DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT OBSESSED WITH MY DOG.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Eventually, I want to fade into the background of things. I want to be a wallflower; I want to blend into the wallpaper, the shadows, the glare. After class today I was talking to a friend on the dark street. The professor strolled on by a few minutes later and made a comment about my never talking in class. Oops.

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

Hmm. Right, so I zonked out last night at nine. I had a very full dinner and a glass of shiraz at [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
 

So much work to do! As always. Need to prepare for library orientation for my students. Even though a librarian will be giving the orientation, I have to come up with something to tie the orientation into the class. Which means I have to sit down and come up with plans for this last unit. At least it's almost over!

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

Think, Paul, think. I need to go get myself a thinking cap. I have plenty of hats, but none that stimulates my thinking. (This past Saturday on X-Men Evolution, Kitty Pryde bought a ziggurat-like hat to help her think. Maybe I need to find one of those... She had to give it up, though, because it gave her flat hair. I always get awful hat-head when I wear hats, too, because usually my hair is poofy.)

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

Yay! Carved pumpkin now sitting on the window ledge in the kitchen, happily lit by a small votive candle. It's not very visible outside, unfortunately -- the window is next to a bright light by the door to the building and the moon is fairly full out, too (full moon Thursday!). But at least it's there. All I can see of the pumpkin are the glowing features. I can't really see the pumpkin itself from outside.

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
 

It's nice to wake up at 9:30 am and realize that I get back an hour so it's only 8:30. Now I just need to make sure I make the most of the morning and the afternoon to do the work I've not been doing all weekend. And then this afternoon I'm going to a pumpkin carving party! I've never carved a pumpkin before. I'm afraid of knives and other sharp objects. Death by stabbing. (One reason why the Halloweem movies were always particularly disturbing for me.)

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
 

Oy. Another lonely weekend. Joe has gone home for a short visit again. At least we'll get to spend Thanksgiving together. Wonder what we're going to do. . .

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

I was reading a collection of Ultimate X-Men comics today and it's amazing how much the situation of the mutants, Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants reflects America's current struggle against terrorism. The volume of comics begins with news reports of terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. Condoleeza Rice, W Bush, and Tony Blaire make guest appearances. At the end, there is an all-out assault on the Savage Land, the headquarters of the Brotherhood and a responding attack on America as representatives of corrupt humanity. There are a lot more similarities, but I'm too stupid to recount them and draw the analogies.

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

I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. (James Baldwin, "Autobiographical Notes" in Notes of a Native Son)

      >> 12:52 PM
 

I've decided I want a digital camera for my birthday this year.

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

Another one of those nights (Wed.). After dinner, I went to lie down for a bit and ended up sleeping until just about midnight. I had to come turn off my computer at least, but now it seems like I might as well just go to sleep instead of even bothering to pretend to do any work.

theodicy: n. 1 the vindication of divine providence in view of the existence of evil. 2 an insistence of this.

      >> 11:14 PM
 

No no no! I'm the only [duck vamps]!

      >> 2:57 PM
 

[Two murders in Durham] in the last few weeks. These murders have shown up on my radar from a gay students' listserv. Though not mentioned in the newspaper article, people on this list have speculated that the murders might be related to Internet chat room encounters. Perhaps there is a killer out there targeting gay men on-line. Very disturbing. No knowing how many people might be killed before the police find out anything substantial because of the difficulties of dealing with the amorphous on-line chat communities...

      >> 12:32 PM
 

I went into the newly opened Borders mega-book-cd-dvd-vhs-cafe this morning. I almost bought [Tsai Ming-liang's] The Hole, but didn't. Now I'm thinking I'll get it tomorrow on my way to school. I need to see it again. I need to find again that connection to works of art that move me.

      >> 12:26 PM
 

(After helping a friend study vocabulary words for a standardized test recently, I've had lots of words floating around in my head. I thought I'd start up a little "word of the day" thing here to help me work on maintaining and expanding my vocabulary.)

prurient: adj. 1 having an unhealthy obsession with sexual matters. 2 encouraging such an obsession.

      >> 12:09 PM
 

I've been in an incredibly irritable, anti-social mood these past few days. I just can't stand being around people; yet, I don't necessarily want to be alone. I think I've confused and/or hurt my friend E, too, because I've been so sullen around her. She called me up for lunch yesterday, and I didn't want to refuse because I know how tenuous my social-ness is -- I don't want to seem like I'm always turning down invitations. But then I show up at lunch and I'm all moody. E asks me what's wrong, but I don't really know. I just know that I'm excessively unhappy with people and what I see as a total lack of consideration for others (especially me). It's always little, stupid things, too. At lunch, I was pissed off by the unorganized system of ordering food (where's the line? why does one cashier disappear for awhile?) and this guy behind me who was practically stepping on me as if he could hurry me up.

Grrrr.

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

It's night. My day-long headache is finally starting to ebb.

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
 

It's so hot in this apartment. I hate the yo-yo-ness of the weather here. It was cold a little while ago. Now we're back to 80-degree weather and high humidity. This is when I get lots of colds.

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

Hmm. Very interesting: [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
 

[Further Action on Anti-Terrorism Bill Needed]

      >> 11:56 AM
 

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Grrr. Last post lost when I was concomitantly downloading Shockwave and it started installing itself without giving me a chance to quit out of other programs. Whatever. Wasn't saying anything worth keeping anyways.

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

Can you tell I'm finally on Fall Break?

      >> 10:41 AM
 

[Ascending Peculiarity], Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey.

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 was I expecting? After all, Superman is the ultimate protector of the "American" way, the modern hero whose deeds establish him as the perfect man of his adopted country. But I was disappointed by the first episode of [Smallville], the new WB show about Clark Kent's life before he became Superman. I'm also not sure what to make of the modern update of the story. This high-school freshman (ha, the actor is like, 25?) Clark Kent lives in the present, albeit still in rural Smallville. I guess it's the show's way of trying to bring the idea of a superhero like Superman into the 21st Century. Do we really need such a hero now?

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
 

Yesterday morning I dropped my comb into the toilet. It was a very disturbing moment in my usual morning rush. Not that I do much in terms of hair care, but I had just in the past week started combing my hair because it's finally long enough to run a comb through. And then to have to fish out the comb from the toilet . . . it went straight into the waste basket.

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
 

#32, [mold trapped under linoleum].

      >> 11:09 AM
 

I. Totally. Totally. Give. Up.

      >> 11:01 AM
 

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

So Joe and I rented a movie to watch for the first time in a months. Unfortunately, we didn't pick a very good movie. We saw [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
 

I love the driving rain outside. I love the sound of the raindrops falling on trees, on gravel, on pavement, on cars. I especially loved driving in the rain, coming back from a professor's house. I felt enclosed by the rain, a haze of whiteness hanging on the ground from so much rain falling, bouncing off the ground, kicked up by cars. The rain is oddly comforting. Despite the dangers of driving in such weather, I felt safe; it felt like my sadness was alternately so trivial in the grand scheme of things and that the world was mirroring my feelings.

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
 

I'm aware that there's a sense of superiority in the Brontës' attitudes towards their pupils, but I can't help but feel similar resentments and frustrations in my situation as a teacher. In her novel, The Professor, Charlotte Brontë presents a [passage] describing a young woman's difficulties with being a teacher. And I couldn't help but feel that the description could very well describe how I feel about myself and my students. It's about something fundamental to pedagogy -- the relation between teacher and students. What characterizes that relationship? Is it about power, domination, submission? Is it about indoctrination or enlightenmnet? What is it that we teach (facts, skills, ideas, modes of thinking, . . . )? And the difficulty is that there is no simple answer. Teaching is always all of these things and more, paradoxically encompassing contradictory notions in its nebulous relations.

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

Some things I still love to do: read new novels, eat chocolate, listen to my music, sleep.

      >> 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

Yesterday was a low day. I was very depressed about what I am doing in school, what I am doing in my life, etc. I think it was because the day before I looked at evaluations from my written exams in August and they were not very encouraging. Basically, the committee passed me, but thought that I made wild generalizations in my essays and had quirky readings of texts like Shakespeare's The Tempest. Those evaluations, along with stressful teaching, added to my sense of myself as a bad student and teacher. I was also supposed to give a presentation yesterday on Maryse Condé's Windward Heights, but didn't prepare for it. It was just an awful day when I doubted everything about my goals and abilities.

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

Freaky coincidence. I'm sitting here in my office checking the news at [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
 

Oh my goodness! Can it be? I've finished commenting on student papers! (Of course, they turn in more today....)

      >> 4:38 AM
 

Sunday, October 07, 2001

I've become obsessed with [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
 

I'm so intellectually lazy and politically inactive. All I can do is point to [others] who have a coherent idea of what the US should do in response to the terrorist attacks.

      >> 3:19 PM
 

Why is life so hard? Why am I so emotionally unstable? Why is work never-ending? Why do colds linger in my body so long? Why am I so terrified that the US has begun military strikes against Afghanistan?

      >> 2:47 PM
 

Friday, October 05, 2001

It's noon on Friday and I'm still grading these seventeen papers (each four-to-five pages long). What is wrong with me??

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

Now I remember what it was I was thinking about writing. I realized yesterday yet again how hesitant I am in revealing anything about myself. I had a "progress" meeting with the director of graduate studies of my program. The current director happens to be the professor of one of the classes I'm taking this semester. So it's not like I was talking to a complete stranger. But even as I tried to tell her about my plans for graduate study and going to St. Louis next semester, I found myself holding back. Actually, I wouldn't even have noticed anything except she kept saying "we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to" or "you don't have to say if it troubles you too much." I guess I've just developed this really furtive speech pattern. Even as I'm trying to say something explicitly, it sounds like I'm saying it reluctantly, too. I attribute a lot of it to being closeted (about my sexuality). I need to work on just saying things outright and without hesitation. I mean, why hold back all the time?

      >> 4:58 AM
 

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Still sick. :(

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...

Hmmm....

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