Wednesday, January 31, 2001
>> 3:47 PM
>> 12:08 PM
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
>> 7:21 AM
Tuesday, January 30, 2001[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
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
>> 10:06 AM
Monday, January 29, 2001
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
>> 9:00 AM
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[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
>> 8:55 AM
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
>> 4:33 PM
>> 11:16 AM
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
>> 10:19 PM
>> 5:23 PM
>> 12:12 PM
>> 12:03 PM
Wednesday, January 24, 2001
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
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
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
>> 7:15 AM
>> 6:53 AM
Tuesday, January 23, 2001[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
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
(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:
(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
>> 12:36 AM
>> 12:33 AM
Monday, January 22, 2001
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
>> 11:09 PM
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[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
>> 1:57 PM
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
>> 5:28 AM
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
>> 3:13 PM
>> 2:49 PM
Friday, January 19, 2001[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.
>> 11:38 PM
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
>> 8:51 PM
>> 8:50 PM
>> 3:46 PM
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
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[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
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
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
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
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[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
>> 7:52 AM
Sunday, January 14, 2001[Martin Luther King, Jr. Day].
>> 10:24 AM
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
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
What can I do?
>> 1:05 PM
Friday, January 12, 2001[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
>> 7:12 AM
Thursday, January 11, 2001
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
>> 5:37 AM
Monday, January 08, 2001[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[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 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
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
>> 11:11 AM
>> 1:00 AM
Friday, January 05, 2001[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
>> 10:28 AM
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[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
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
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
atom site feed
asian american writers' workshop
the new york times
jon carroll @ sfgate
the village voice
let bygones be...
the old stuff