Wednesday, October 31, 2001
It's Halloween! My pumpkin is outside on the mailboxes, smiling back at my apartment. I had to use one of my duck candles. I suppose it's worth it to see the glow of the orange-yellow fruit.
thenar: n. Anat. the ball of muscle at the base of the thumb.
>> 7:27 PM
Tuesday, October 30, 2001[Cafe Parvaneh]. I could barely keep my eyes open afterwards! It was so delicious, though. Too bad I was literally knocked out by the overindulgence.
I've been on a book-buying spree this last week. Since the purchases I mentioned [last Thursday], I've gotten Rosemary Hennessy's Profit and Pleasure: Sexual Identities in Late Capitalism, Lauren Berlant's The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, and Susan Oyama's The Ontogeny of Information: Developmental Systems and Evolution. Eep. They're all books I've had on my to-read list for ages. A couple of them I've had checked out of the library for quite awhile, too. My reading rate during the semester is atrocious, unfortunately, except for books assigned for class and articles directly related to papers I am writing. Even then, I can't read nearly as much as I want. But now I have them in my possession, so I can read them whenever I want without worrying about due dates and such.
>> 11:13 AM
Poor Joe. He's sad. But he's brave. He's so brave always. I admire him for what he has done and what he continues to do with his life, even though it is so hard sometimes to deal with people's reactions.
(Alliterate me: Parvenu Paul pickled peppers patiently, surpassing staid Sal's supermarket sales?)
parvenu: n. (fem. parvenue) 1 a person of obscure origin who has gained wealth or position. 2 an upstart. § adj. 1 associated with or characteristic of such a person. 2 upstart.
>> 10:40 AM
Monday, October 29, 2001
Someday, I might become an amanuensis. In fact, I used to like to copy out by hand stories I liked. Gimme your manuscripts!
amanuensis: n. (pl. amanuenses) 1 a person who writes from dictation or copies manuscripts. 2 a literary assistant.
>> 9:17 AM
Sunday, October 28, 2001
As I was trying different places on the window ledge, going outside to look and then coming back inside, I noticed how absent the apartment complex is of any Halloween decorations. Oh well. I'm thinking on Halloween night I'll put my pumpkin out on the mailboxes structure.
>> 9:07 PM
I saw [Mulholland Drive] last night with some friends. It was straaaaaange. I haven't seen anything else by David Lynch before, but now I sort of understand why my friends in college insisted I would like his stuff. I actually didn't care too much for Mulholland Drive, though. Its oddity is what seems superficially appealing. But it lacks a sustained exploration of that oddity, in my opinion. In this movie, Lynch wants to think about identity and desire. I've been told that he's often used this "trick" -- switch the identity of his characters halfway through the movie. Well, okay. But what of it? By the end of the movie, the shifting identities and names only seems to be a game. There's no idea about what identities mean, if they are really shiftable, iterable, not completely fixed as we often think. Maybe there is some sort of clearer pattern of what Lynch did in changing the identities (one friend last night thought that every time the identities shifted, it was "one over"). But still, what of it? Are his characters all just stuck in a horrendous loop, doomed to replay the same desires between the same few players?
(Oops...burned the eggs I was frying. Need to learn how to pay attention when I'm cooking.)
One thing I could see in the movie was how Lynch was playing with the idea of acting. There seemed to be a consciousness in his characters by the time they switched identities that they were re-acting certain relationships with each other, re-interpreting them. It helps that in the first version of the story, Betty is an aspiring actress who practices a scene with Rita and then auditions the scene with an actor shortly after with an astounding difference. What seems flat, silly, and melodramatic at first becomes passionate, silly, and melodramatic the second time around.
I may be a cynic, but I think part of what was going on in the movie was a desire to have soft-core lesbian porn, too. And ok, yay for liberating female sexuality, but it quickly turned into craziness of women and love triangles with a man and jealousy and stuff.
effluvium: n. (pl. effluvia) an unpleasant or noxious odour or exhaled substance affecting the lungs or the sense of smell etc.
>> 9:08 AM
Saturday, October 27, 2001[LGBT UNC students respond to news of Durham murders.]
>> 12:41 PM
Running a bunch of small errands today. Maybe picking up some more books from the bookstore. As if I needed more of those things to pile up around my apartment. I've long since run out of bookshelf-space.
obstreperous: adj. 1 turbulent, unruly; noisily resisting control. 2 noisy, vociferous.
>> 12:14 PM
Friday, October 26, 2001
Word-of-the-Day brought to you by yesterday's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (a question asked about the shape of a ziggurat -- how obscure is that? but now you know)
ziggurat: n. (in ancient Mesopotamia) a pyramidal stepped tower built in several stages which diminished in size towards the summit, on which there may have been a shrine. Possibly derived from earlier platform temples, ziggurats are first attested in the late 3rd millennium BC; the one at Babylon may have been the biblical Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9).
>> 5:32 PM
Thursday, October 25, 2001
>> 12:52 PM
Bought today: Tsai Ming-liang's The Hole on DVD. Annie Leibovitz's Women. Edward Gorey's The Doubtful Guest. Issue #4 of Joss Whedon's Fray.
>> 12:17 PM
Wednesday, October 24, 2001
theodicy: n. 1 the vindication of divine providence in view of the existence of evil. 2 an insistence of this.
>> 11:14 PM
>> 2:57 PM
>> 12:32 PM
>> 12:26 PM
prurient: adj. 1 having an unhealthy obsession with sexual matters. 2 encouraging such an obsession.
>> 12:09 PM
I just want to surround myself with walls of sound, to drown out everything but loud music. There isn't any particular kind of music that I'm feeling now, though. I've put in Sarah McLachlan's Mirrorball, and I guess that's doing an okay job.
I'm thinking about working on a paper about emotions and violence. "Moved to Violence." Violence and the intent to harm.
E asked me this morning again what's wrong, and she thought I was just not wanting to talk about it, so she wanted me just to tell her what's up. But I don't know why I have this antipathy to people. I think it must be related to my periodic existential crises -- what am I doing in school? what is my goal? etc. etc. But how can I deal with these questions? Nothing ever seems to change.
Life is not about singular events. It's about repetition, a constant accumulation of sameness. Last night, [Buffy] went through a time-loop thing (like in the movie Groundhog Day) and I noted how much her situation was actually not extraordinary. Work, especially in a retail job, is the same every day. There is little to differentiate one day from the next, just the relentless onslaught of customers, questions, and problems to solve in keeping those customers happy. And I guess that's what's so confusing for me -- in studying literature and culture, I/we seem to look at singularity, even if we're looking at "representative" events. But how can we understand the utterly quotidian as informing our selves, our behaviors, our emotions?
>> 10:01 AM
Monday, October 22, 2001
How frightening is all this anthrax? It makes me feel like the world is so much more vulnerable than ever. I guess that's how terrorism works -- takes away any sense of a safe, good-intentions-driven world. I only hope that we've seen the limits of biological terrorism now. How awful to see scientific technology used as an insidious weapon.
* * *
I love the developing relationship between Otoh-boto and Nurse Tyler in Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night. I just love that book. It is so rich in depictions of novel possibilities of gendered and sexual relations. Where else do you get a moving story of a gay male nurse falling in love with a transgendered boy? There is a sense of humor in the book, but for once, this kind of relationship isn't simply a joke or a tragedy. I've been thinking about Cereus Blooms at Night again because of a flyer for a course being taught next semester. Apparently, there's an honors program at [UNC] that allows outstanding undergraduate seniors to teach a course of their own design. And someone is teaching a course on South Asian visuality in which one of the texts is Shani Mootoo's novel. Mmmm . . .
>> 10:19 PM
I'm feeling academically paralyzed gain (surprise). I look at all the stacks of book I have lying around that I should've been reading, but haven't. I try to sit down to write down my thoughts about a book, and I can't. I start reading articles that other people have written on these books, and I just feel small and insignificant. I think it's looking less and less likely that I'll be continuing with the PhD... But then that leaves a gaping hole where my future career used to be. What am I going to do?
>> 4:49 PM
Sunday, October 21, 2001[7 Questions with Gorillaz]. I really like the idea of a cartoon band. I've always flirted with the idea of doing music, but it would never be the kind of music we consider as music -- you know, like singers and guitar players who you see perform and stuff. And I think this cartoon band does something with the idea of pop music, messes with how we view our favorite bands, the people, their stories, etc. Still, I can't quite make out what they're trying to do with all the stereotypes they play with . . .
A couple of days ago, I was considering again the cumulative effect of a daily, regular inundation of things. I was thinking about it in terms of living in the South. I never really have felt like the South is its stereotype of religious fundamentalism, overt racism, etc. (Of course, many people would say the Raleigh-Durham area is only a faint reflection of the "true" South, over-run as it is with people like me from the Northeast, the Midwest, California, and all over.) But as I was driving home Friday, I became despondent over the insistence of Religious Right messages on people's bumper stickers ("Children Are a Gift from God," "Choose Life," etc.), the sight of American flags everywhere (I know, this is a result of 9-11 more than an effect of Southern-ness itself), and as I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex, a sticker on a pick-up truck that said, "Defend Southern Values" (or something like that) next to a picture of the Confederate flag. I realized that though people are very nice here, there is also an aspect of people that is antithetical to me. I am the embodiment of so many things that people here hate and violently, at times, have tried to expel. I am for all intents and purposes a Northerner. I am not white. I am not straight. I am not religious. I am a feminist. I am queer. BUT, while it is easy to polarize, to think of oppositions and points of contention, I finally realized later that night that these things are ever-present wherever we are. And in some senses, my life will always have to be about negotiating other people's attempts to delineate my existence (just as everyone faces the same predicament, albeit with varying levels of tension). To run away, to extricate myself from a particular point of social existence, would never completely free me from these concerns. I would only have to enter another sphere of influences and expectations.
>> 4:24 PM
>> 11:56 AM
Saturday, October 20, 2001
The weather has been gorgeous here the last few days. I'm sitting inside my office right now with the shades mostly drawn, but the sun still peeks through. It's such a happy feeling. The sun has been shining so brightly, but temperatures have stayed comfortably in the sixties and seventies. The leaves are a beautiful mixture of greens to reds, with the breeze blowing ever so softly through the shedding trees. (I was thinking about a post I made about a year ago about the swirling yellows, oranges, and reds of the leaves on the sunlight-mottled street as cars flashed by. I guess I've been at this blogging thing for a little over a year now. That's the longest continuous stretch of time I've written in a journal. Go me!)
I got the [Gorillaz] cd yesterday. I'm not quite sure why. I like the fact that they're a cartoon band. I'm not sure what to think about them overall, though. There seems to be some sort of racial-play, too -- and I can't tell if they're people consciously playing with stereotypes of Asians, blacks, latinos, etc.
I thought [David Eng's] talk on Thursday afternoon was very interesting. It was titled, "Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas: Structures of Kinship in Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together." I like what he's trying to do, thinking about the psychic and affective dimensions of racialization. I think he gets a lot of criticism for taking up the language of psychoanalysis, but I think he is very conscious of what he is doing and very aware that psychoanalytic discourse is traditionally very problematic in its conceptions of homosexuality and race. But anyways, I can't say that I really understand all the nuances of his argument or how he is making an intervention specifically into a traditionally materialist-based analysis of Asian American studies. Maybe I'll try to e-mail him. But how likely would it be for him to respond?
In his talk, Eng described the two main characters of Happy Together as men who refigure each other as mother-figures in the Oedipal scheme of socialization. The movie is notable for the absence of mothers (and women in general). Rather than rely on the specifics of the Oedipus Complex, Eng sees the underlying dynamics of loss, rejection, and re-socialization of the Complex as an appropriate structure in thinking about how Lai and Ho (the two men) relate to one another and ultimately move away from one another. Very interesting idea...
>> 1:15 PM
Thursday, October 18, 2001
>> 10:41 AM
Here is Gorey in his own words, ruminating on everything from French symbolist poetry to soap operas, from George Balanchine and the unique beauty of ballet to Victorian photographs of dead children. We meet the artist in his ramshackle book-lined studio in Manhattan and his equally bizarre house on Cape Cod. We listen as he describes his legendary upbringing and vast range of influences, as well as how he managed to work amid all his cats.
['Ascending Peculiarity': How Gorey Became Gorey]
"The artist and author of more than 100 meticulously hand-lettered, intricately rendered little books had to all intents and purposes become one of his own drawings."
>> 10:32 AM
What disappointed me about the show was the insistence on Clark Kent's wanting to be "normal." And while I understand that's a common trope for TV shows set in high school (including the first seasons of Buffy), I thought Clark would be more aware of the problems of a "normal" culture that defines itself by excluding others. And yet, he wants to join the football team. He wants to be a jock so he can be with Lana, the cheerleader. It's all so "all-American." And utterly uninteresting. Still, there is some hope for the show for me. Obviously, Clark will have to come to terms with his outsider-ness. He's just learned he's an alien, after all. And he seems to have known always that he has these superpowers.
>> 10:05 AM
Watched [Wong Kar-Wai's] Happy Together again last night at a screening in advance of [David Eng's talk] on the film.. There was so much in it that I didn't remember . . . Such an amazing movie. The strange thing is that I haven't been much impressed by Wong Kar-Wai's other films. But this one -- likely because of the central gay love story -- just makes me want to cry. I just bought the dvd, too, even though I don't yet have a dvd player. I figure I can force people I know with dvd players to watch it this way. And I can watch it at school.
I'm thinking about doing an independent study with [Tyler Curtain] on legal understandings of sexual orientation. I know that's a really broad topic at the moment, but I know next to nothing about how the law understands sexual orientation / identity / actions. I want to figure out what allows sodomy laws are still "on the books" in so many states, for example. I want to understand why and how discrimination against gays is legal (in the Boy Scouts, the military, etc.). What got me thinking about these things is the little I've read in Critical Race Theory, a legal discourse, largely marginal, that critiques the limitations of rights laws in regards to race (and gender). It got me to thinking about the possibility (or redundance?) of something that might be called Critical Queer Theory. One confusing thing is that I think so many people outside of the law (like me?) have taken up the term "Critical Race Theory" as any theorization of race and discrimination. I want to delve into CRT and understand specifically the goals and issues of CRT in the legal context -- the problems legal scholars of color face when thinking about race in the law -- as opposed to a general critique of racial discrimination. And then I want to see if there could be something similar done with thinking about sexual orientation.
The "queer theory" part, of course, comes in both in a particular understanding of sexual deviance as something more than identity and as a conscious (and conscientious) stance against the normalization and policing of sexual and other behavior. Because what I've seen so far of legal discourses of difference and discimination is kind of disturbing -- in order to be protected under the law from discrimination, you have to argue that you are bound by immutable characteristics. Even the term sexual "orientation" falls into this kind of thinking, a move away from the term sexual "preference" (which I prefer). Talk of homosexuality seems largely to have shifted away from a choice, a desire, and to an unchangeable, biological essence or trait. Why is that a problem, you might be asking? It isn't necessarily, except when that "essence" has been distilled, isolated, fixed -- and then what we have again is another site of the normalization of identity and actions. And again, there will be people who fall outside those definitions, more vilification, etc. What needs to happen is a shift in how we understand these things -- a focus, perhaps, on what constitutes desire, agency, will, consent . . . But I know these are difficult concepts, always easily convertible into their opposites. (I just read some of Saidiya Hartman's Scenes of Subjection in which she discusses how female slaves were both willing to have sex with their masters -- they are insatiable creatures of lust -- and utterly lacking in will or agency -- so they couldn't possibly have been raped because rape implies lack of consent.)
Anyways, if any of you lawyers or anyone else has any ideas on how to help me define my project, please drop me a [line]!
>> 9:14 AM
Wednesday, October 17, 2001[Our First Line of Defense]. Laurie Garrett on the public health system. Heard her give an apocalyptic talk on bioterrorism back in the spring of 2000. She doesn't see a very effective public health system in place to deal with epidemics. She differentiates the public health system from medical responses and political responses. I think I agree with her that knee-jerk reactions to bioterrorism could have wild consequences, but I don't quite understand what an adequate public health system would entail. Mostly I think my problem is not understanding the specifics of the public health system. Understandably, though, in light of Garrett's argument about the lack of attention paid to the system by the general public, medical practitioners, and politicians alike.
>> 11:38 AM
>> 11:09 AM
>> 11:01 AM
Tuesday, October 16, 2001[Gypsy Boys]. It was a very trite presentation of gay men looking for love in the bar scene. I'm confused by the use of the word "gypsy" in the title, though. I don't recall the word being developed much (if at all) in the film, and so I'm kind of wary of the gesture towards the racialized type of gypsy-wanderer as analogy for wandering-in-love gay men. [One] of the actors was really cute, though, and as Joe pointed out, he was really the only good actor in the movie. The others played like played-out stereotypes of bitchy queens, arrogant attractive guys, and deceiving manipulators. (I think the imdb.com review describes the acting as "soap opera" level.)
I'm usually not impressed by movies about the "guys looking for love in the gay bar/club scene" anyways. But it does seem to be the kind of life some people lead, at least. I can't understand why people can reconcile the sexually free space of bars and clubs with their romantic ideals of monogamous coupledom. I have a friend in NYC who consistently goes to gay clubs, hooks up with guys, and then laments the inconstancy of their "love." Look, they were there to have fun and hook up. It doesn't mean they're bad people. It doesn't mean sex is bad. But it just isn't the place people really imagine as the meeting ground of future husbands. At least not in my perspective. And if it is, not in the way of random hook-ups -- possibly through chains of friends, meeting new people through your friends and your friends' friends as you bump into each other.
>> 7:17 AM
Monday, October 15, 2001[Daffy Duck]
It's no wonder Daffy Duck has a split personality. In his early years, Daffy was manic, explosive, and unpredictable, engaging in adventures that seemed outlandish even to him. As his personality gained depth at the hands of Warner Bros. cartoons' directors, the little black duck became more self-analytical, competitive, peevish, paranoid, and neurotic. Eventually, Daffy found himself more and more at the mercy of a universe that seemed to favor everyone but him. So why do audiences love him? Despite his failures, Daffy, like the Greek hero Sisyphus, is a victim of injustice who continuously protests. And it's his refusal to surrender his will to the whims of the conspiring universe that makes him heroic. How could one not feel sorry for an ill-equipped duck with Daffy's voice that just can't seem to get a break? At least Daffy aims high. And when he fails, he resets the bar . . . even higher.
>> 9:07 AM
Sunday, October 14, 2001"The Clash of Ignorance" by Edward Said
A unilateral decision made to draw lines in the sand, to undertake crusades, to oppose their evil with our good, to extirpate terrorism and, in Paul Wolfowitz's nihilistic vocabulary, to end nations entirely, doesn't make the supposed entities any easier to see; rather, it speaks to how much simpler it is to make bellicose statements for the purpose of mobilizing collective passions than to reflect, examine, sort out what it is we are dealing with in reality, the interconnectedness of innumerable lives, "ours" as well as "theirs."
>> 5:32 PM
Now in my warm, dry apartment, I have the music up high. It drowns out the sound of rain outside. And sometimes I turn it off and just listen to the rain. The whistle on my kettle calls to me. I make some coffee. It's sort of dark outside, though night has not truly fallen yet. I want to be in a small circle of light, just enough for me to read and sip my coffee.
>> 5:24 PM
And like many other people, I am fascinated by the biography of the Brontës. The three sisters who each went off to take positions as governesses in houses, as teachers in schools, or abroad as students in a foreign country -- all returning dissatisfied with and unnerved by the outside world. I think about how much I want just to withdraw from things, to return to isolation. To live apart from others, content in reading and writing for myself. But then I think, how selfish that seems . . .
>> 10:16 AM
Saturday, October 13, 2001
>> 9:59 AM
Thursday, October 11, 2001
There was a brilliant red toadstool growing out of the foot of a tree outside my apartment building. I wanted to draw it to capture the way it jutted out of the tree just above the ground. I wanted to capture the color of it, the way the sunlight made patches of brightness on its top. But a week or two ago, someone overturned the cap. Destroyed.
. . .
>> 9:44 PM
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
In fact, these past few days have been wildly moody. I was very happy Sunday morning. Then I suddenly became sullen and pissed off at Joe. I wonder why my emotional state fluctuates so crazily.
I realized yesterday, too, that I need to come up with more manageable paper projects. I'm always drawn to these questions of disciplinarity, of what it means to do literary studies, of what it means to interpret a text, of the difference between social commentary in "creative" works vs. "critical" works, of the use of particular texts in disciplinary formations . . . And all of these things really require knowledge of disciplines, their history and concerns. I know nothing about anything. And here I am trying to extrapolate from a single text the effects of reading and analysis on whole institutions and programs of study. Sigh.
>> 9:50 AM
Monday, October 08, 2001[salon.com] when I click on a news article titled, ["FBI probes anthrax, terror link."] Just as I get to this paragraph, "'We regard this as an investigation that could become a clear criminal investigation, and we are pursuing this with all the dispatch and care that's appropriate,' Ashcroft said," I hear the radio reading the words out loud to me! The radio station was apparently doing a news story on the exact same story, with a news clip of Ashcroft saying the words. So strange. Usually, the voice in the background drones on, mostly unnoticed. But when the voice starts sounding much like the reading voice in my head, I take notice!
>> 2:08 PM
>> 4:38 AM
Sunday, October 07, 2001[Nelly Furtado's] "Turn Off the Light." I think I'm going to go out to Millenium Music and buy myself Furtado's album. I just can't get over the rhythms of her lyrics, the caesuras (ooo... music word... probably not the right word... I think I'm really just thinking about the quirky cadences of her lines) that seem to move the melody along.
>> 6:10 PM
>> 3:19 PM
>> 2:47 PM
Friday, October 05, 2001
So, there's a bit of an [anthrax scare] in NC. Freaky that this Florida man was in Durham, where I live, when he got sick. And since I've been sick this past week with cold symptoms, I was in a bit of a panic last night. The news coverage, as always, was apocalyptic, and even when the actual report claimed there was no ascertainable evidence that this case of anthrax was an intentional terrorist attack or even that anyone else had anything to fear, the news people gave out so little information about anthrax to dispel individual fears. So many people around campus have colds and pneumonia now, too. I'm sure there are a lot of very panicked people out there.
What concerns me is this quote:
Anthrax can cause pneumonia, and patients are treated with antibiotics. By the time the pulmonary form of the disease causes symptoms, however, itís widely considered too late for successful treatment. There is also a vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease, but it is available only to the military now.
Coupled with an earlier detail about inhalation anthrax incubation times ranging from two to sixty days . . . I'm not convinced that we're all in the clear. One of my students, as a matter of fact, came down with "pneumonia" this past weekend, but went to the doctor early enough to prevent real danger. So, what's scary is that once anthrax causes symptoms, you're past the point of help? Very very scary.
And a strange thing is that my dad left me a voicemail message two nights ago telling me he was sending me antibiotics in case of anthrax warfare. I hadn't told him I was sick, either. (Whenever I tell him I have a cold, he always makes me feel like I'm such a lousy person for getting sick all the time and not remembering what kind of medicine to take. I've recently realized I don't have to call him to tell him I'm sick. He's a doctor, see, so I've been used to consulting him first about my sicknesses.)
>> 11:09 AM
Thursday, October 04, 2001
>> 4:58 AM
Wednesday, October 03, 2001
Grading papers for a writing class is so laborious. I have to pay attention to all the details of my students' writings, not just the strength of the arguments (if there are any to begin with).
There are piles of papers and books all over the place now. I haven't been filing away the stuff I generate and refer to for a few weeks now. Library books are mixed in piles with my own books mixed in with other people's books. I'll never sort them all out.
At least my mom sent me yummy mooncakes.
Joe is so cute with his digital thermometer. I've been feverish the last couple of days, so he's taken out his trusty thermometer a few times to see how badly off I am. Sometimes it's great to be with a hypochondriac. Of course, he wants me to go to the hospital and all....
So annoying that this week in my classes we've been discussing some things I'm very interested in, but I'm so dizzy and feverish I can't concentrate very well in class! The discussion we had on Wuthering Heights was the best class discussion we've had in that particular class all semester. Today in another class we talked about critical race feminism and the law -- subjects that continue to intrigue me even as they are frustrating in their seeming inability to address crucial issues...
There was a reason I got on-line to post something. But of course I've completely forgotten what it was. [Buffy] is back!
>> 6:18 PM
atom site feed
asian american writers' workshop
the new york times
jon carroll @ sfgate
the village voice
let bygones be...
the old stuff