It's fun to go through my music collection because it is really an archival document of the changes in my life. Starting from the time I first got into music, when I first got a cd player, beginning with classical piano music, through my tenure in musicals (Disney and otherwise), through an interest in some contemporary Christian (Mormon) music (I know, strange, but it was because of the homoerotic reading I had of the "he" sung to by male singers), through the grunge rock/"alternative" scene, through a techno-dance-pop crze, to folk rock, and finally to the teen pop that I am obsessed with these days, the music brings up associations with other things going on in my life when it was the background soundtrack of my thoughts.

More than just following the trends of popular music, my music collection flows into my consciousness and becomes a part of the ideas that I grapple with throughout the days. Some music I spent hours on end just listening to, lying prostrate on the ground or in bed. Other music was omnipresent in my drawing days, in my days of studying for biochemistry exams, during paper-writing anguish of finals, etc. To this day, there are some songs/albums that I cannot hear without viscerally being drawn back to a previous time. For example, a tape of introductory violin pieces (Suzuki method) conjures for me the excitement of riding in a car along snowy mountain roads because it was what my parents played one winter when we ascended the Sierra Nevada range on a skiing trip. Tori Amos's to venus and back, as another example, is the New York City subway system and the muted sounds of the city streets in a cold (though snowless) atmosphere. I used to listen to the album non-stop on my walkman as I went about the City. (And unfortunately, her album from the choirgirl hotel came out during finals one year in college, so every time I play that album, I imagine myself holed up in my tiny dorm room, trying desperately to write my papers at all hours of the night.)

      >> 11:07 AM
 

Tuesday, January 02, 2001

So why am I so unnerved by typical Hollywood action flicks? I don't think it's really the violence or the spectacular explosive effects. There's something about the stories. (Yeah, and I know many people say action flicks are not about the stories, so why bother?) There's always a kind of gender-normative element to the stories. Even when there's a "strong" woman in the mix, she is inevitably wrestled down by a man, usually through sexual means. Even if it starts out as coercion, rape, the male hero wins over or conquers the feisty heroine-villainess with his seduction and sexual prowess. Action stars are always sex symbols.

And so while the theories of some radical feminists like Catherine McKinnon who place power and privilege in the phallus are seemingly absurd, it is not hard to see how these theories work within the context of the cultural production of action movies. Even when the men are good heroes, they always have unquestioned power over all women through virtue of their sex. The greatest blow to their power is when another man challenges his control over women by co-opting a lover, etc. I just don't understand why this idea is so dominant in popular entertainment.

      >> 10:57 PM
 

I must read Through the Arc of the Rain Forest by [Karen Tei Yamashita]. I e-mailed Yamashita a month or two ago for some help with sourcing Chua's Gold by the Inch. She very kindly responded with some suggestions. I did not know who she was then nor what she had written. Then as I was reading up for that paper on Gold by the Inch, I kept coming across critical work done on Yamashita's novels. They seem like very interesting works.

      >> 10:28 AM
 

New Year's Day spent at Leon and John's house playing [Scruples (Millenium Edition)] and watching [Whose Line Is It Anyway?]. Scruples wasn't as unscrupulous game as I thought it would be. I guess in some contexts it might be more tense -- but the social stakes amongst certain friends (such as John and Leon) just aren't very great. And the moral dilemmas posed in the questions weren't particularly stimulating to me. Still, it was a fun game to play. Some of the questions are just silly and funny, especially because they are supposed to point at moral dilemmas which just aren't very big dilemmas or even completely irrelevant within our group of friends.

We met up with friends of J&L for dinner. We'd met one half of the couple before -- Charles -- but not the talkative, full-of-energy Percy. If I were to hang out more with people like Percy, I might end up talking more in general, just because he does not let anyone lurk in the background of group conversations. Fun guy, though I might be exhausted by him if I were around him a lot.

Today: Watch [M:I-2]. Close old bank accounts. Have lunch with the baby on campus.

      >> 10:11 AM
 

Monday, January 01, 2001

I must admit I am woefully unversed in the history and work of labor struggles. The efforts of graduate student groups to form unions as bargaining forces with universities is something that I need to learn more about, though. This [piece] on NYU and Yale reminds me of [GESO] at Yale (though the organization is not mentioned by name in the article). And though I don't understand the logistics of academic insitutional power, I cannot help but think that [student] [union] groups' concerns are reasonable and important to pursue.

      >> 7:24 AM
 

Hmm...Don't know quite what to think about this brief [article] on the state of gay and lesbian civil rights in the US.

I guess I don't know if I agree with the driving assumption of Goldstein's view: that "sexual orientation has no implications whatsoever for character." (Nor do I agree with the concomitant reasonings that race and sex have nothing to do with character.) I think this is where he loses me a bit. I see the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights, like the struggle for racial equality in the Civil Rights Movement proper, as a movement dedicated to celebrating the very differences and implications of character around understandings of sexuality. This is not to say that there is any one defined way of being "gay," but that many of the characteristics associated with gayness in the public imagination are present in the entire population and need to be de-criminalized, de-pathologized, etc. For instance, the Boy Scouts' gripe with letting "avowed homosexuals" into their ranks is that gay men corrupt young boys, sodomizing them (at times) or making them fey at the very least. Their task, in other words, is in trying to homogenize gender identities, in making "masculine" their boys. And as such, I think attempting to combat their ideological work by claiming neutrality is fruitless. It may be messy. It may not be easy to admit. But the cultural wars over sexuality are exactly defined around the tense issues of race, gender, sexuality, sexual-object-choice and what they mean to our identities as humans.

      >> 7:02 AM
 

Happy New Year, etc. etc.

There's nothing like being home, not living out of a suitcase, comfortable in a familiar space (small though it may be). DC was lovely, but cold. I hope I was of support, helpful, to Joe. We did end our stay there with a little tiff, though. I went to some panels at the [convention] itself. Mostly interesting. In one, an audience member raised a question (unanswered by the panelists) that has stuck in my mind. In essence, he raised the issue of the "readability" of works of literature as value. The context was the controversy over a particular novel that had been awarded a prize by an organization which then rescinded the prize because of political and social objections to representations of certain people in the novel. So, is a novel good because it is aesthetically beautiful, moving? Or is it good because it interrogates received notions of beauty and representation? I had read this novel, in fact, and did cry as I was reading it (I have leaky tear-ducts). But I do agree with its critics in decrying the awful racialization of certain people in powerfully antagonistic terms. And yet, it did move me to tears, its prose haunting and the voice of the child-narrator arousing an unbelievable sympathy. It was a fast read, an easy read. How do we compare such a work to that of other works that are difficult to read, to digest, to understand, but ultimately can change the way we see things at all?

Pointed out to me by B. Ron, a much more positive [article] on weblogs.

      >> 6:38 AM