Thursday, January 31, 2002[guestbook]!
>> 2:45 PM
As I mentioned, I watched La Jetee again this morning, at the beginning of my "break" from grading student papers (the break is going on three hours now). I'd rented this collection of short films a few days ago, mostly to watch the Jane Campion piece [A Girl's Own Story], but also to see La Jetee again. I didn't realize this film was made in the sixties. It's old... La Jetee is really very interesting. I was thinking about the elliptical quality of its narrative photo montage. This version of the film was dubbed in English, and because I didn't have to read along to subtitles, I was able to pay attention more to the images this time. The film has this obsession with images both formally and content-wise. The man who can travel through time is one who can imagine / image another time. He is a man glued to an image of his past, one that ultimately is also the image of his future in a disturbing circularity of temporal distortion (we cannot escape our fate?). What I'm trying to figure out, though, is what all the whispering was about. The whispering didn't seem to have been translated. Or perhaps the whispered passages are meant to be cryptic and "non verbal" in a sense. I noticed how the whispering worked like rhythm-meaning rather than articulated sound-meanings (words, phonemes, etc.). It would be very interesting to think about how the soundtrack works in the film. The whisperings definitely create a texture of eeriness to the photos.
Jane Campion's short film was alright. I first watched it a few nights ago, but fell asleep in my state of extreme exhaustion. My memory of it was therefore fractured, partial, incomplete. So I watched it again this morning and it seemed to come together better on this viewing. There isn't really "one" girl in the story, and I guess that was what confused me most the first time. But the story became "the" girl's story; the story of the girl forced to deal with a male world, one fissured strongly in terms of sex, coercion, and silencing. The scene with the father quieting the mother by kissing her / having sex with her was especially disturbing. Campion seems to understand pleasure as something not to be accepted uncritically; pleasure can be a tool of violence (not just physically, but also on agency).
>> 2:07 PM
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
I think I might go to this performance by [Skott Freedman] on Friday. I don't really know much about him. But he gave a talk yesterday (during [Buffy] so I couldn't go!) at Carolina for [Queer Network for Change], the campus student queer organization. He's a "bisexual activist." Then I saw in the [free weekly paper] that he's also a singer-songwriter who plays the piano. And he's performing on Friday in Chapel Hill. So I figure, why not go?
Tomorrow and also Friday I'm planning on going to see [Judith Halberstam], stone butch extraordinaire, speak and present a new film she's making. I'm excited!
I'm developing carpal tunnel syndrome. This past week I've noticed a tightness, a twinginess, to my wrists. Ugh. My body is really just falling apart. I really need to start taking care of it.
My students are getting unruly, lazy, and outright unbelievable. They had to bring in drafts of a group annotated bibliography today, and only three of my fourteen students really brought in the completed assignment. And since we were doing a workshop on the drafts, it really fucked up my lesson plans. And so I was pissed off at them and lectured them on doing their damned work. I'm going to have to lecture them again on Friday, I think, because they are really out of control and are taking advantage of my laid-back personality. It's really just a shame because they need to learn how to take responsibility of their own education rather than being forced to learn. If nothing else, they need to learn how to do the work for their classes without being led by the hand through each assignment. Grrrr.
>> 10:00 PM
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
Television is a powerful invention. It's not a picture box. It's a time machine. You turn it on, and suddenly, it's three hours later.
I'm feeling much better about school today / recently. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was on the verge of [leaving] graduate school, so distressed about what I was doing (or not doing) that I cried. But this same class that drove me to tears a few weeks ago now invigorates rather than enervates me. We talked (or rather, the professor talked) about how meaning and understanding is the collectivity of multiple, narrative selves. We discussed how being scholars and critics is part of the meaning-making process of coming to terms with life, a process that in fact makes those meanings and understandings of life possible. And we acknowledged the fractured, partial, contingent nature of perception and knowledge even as we took that acknowledgment as a fruitful, productive thing: what makes our multiply proliferating selves possible. I'm definitely glad I decided to take this class, even with all the work. I realized on my drive home that we're discussing literature and the study of literature in ways that I've been blindly groping for this past year-and-a-half in graduate school. We're addressing questions like: What are we doing when we read literature? What are reading practices? What is interpretation? How is meaning made? How do we make meaning?
But of course I wonder, too, what this study and reading means in relation to other aspects of life. How does this agency we scholars have rescued from the depths of a mechanized modernity affect the material conditions of our lives and other people's? I'm very committed to the instrumental possibilities of literature and other knowledge-production. In other words, I'm invested in the idea that literature can effect change, can move people to do things. It's why I'm consciously (if not conscientiously) and explicitly feminist and queer: I want to imagine and create a world without hierarchized gender subordination or heteronormative hegemony.
I have a lot to learn.
>> 10:55 PM
I rented and watched this movie [Red Dirt] on Sunday. It put me in a very strange, uneasy mood. The movie itself wasn't the greatest. As one imdb.com [comment] summarized, "Great camera work does not save an awful product." I wouldn't be so harsh, though. The cinematography was indeed stunning and the best feature of the movie. But there were some interesting ideas that the movie developed a little. At the heart of the story is this idea of feeling at home, being stifled at home, and wanting to go forth in life. There is this fear of abandonment, abandoning. Leaving might mean the only world you ever knew falls apart, disappears. (You can see my attraction to it already.) This man who has lived in Pine Apple all his life wants to leave. He just wants to go. But he's tied to his distracted, unbalanced aunt. And his cousin who loves him and just wants to be with him. All this begins to unravel when the adventurous stranger wanders into their lives. I wanted to write down the epigraph that opens the movie. The two men at the end recite the epigraph, too. It's about the red dirt of Mississippi and how journeying doesn't mean leaving home if you understand home to be more than just the place. I wanted to look it up, find out where it's from. But I forgot to copy it down...
Yesterday on campus I was walking around humming the tune and running through the [lyrics] of a Pearl Jam song (alone, listless / breakfast table in an otherwise empty room / young girl / violence). I liked Pearl Jam's Vs album a lot. What destroyed my experience of it was when, in high school, this one cheerleader in my class started singing the words to this song. And the image of the blond, perky girl smiling along to the words of this angst-y song just made me feel that the music was forever tainted. And then I knew that Pearl Jam was popular with all sorts of people, not just people I could identify as different, as somehow marked by the music's words and emotions. I guess I was more uneasy with distinctions between popular and unpopular kids, cool and uncool, than I really admitted.
>> 8:35 AM
Monday, January 28, 2002[This Modern World] on-line, and it appears Tom Tomorrow is a blogger-powered poster. Dealing with the pressures of work and setting boundaries. My friend is getting stressed out too much about her part-time job where they're expecting too much of her time. We all need to learn how to set out our limits, to take care of our own needs and not worry about taking care of other people's all the time. Time to trek over to the law school for my class. Haven't done much work at all today. My eyes have been quite recalcitrant and refuse to focus on things without causing dizziness or headaches. I'm going to need to get my eyes checked soon...
>> 2:33 PM
Saturday, January 26, 2002
Dinner later tonight with the critical race scholars and cultural studies people from the conference. Hope I don't freak out too much. I had to run away during lunch today to my office because all the people were sitting around chatting and I didn't know how to join them without feeling awkward. Gosh I'm such a geek.
>> 3:26 PM
Friday, January 25, 2002[LatCrit], an extension / version / incarnation of CRT. But the things they do are simply amazing! They are committed to an anti-essentialist, anti-subordination critical project. They emphasize dialogue between "groups" (both intra-Latina/o and between other identity formations). It's really just amazing. I don't even know how to begin to describe it. Their annual conference is premised on the idea of continual exchanges, of themes explored over a duration rather than at once or solely. They have a commitment to social justice and transformation even as they acknowledge inevitable differences and conflict in going about their project.
I couldn't think of anything to ask at the end, though I badly wanted to engage the speakers in some sort of dialogue. As I walked away from the talk, I thought of two things that I might want to mull over and possibly bring up later, though: (1) How does LatCrit engage with social activists and other non-profit or non-governmental organizations who work at local levels to bring about change in the social conditions of people? (2) How does LatCrit think about the idea of "coalitional politics"? In many ways, LatCrit's commitment to continual dialogue with "non-Latina/o" groups as well as a fluid definition of what Latina/o is seems to obviate the need for coalitional thinking.
Need some food. Head hurts.
>> 6:44 PM
I was reminded of this association by a job talk I went to yesterday in which the candidate very articulately talked about the materiality of the Book (Bible) and the Word as a way of pointing to the Enlightenment concept of the fetish. I wished he would've elaborated on what he defined as the Enlightenmnet concept of the fetish, though. He said that this fetish was a process of othering, of defining self by excluding the other. Kinda vague...
>> 2:26 PM
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Laundry's a-tumblin'. I don't often wash-and-dry my clothes in the apartment complex's laundry machines because there's only one small (four washers, four dryers) laundry room for the whole place. I have to trek outside and across the complex to get to the room, too. But early enough in the morning, the machines are usually available. And this way I can multi-task while the laundry cleans and dries. Shower shortly.
So I went to this talk by Evelynn Hammonds yesterday. It was kind of disappointing. The topic was "What Happens When Women Do Science?" and while that's important to consider, there's only so much you can say about it and so much more that needs to be done with people mostly not in attendance at these kinds of conversations. The talk certainly had the preaching-to-the-converted feel. The audience seemed to be comprised largely of women scientists. Hammonds talked about the mentoring roles that women and minorities in the sciences play in time-consuming ways (more so than compared to their white male counterparts), how some minority women advise upwards of eighty students at a time, etc. And she interwove those stories with the idea that science should be unbiased towards social categories such as race and class, that "real" science can be done without consideration to the sex, gender, or race of the scientist.
But I know that she, as a historian of American science, is also acutely aware of how important these categories are in the milieu of scientific research. In her talk, she drove home the point that science has always been, but is increasingly a social endeavor, that research groups do work rather than individuals. And as such, how scientists relate to each other clearly has an effect on things. She talked about the tendency of research groups to homogenize, and given the history of white male dominance in science (as well as other areas), the demographics of scientists have remained largely white and male. Like attracts like.
I would've been more interested in Evelynn Hammonds talk on Tuesday, but I couldn't attend it because I was in class. The topic was "The Logic of Difference: Racial Categories in Medicine." That would've been more provocative and engaging, I think. There's so much about medicine (even/especially today) that is rooted in differential treatment for differing races. For example, understanding a patient's racial background shifts odds for certain diseases, cancers, etc. Knowing family histories is a more particular form of such statistical considerations. But people within racial groups have certain genetic similarities that mark them as having different reactions to some drugs, etc. And I'm not saying that such race-consciousness is bad. On the contrary, it is necessary, but also perhaps very dangerous in realms where "objectivity" and the supposed-irrelevance of social categories to work often drive decisions. And even more so than in the law where the is a similar discourse of neutrality because medicine deals very explicitly with the bodies of people. (I'm reminded of reading about J. Marion Sims, an early leader of medicine and the American Medical Association, reknowned for introducing the world to the speculum for gynecological examination. However, as Terri Kapsalis points out in Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum, the "discovery" of the speculum as a device for gynecology came at the price of black female bodies, subjected to repeated unanesthetized/painful examinations in the service of "science" and "medicine.")
And on the subject of books (cos it's always the subject), I think I'm going a little overboard on the bibliophile thing. My friend says I have a fetish for the book-as-artifact the way she has a fetish for CDs-as-artifacts. But I don't know.... I have this thing about the word "fetish." It confuses me to use it or hear it used outside the context of sexual fetishes. But people are always saying I fetishize things. Like my thing (identification?) with ducks. Many of my friends say I have a duck fetish. Not in my mind. I am a duck. That's different from fetishizing ducks. I like books. I don't think I fetishize them. I must've bought over fifty books in the last few weeks. To justify that spending, though, about twenty-five of them are for my two classes this semester. And then maybe a dozen of the rest were really cheap. Like, I got this huge hardcover collection of essays by a leftist gay historian for four bucks! And others -- anthologies of literary theory, for example -- will be very useful references for me. I still need to get another large bookcase. I'm waiting for the rainy weather to end first so I won't be slipping and sliding around with a large box on the walkway behind my building.
>> 7:22 AM
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
My hair still smells smoky. I changed my clothes when I got home today. I spent an hour in smoky Cup-A-Joe's on Hillsborough St. Even though I don't smoke and generally find smoke irritating, I sometimes crave the environment of a smoky cafe. One of the main attractions of smoky cafes is the absence of little children and pregnant women. The cafes and eateries around Chapel Hill and Durham tend to draw groups of women with their little children and strollers. They can be very annoying, loud, and spatially intrusive (why do these people think it's okay to let their children crawl all over the chairs of other people's tables?). In the Cup-A-Joe's today, there was a young man smoking a pipe. I love the smell of pipe smoke. I almost asked him if I could have a puff. Smoking a pipe would certainly aid in my designs to impersonate the stuffy academic.
>> 5:32 PM
Different kinds of paper shred at different rates and make different sounds. Some paper crinkle. Other kinds crunch. There're some that make a crumpling sound and some that simply change the sound of the motor. I have to let the machine rest every once in awhile. It exudes the smell of a strained mechanical device after a few minutes. It makes beautiful shredded paper.
I also succumbed and got myself a rainbow bracelet. It's not quite what I had pictured, but this particular bracelet caught my eye more than the other one I was thinking about getting. It's got colored beads and a little metal heart in the middle of the chain. It's very hard to put on my wrist, though. I'm going to need someone to put it on for me.
I found the bracelet at [White Rabbit Books & Things] in Raleigh. I drove all the way out there in the downpour because the idea of getting a rainbow bracelet was just too distracting for me to do any work. I confused my friend P with a series of e-mails simply stating that I needed a rainbow bracelet. He, a native North Carolinian (perhaps the only one I really know), reminded me today that [NCSU] is "State" and [UNC] is "Carolina" when I mentioned going by NCSU.
(What the heck? The British woman is no longer hosting The Weakest Link?)
Class today was very disappointing because I was unprepared to lead the class through some readings of letters to the editors of Nature magazine about scientific writing's pomposity. I suppose I should try to get some sleep tonight so I can work hard tomorrow. I need to finish designing writing assignments for this first unit on writing in the natural sciences. I need to read up on race and the law. I need to read some articles in Critical Race Theory to prepare myself for the [conference] this weekend. And readings for class around Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life.
>> 5:00 PM
Tuesday, January 22, 2002
Visiting Joe was very nice. We're very comfortable with and around each other. There's a sense of warmth and love between us that is palpable. I feel most at home when I'm with him. (So why aren't we together?) But I think there's just so much going on in both our lives now, so much we need to figure out about ourselves (on our own). Being together is great and wonderful, but also has a sense of being a palliative to larger issues. It's like we're so comfortable with each other that we don't deal with a lot of things in our lives that need to be dealt with. I don't know how we would draw that line or somehow help each other deal with these things without simply making them not matter in the little cocoon of home we make for each other. (I know I'm invoking the idea of home a lot. I don't know quite what to make of it, how to deal with it more than in simplistic terms and beyond its associations with the traditional, nuclear family. But it's definitely an operative sense, an important vector in our negotiations of our lives.)
And so I'm back here at my desk, swamped with work, not knowing where to start. Need to make a few phone calls first, too. I don't want to lose contact with everyone else in my life.
>> 6:43 PM
Sunday, January 20, 2002
A coupla things. Wanted to note [www.dumblaws.com] for later perusal. Read about it in a free gay web magazine we picked up at the local gay bookstore Planet Pride (or Pride Planet?). We went to lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant yesterday and were surprised to drive by a block filled with rainbow flags and such. I almost got myself a rainbow bracelet. I've wanted one for some time now, but I'm also trying to cut back on non-essential stuff and impulse buying. I try to refrain from buying things I want the first time I see them in stores. I must ruminate, then return to purchase. But this plan doesn't seem to have cut down on my spending. Instead, I've just been making multiple trips to stores. Hmmmm.
Oh, and the other thing is . . . I think I get sympathy pains a lot. My stomach has been hurting in concert with E's pain. (Although hers has been much more painful.) I've noticed a lot in the past few years that I take on the moods, perspectives, etc. of people around me. Maybe I'm like a chameleon (mmm...still want to get that Culture Club song....), reflective and reflecting my environment by physically incorporating what's out there into my own body? If so, there might be an interesting study of bodily integrity here. I sense Haraway's cyborg again...
Have I been mourning the loss of what you never were to me? / And never will be / And never will be / And will you ever be the lover that my hope for you remains? / Why do I think I could change you is my arrogance to blame? / Let it go let it go let it all just fade away / Let it go let it go....
>> 9:21 AM
Checking e-mail and doing some work over the web on a 28.8K modem. Excruciatingly slow.
Things are still compounding rather than resolving; work piles up and multiplies at an exponential rate as I scramble to make things seem do-able. Maybe I am taking on too much work? But I've only been focusing on work for one class that I'm teaching and one that I'm taking. How can I be so swamped?
Just wanted to note a few things before I forget.
I am in St. Louis. Flew out of Raleigh-Durham Friday afternoon, although I was at the airport by mid-morning. Went straight after teaching. Class went surprisingly well. Although I felt shaky about the content of what I was doing in class, I think for the first time I presented things confidently and fielded questions with a sense of authority. (Two comments I got from student evaluations last semester, separately, were that I need to be confident in my demeanor and that I need to know my stuff so I can answer questions. I think the second criticism was more related to how I answered questions than the fact that I was actually ever "stumped" in class. We in the Writing Program follow a pedagogy based on the Socratic method, so we don't really answer questions directly but instead ask leading questions in response.)
Since last I posted, I saw (still in Durham) Great Expectations and Braindrain (an Argentinian film) on video; went to an opening of a [DJ Spooky] exhibit and film; saw (now in St. Louis) a 1930s film called Trouble in Paradise on video; helped Joe get a new television set (trust me, it's more of an event than it might sound); attended a performance of Avenue X, a musical theater piece about racial conflict in 1960s Brooklyn; and have generally hung out in St. Louis with Joe.
Things are going fairly well. We're comfortable around each other. Joe drove me over to Illinois briefly so we could come back into St. Louis, MO, on the highway with a view of the grand arch. That stretch of highway has a large population of billboards. A funny one I saw: "Don't diss the ones who love you. - God" (written in graffiti-like text) A not-so-funny one I saw: "Abortion leaves a hole in your heart. Help mend a heart. Choose pro-life." (with a picture of a piece of red paper with a heart-shape cut-out)
The arch in St. Louis is really beautiful, though. I had imagined it to be more towering (over the surrounding buildings) than it is, but it's still very impressive.
Not having checked e-mail in a couple days, I was greeted with a slew of listserv postings and the usual spammings, but also with some important individual e-mails. One student noted that I hadn't yet set up the appropriate / required forum for the homework assignment for Wednesday (oops - but in all honesty I hadn't forgotten but didn't think any student would've gotten to it yet). One friend e-mailed saying she's been trying to call me for a week but only ever gets my voicemail. Another friend e-mailed to tell me that a mutual friend's father just died (unexpectedly, cause still unknown). The world continues to turn and turn and turn.
>> 8:48 AM
Thursday, January 17, 2002
I bet you think this song is about you
I bet you think this song is about you
I bet you think this song is about you
I bet you think this song is about you
Don't you don't you don't you
Also this whole de-linking thing that's making the rounds in some of the blog-circles I read. I totally appreciate the difficulty of maintaining a comprehensive list of blogs and all, but as someone who gets delinked on a regular basis (I guess I'm thankful that I get linked in the first place), I still feel somehow disliked. Like I don't ever quite make a strong enough impression on people to maintain their interest. And I guess my writing is dry, my topics boring and esoteric (in the "who cares?" sense). It makes sense to keep links only to those blogs that one reads. I'm not blaming anyone or hating anyone. Many people who've since de-linked me are still on my list of daily-reads. I understand that affinity and connection can sometimes run one-way, and that presentation is different from self.
. . .
I saw the video for the "P Diddy Super Extended Remix" of [Janet Jackson's] ["Son of a Gun"] on television the other day. It was really quite amazing. I love the whole idea of pop songs in dialogue with each other, between pop performers. This remix pushes the song's engagement with the idea of the egocentrism of the male romantic hero into the world of current pop stars with P. Diddy and Missy Elliot joining Janet and Carly Simon. And the video itself seemed to implicate songs like [Shaggy's] popular "It Wasn't Me" as particularly over-the-top in the presentation of a male sexuality that tramples women in its egocentrism, attempting to run free without dealing with (and thus complicitly maintaining) the strictures on fidelity and sexual monogamy for women. (The background refrain in one of P. Diddy's sections is "it wasn't me.") But of course, what does it mean that I and so many other people still loved "It Wasn't Me," the catchy tune, the seductive melody? Is it bad for me to like the song despite its problematic content? And even if I'm "aware" of the words, will liking the song in other ways somehow push me to accept the slimy morals of the singer's words?
No no no
It's not what you say it's what you do
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
Don't you don't you don't you
>> 11:57 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
>> 11:13 PM
I meant to go to a screening of [The Cider House Rules] last night on campus. But I had remembered the day wrong -- it shows tonight. However, last night I did not have the scrap of paper with the scrawled time and place of screening. So I wandered around the building for fifteen minutes, wondering why, if the screening was cancelled, there was not even a sign outside the door mentioning the cancellation. I was already feeling frustrated, as I noted yesterday, so rather than be disappointed in my plans to see the movie, I stopped by the video store on my way home and rented it along with a couple other movies (yet to be watched).
I liked certain aspects of The Cider House Rules, but other aspects troubled me. I liked this story of early twentieth-century life in Maine revolving around reproductive rights (though abortion was illegal then). I liked the firm commitment to the right to have an abortion or not. I liked the way the characters functioned often on white lies -- lying about deaths and other unsavory aspects of life to protect the sensibilities of others. But I wish there were more of an acknowledgement of the dangers of such lies, too. I wish there were an exploration of the complexities of white lies, of the involvement of personal/ego-centric pride in their deployment. Dr. Larch's lies, mostly, came across often as paternalistic. I wouldn't argue that brutal honesty or "the truth" will set us free, but the ways that we tell each other certain things, leave out others, and outright lie about some things are complicated in their formation of the story of our lives.
And the racial undertones in the movie were fairly disturbing. I don't want to suggest simplistically that black people must only be presented as good and wholesome on screen, but why did screenwriter John Irving decide to make the trauma of incest/rape that catalyzes the hero's realization of reproductive rights' importance a particularly racialized occurence? There seems to be a sense of paternalism here, of white Homer's realization that he must help the (self-)uncontrollable bodies of black people. Why, for example, didn't Homer come to his realization that abortion can be good when Candy came to get her abortion? What of the ideal of a young, white couple kept him from seeing that abortion is still valid? This seems to be a question of agency, of who has control over their lives and why. And somewhat more importantly, there also seemed to be a lack of discourse about women's rights over their own bodies in the film. Dr. Larch as the strong advocate of abortion rights does concede that he allows women to decide whether or not to have abortions, but mostly the discourse around abortion is in the hands of the abortion provider -- of whether or not it is good to provide safe abortions. And I guess in some ways that's an important question. But it seems a far less controversial one than the question of whether or not women should be able to choose abortions. (You could be all for safe abortions, for example, but not the right of women to choose them.) Homer's realization of abortion rights' necessity, then, is not about whether women can or should choose abortions, but that abortions are necessary at times because out-of-control undesirable bodies should be aborted. (I can see the character arguing in present-day terms for legal abortions only for rape victims, only for victims of incest, for example, and not for women who decide for whatever reason that having a baby is not for them.)
Irving did seem to want to provide a complex representation of black migrant workers, though. The title of the movie comes from a sheet of rules posted in the migrant workers' shack. The rules come to embody laws imposed from above/outside, something Mr. Rose, the father/leader of the workers understands as not the rules of the people. They, the workers, live by their own rules, not the ones of the owners who do not live their lives. And in this way, the workers develop a sense of agency in how they live their lives. But the way Mr. Rose ultimately becomes the fulcrum of tragedy in the movie seems to wrest that control away from him, away from his ability to set his own rules. (Although his white lie attempts to recuperate that lost control.) These cider house rules become the metaphor for anti-abortion laws, too. But it is their problematic relation to the people they affect that I wish the movie explored more productively. Are the laws meant to proscribe/prohibit behavior that is bad? Perhaps those behaviors need to be rethought as not good or bad, but as experiences that could be at various times beautiful and hurtful (or both at the same time?). How do we deal with such rules imposed-from-without in we can't just burn them in the stove? (In other words, how do we deal with the legislation of abortion, of non-heteroreproductive-sexuality?)
Tobey Maguire is perfect as the innocent/inexperienced young man. His performance captured vividly the sensibilities of a sheltered boy coming to terms with new experiences.
. . .
Last night before going to sleep, I finally returned my mom's phone calls from the past week. I talked to my dad first, and he again admonished me to beware the "bars" and sex with strangers (men) because disease is rampant among gays. (How can I even begin to engage him in a dialogue on thinking sociality and relationality outside heteronormative definitions of sex and being?) But he took it a step further this time, telling me that he would in fact buy me a new house and a new car if I were to settle down with a "nice girl" and have a family. Very disturbing. He's resorting not just to scare-tactics now, but to bribes. Maybe I should look for a "nice" Taiwanese lipstick-lesbian to marry and establish a household with. (Of course, lying to my parents about "her" would mean a situation like in [The Wedding Banquet]. And what disturbed me the most about that film was its reproduction of the family structure despite the participants' plans not to be normal. As the father says at the end to Simon, Wai-tung's boyfriend, he knew all along that Wai-tung was gay, the two men were involved, and that the marriage was a sham. But if he had revealed his knowledge, he would never have gotten a grandson. It's that kind of paternalistic subterfuge, that kind of silence as exercise of power, that I saw in Dr. Larch's white lies in The Cider House Rules.)
In contrast, my mom's insistent messages about watching out for icy roads and staying warm seemed much less like criticisms of my ability to take care of myself and more like the obsessive worrying of a parent. I was glad to talk to her on the phone after my dad's comments, even though all she had to offer were the usual words of advice to take care of myself and all.
. . .
Yesterday morning, before teaching at eight, I spoke to my friend and officemate E about my horrible weekend of angst and confusion. She was great at re-centering my thoughts about graduate school and my place in it. I have this tendency to wallow in self-pity (surprise!) and therefore convince myself that I can't do anything. But she emphasized how I run circles around myself, especially when I have to write papers, and self-destruct/short-circuit on thinking that I have to do everything and understand everything with the snap of my fingers or else I am hopelessly stupid and unable to do anything at all. She's good at pep talks.
. . .
I also bought the PS2 on my way home last night, along with Final Fantasy X. I won't really have a chance to play with them until next week, though, swamped as I am with work. :(
. . .
Huh, yeah, I wanna go south n get me some more
Hey, they say that a stitch in time saves nine
They say I better stop - or I'll go blind
Oop - she bop - she bop
She bop - he bop - a - we bop
I bop - you bop - a - they bop
Be bop - be bop - a - lu - she bop
>> 11:32 AM
Monday, January 14, 2002
I drove around aimlessly to escape my apartment and to try to clear my mind. But though I felt less pitiful in the afternoon, I was still sapped of any energy. I went to Raleigh and the library at [NCSU] to avoid the chance of running into anyone I know. I read E.T.A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman" as a distraction. (Been meaning to read it for quite awhile now since I keep hearing about it in many contexts such as how Freud used it in his discussion of the uncanny.)
I ended up buying a whole bunch of used books and Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak while out. I dined at the Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant in Durham.
I needed to prepare for the class I was teaching this morning so I stayed up all night in front of the television. I needed the television on to keep me awake, but at the same time it distracted me from work. I heard for the first time around four am, I thought delusionally, the news story about Bush choking on a pretzel while watching football, passing out, and hitting his head. So I ended up doing little work and scrambled at the last minute, as usual, to pull together comments on writing in the sciences for class. All in all, the class didn't go too poorly, but I hate being unprepared. Lack of sleep helped make the exercise less anxiety-producing, though.
I tried to sleep after class, but I kept waking up. I think I got in a good four hours of sleep, though. Enough to get me through the rest of the day. Now I'm off to campus again to do more work.
>> 2:50 PM
Sunday, January 13, 2002[Agha Shahid Ali] died over a month ago on 8 December 2001, and I just found out this past week from an [AAWW] e-mail announcing a tribute reading of his poetry. I remember reading a collection of his poems, The Half-Inch Himalayas, in college and thinking how exquisitely condensed his images were. His poetry seemed more accessible to me because it functioned imagistically, turning phrases around images and ideas. He came to read some of his poems to my introduction to postcolonial literatures class. He seemed jovial enough, yet oddly resistant to interpretations of his poems beyond their literal meaning. How can such people draw on the complexities of words and meanings, and yet profess to be innocent of such? But he was certainly aware of the conflicts over Kashmir and histories of violence in the region. His poems are replete with these themes. I [also] did not know that he was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award in Poetry and lived in Brooklyn. I leave you with two of his poems:
Postcard from Kashmir
Kashmir shrinks into my mailbox,
my home a neat four by six inches.
I always loved neatness. Now I hold
the half-inch Himalayas in my hand.
This is home. And this the closest
I'll ever be to home. When I return,
the colors won't be so brilliant,
the Jhelum's waters so clean,
so ultramarine. My love
And my memory will be a little
out of focus, in it
a giant negative, black
and white, still undeveloped.
(for Pavan Sahgal)
. . .
The moon did not become the sun.
It just fell on the desert
in great sheets, reams
of silver handmade by you.
The night is your cottage industry now,
the day is your brisk emporium.
The world is full of paper.
Write to me.
>> 7:03 PM
What happened was I was on campus, having taken the cross-town bus from Durham. I stayed around Chapel Hill to read (for this paper). My friends were going to see a movie at seven. So I decided to meet them outside the theater at quarter-to-seven to say hello before heading home. They were late. The movie was mad busy. The line stretched five or six storefronts down the block. They decided not to see a movie there. But they still wanted to see The Royal Tenebaums, so they wanted to go to the theater in Durham for a later showing. And since they would be headed my way, they insisted on taking me home after the movie. So instead of taking the bus home then, I hung out with them for two-and-a-half hours (stopping at their house first, then dropping off books at [Perkins Library], getting cash at the ATM, and visiting [Millenium Music] for some cds), saw the movie (another two hours), and then finally got home. See, no defense against peer pressure. I should've just gone home and called it a night.
But then I wouldn't have seen The Royal Tenenbaums with two of the biggest [Wes Anderson] fans. Now I must see Rushmore. There was something about The Royal Tenenbaums, actually, that reminded me of Jeunet's Amelie. I think it was in the incredible attention to detail and all the wild, quirky things the characters did. The characters seemed fully developed but still remained engimatic. A stunning quality in film characters, I think. The Royal Tenenbaums seemed very caught up in textuality, too. The story of the Tenenbaums gets narrated (by Alec Baldwin who seems the paragonic voice-over narrator) as if it were a story in a book (sections begin with shots of the first page of a chapter in the book).
. . .
While at the music store Friday, I got Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual (much to the chagrin of my friends who are die-hard indie rockers). I need desperately music that is upbeat, exuberant. And Cyndi Lauper's voice has always hit that chord of unbridled enthusiasm with me. Listening to this debut album of hers, I'm glad that I did get it because there's something in the way her voice modulates between closed- and open-throated singing that exhibits incredible control of expression. She's really quite amazing and unusual. I see myself in the near future gobbling up her other albums . . . and apparently she has a new one on the way out (as soon as they figure out how to deal with her label's demise).
>> 8:09 AM
Saturday, January 12, 2002
I'm going to climb into bed and stay up all night reading Vijay Prashad's Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting. (The wonderful [library] ordered it for me.)
>> 11:46 PM
In any case, I'm exhausted. I've been writing since about one o'clock this afternoon. Well, that's not true at all. I started writing then, and I've been (in decreasing order of amount of time spent) dozing, listening to music, surfing the web (caught up on many of [slander's older posts] in an attempt to calibrate my mind to critical discourse), and banging my head against this article for the last eleven hours. Total writing time was probably about five hours. And I managed to squeeze out the requisite five pages. Go me.
>> 11:33 PM
>> 8:27 PM
Thursday, January 10, 2002[Playstation 2] since the cost would be comparable and I would be able to play lots of video games. I hadn't considered it seriously before because my brother, who has the PS2, said the dvd image quality was not so great. But over lunch, P told me that he had just bought the PS2 and the dvd quality is just fine and was improved from earlier versions of the PS2. Since I'm not so picky about picture quality at this point, especially with my dinky television, I think I'll go ahead and get that PS2/dvd player. [Final Fantasy X], here I come.
>> 3:50 PM
I think I'm going to look for a yummy hot cocoa to make. I wish I could get my hands on the hot cocoa that Proust drank. I think it's from some salon in Paris called [Angelina]. I had some last week at my sister's (B got some). It's very yummy and not so sweet.
>> 2:45 PM
aporia n. 1 Rhet an expression of doubt. 2 a doubtful matter; a perplexing difficulty.
Not quite the same, is it? I never thought of an "aporia" as something perplexing, but simply as something not known. Can you be perplexed by something you don't know? I don't know. It has much more resonance for me as doubt, the doubtful guest, doubting. . . (Love that silent "b.")
. . .
I'm listening to this cool album AREPA 3000: A Venezuelan Journey into Space by [Los Amigos Invisibles]. My sister and C got it for me (technically two birthdays ago, but they finally got it to me this last month).
. . .
The scab fell off my elbow yesterday. Unfortunately, I can't find it, so there's some big, disgusting dried piece of skin lying around my apartment somewhere. I think the wound is mostly healed, though it could use some more skin cells.
>> 7:42 AM
I'm glad that [Blogger's] recent publishing woes didn't preclude posting messages as I wrote them...
>> 7:30 AM
Wednesday, January 09, 2002
>> 3:59 PM
Went to my other class today. I committed myself to writing a critical analysis paper by Saturday. And I don't even know if I should take the class. I started off the class session thinking it was going to be awful and that there was way too much work. But as the session progressed, even though I still knew there was way too much work for me to do, I began to think that maybe if I couldn't cut it in the class, I shouldn't be in graduate school. From the way the professor talked about the texts she assigned (and the fact she assigned such a wide range of historical and critical work), I began to see trends of critical and scholarly thought around literature that I haven't really seen so synthetically before. And so taking the class became this test of whether or not I should continue in graduate school after this semester. Why do I set such high stakes for myself?
I miss Joe like there's no tomorrow.
>> 12:33 AM
Tuesday, January 08, 2002
>> 9:49 AM
And apparently, the bus I took this morning doesn't even stop at most of the bus stops along its route. It only stops at select ones for pickup. But how are we supposed to know this?? We flew by lots of people standing at bus stops along the way. I only hope some bus stops for them at some point during the day.
How can the bus people be so unthoughtful? Don't they realize we can't read minds, that we can't figure out their twisted logic without the help of schedules and new route maps? I sat on the bus for half an hour today just to see where it went around campus. On-line, they don't have the new route map up under the link for the schedule. If I weren't paying more attention, I would've thought that the bus was going to run along the same route. But it doesn't!
Oh yeah, and the bus system is now fare-free, which is a good thing as it might allow people to take it more often who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it. But I think in many ways, Chapel Hill Transit relied on the free-ness of the new system to cover over their lack of preparedness in other (crucial!) areas of planning.
>> 7:45 AM
Monday, January 07, 2002
Went to the law school class today. The professor is [Adrienne Davis]. The class is a law and literature (of slavery) class. I don't have high hopes for a productive interrogation of the relationship between law and literature based on the other students' simplistic understanding of reading fiction as non-work, a kind of pleasure to indulge. But maybe, along with Adrienne's interesting reading of slavery in fiction as a dynamic theorization of bondage and freedom in racial terms, I can learn something about how the law functions to construct ideologies and identities. It doesn't seem like the class will be very heavy on legal discourse. In fact, we're only reading the slave narratives (autobiographical and fictional), it seems. And only seven books during the course of the semester! That's definitely a reason for me to stick with the course -- a light workload.
The law students seem like they might get on my nerves. One student characterized her conception of the class as a "book club." A few others talked about wanting to read novels, and since usually they do not have the time, they figured this was as good an opportunity to read novels and get course credit for it. No one had any interesting ideas about how law and literature might inform each other, how legal discourse might function as narratives, how literature might shed light on legal problems, etc. Very disappointing. But I have high hopes for the professor in bringing out some interesting ways to look at the books we're reading. It'll be worthwhile just to get a chance to read these books, too, outside the context of a literary studies course. (I haven't read most of these books, despite the fact that none of them are obscure texts and are in fact some of the foundational, canonical African American literary texts.)
I think it's weird that my interest in studying literature lies so much in studying the study of literature. In other words, I'm interested in looking at how people read, study, and talk about literature. So this course will be a great way for me to observe how non-literary studies people approach this literature. Not to say that all literary studies scholars have the same approach to literature, but because they are all literary studies scholars, they already take on a certain attitude towards literature as something worth investing in for a career. I can already tell that many of the law students would never touch a career in literature with a ten-foot pole. (Some, though, are interested in the historical and cultural aspects of literature, so that will be worthwhile thinking about.)
>> 7:39 PM
I'm here in UNC's [law school] library. Waiting for my class at 4:10 pm. I just can't imagine myself being in law school. These students seem so alien...
>> 2:34 PM
Sunday, January 06, 2002[earlier post] on musical collage, I came across Annie Dillard's [Mornings Like This: Found Poems] in a used bookstore in Providence a few days ago. I didn't buy it, but I might go find it in the library. It's a collection of poems Dillard constructed from the phrases and sentences of other works. I like the idea. It's definitely the exercise of a meta-creativity, one also engaged with referentiality in different ways. How do we make meaning from other contexts? (Is this also a question of interpretation?) How much do we need to know about the works from which the poems' building blocks are taken? What do we get/lose knowing/not-knowing?
And I remember my art teacher in high school assigning a collage assignment. We put together a work from images we found in magazines and newspapers. Then we reproduced the collage in another medium (i.e., charcoal or acrylic paint). I can still see the assignment I did. It was actually one of my favorite works. I remember how my art teacher told us that art wasn't just about being able to draw realistically but (among other things) also being able to compose (put together, lay out) an interesting work.
>> 5:00 PM
I want to be Gandalf the Grey! Grey! Grey! I love how Frodo/Elijah says, "Gandalf," too. So endearing.
I love the story of The Lord of the Rings, even as it disturbs me a little with its insistence on a sort of division of qualities across Middle Earth's races. In fact, this seems to be the common "lesson" of many children's stories and fantasy stories. (Though I don't know whether or not The Lord of the Rings is much of a children's story.) To each race, there is a particular gift or quality. Elves are fair, magical, intelligent, and level-headed. Dwarves are fiery, stout, strong, a little dim-witted, and quick-tempered. Men are middling, it seems, and easily corrupted by power. Hobbits are the most carefree race, not-too smart, very little, but of unwavering devotion and heart. How easily this understanding could translate (and does?) into the assigning of particular social roles in our world. Let's say, black people are particularly talented at dancing and singing. Let them be entertainers for the world. See what I mean?
And Harry Potter was similar, too, in its condensation of particular qualities/attributes to the different characters. Hermione was the brains. Harry had the love. His best friend (I forget the name) had the heart/self-sacrifice. And while I can see how the division of tasks and strengths is quite okay and necessary for social negotiations, it's when these divisions become naturalized, fixed, determining characteristics of social status that I become a little troubled. Harry, after all, is a celebrity among the wizards. He is extolled above others. He alone is supposed to hold the salvation of magic from the evil.
Why are we (in an abstract sense) so drawn to this idea of the one, a saviour above the masses? I never got to the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but judging by its title The Return of the King, I'd wager the story ends with the triumphant restoration of the king of men and the return of good order to the world. The King Arthur legend is about the one man above others who creates a world of harmony (if only for a short while). Even Christianity, not to belittle it as an important religion for so many people, rests its hope on the idea of the Son of God, a man alone who saves humanity.
I guess there are a couple of things I'm trying to think through here. First, why the focus on a single saviour? Why are we all waiting for that one (other) person to save us all? Is it a radical divestment of responsibility? Second, how can we think about charactersitics, qualities, attributes, etc. without engraving them into a hierarchy of social difference, reputation, prestige, and power?
I'm reminded of a children's story I remember reading years ago. It was a picture book about a kingdom of cat-like creatures. One day, the king's castle caught on fire. Luckily, the firefighters came along and put out the fire, saving the king and his castle. In his joyous gratitude for the firefighters' work, the king declared that everyone in his kingdom from that day forth would be firefighters, the noblest of all people. And his people all became firefighters. But then nothing else in town was getting done. The stores were closed. The restaurants didn't serve food (no one was cooking or serving). In short, the world could not exist on firefighters alone. So the king realized that as much as he was indebted to the firefighters, his kingdom and the world needed a variety of peoples to prosper and get things done.
>> 4:32 PM
i eat petals myself one by one
until i feel enough
until i lose to laugh
when i end to eat the last one
i will tear my drops
i will lose my lips
though i can't stop plucking off
i can't see my core
i keep asking for you more and more
can you peel my petals one by one?
your hands are like a rusty knife
are you gonna keep on peeling me?
are you gonna keep on peeling me?
are you gonna keep on peeling me?
what am i gonna be on the pan?
will i be burnt black?
can you squeeze a lemon on me?
baby, baby . . .
everything you wanna feel
baby, baby . . .
everything you wanna taste
baby, baby . . .
everything you wanna feel
baby, baby . . .
everything you wanna taste
- "Artichoke," [Cibo Matto]
In the [band info section] of their web site, Cibo Matto lay out a sort of manifesto for their music work as a deliberate bastardization of genres, nationalisms, sounds, etc.
"People are mistaken if they think sampling is just patching together some cool old music." explains Yuka. "I am not interested in re-playing someone else's music." The reality is that making creative music with samples requires heavy musical skills.
I was just wondering a few days ago, upon hearing on the radio a re-mix / sample of [Toni Braxton's] "You're Making Me High," (i'll always think of you / inside of my private thoughts / i can imagine you / touching my private parts") how to make a distinction between sampling, re-mixing, re-making, or if in fact there is any point in making such a difference. I like music that takes as some of its building blocks musical phrases, lyrics, or beats from other songs. I like re-makes of songs, the feel of interpretation unmistakable in the subsequent versions. So when I heard "You're Making Me High," I wondered if it was a re-mix (since Toni Braxton's vocal track was still extant) or a sample of her vocal track in another song (the beats of the song were different and a male rapper rapped along with Toni Braxton's singing). It's hard to tell sometimes.
But I think that working with samples alone is far more creative than people give it credit for. It's in effect a kind of collage work, piecing together larger units of meaning (musically, lyrically, etc.) to make your own music.
>> 5:49 AM
Over the last week-and-a-half, I spent something like seven hours travelling to-and-from airports, fourteen hours waiting in airports for flights and luggage, and nine hours in-flight. And these numbers don't reflect other people's time I gobbled up with rides to the airport and waiting for me to figure out if my flight was actually going to take off, etc.
>> 5:13 AM
Saturday, January 05, 2002[Buffy first season set], and when I get it, how horrible would it be not to be able to watch it??
>> 6:51 PM
Reading through [crankygirls'] posts from the last few weeks. A few stimulated thoughts: I can't believe I've forgotten about [Jon Carroll]. How can we make criticism more constructive in daily practice? I do want to live in the Bay Area at some point in my life. How do we balance living in environments that support us and those that don't (yet)? (How far should self-ghettoization go? How can we imagine and create a better world everywhere if we can only exist in our own little worlds?)
>> 5:33 PM
>> 5:14 PM
(seen written on dirt layer of truck on I-95 north)
Writing on my new Palm Portable Keyboard. I probably shouldn't have gotten this thing, but now I feel like I can take notes on my Palm easily and then transfer them to my computer later. Maybe I can even write my papers on my Palm? Hmmm....
>> 3:35 PM
Although the streets are still snowed and iced over, making driving dangerous, it's been surprisingly calming to be out and about. It feels like there are fewer cars out, and those that are drive slowly and cautiously. It's been a couple days, though, so it's really kind of sad that the streets have only cursorily been cleared. The major roads are fine; smaller roads are only partially and randomly cleared. The parking lot for my apartment complex is still inaccessible. Street parking, while better, still involves driving over embankments of snow and ice. Ah, gotta love winter.
Need to get going on preparing for class. Don't know how to begin plans, though. I guess I just need to start with the major assignments, set those in semi-stone, and work from there.
Ran errands today. In retrospect, none of them seemed particularly pressing or even necessary. I guess I just needed to set some tasks for myself and make myself go. I ended up buying fun, frivolous stuff for myself. (I got a Donald Duck game for the Game Boy Advance. Gotta love the duck.) Had lunch with E, though, and that was nice.
I'm in the library now where I just printed out about two hundred pages of reading. (And the semester hasn't even started!) Soon I will go home. Maybe I'll go see a movie with a friend tonight.
>> 2:26 PM
Friday, January 04, 2002
critical adj. 1 a making or involving adverse or censorious comments or judgements. b expressing or involving criticism. 2 skillful at or engaged in criticism. 3 providing textual criticism (a critical edition of Milton). 4 a of or at a crisis; involving risk or suspense (in a critical condition; a critical operation). b decisive, crucial (of critical importance; at the critical moment). 5 a Math. & Physics marking a transition from one state etc. to another (critical angle). b Physics (of a nuclear reactor) maintaining a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
criticism n. 1 a finding fault; censure. b a statement or remark expressing this. 2 a the work of a critic. b an article, essay, etc., expressing or containing an analytical evaluation of something.
criticize v. tr. 1 find fault with; censure. 2 discuss critically.
critique n. a critical essay or analysis; an instance or the process of formal criticism. v. tr. discuss critically.
>> 4:13 PM
So I made a resolution for this new year. It's a boring one, perhaps even the paradigmatic one: exercise. But I came to this resolution when I was at my snowed-in car in the park-and-ride lot at the airport. I had to dig my car out of the snow using my bare hands (okay, I had gloves). I worked furiously and feverishly. And then as I neared the end of my task, I started feeling light-headed, a little nauseous. I know snow-shovelling is hard work (especially without the shovel), but still, it was unsettling to realize how out-of-shape I am and how affected I was by the fifteen minutes or so of exertion.
Anyways, that's my resolution.
I'm finally back in Durham, and it really is great to be home, as much as I liked being elsewhere, too. Living out of a suitcase and in other people's living spaces just is difficult. The stress builds.
I had another stressful travel experience. I was up in the Northeast and of course happened to have booked my flight back to Raleigh-Durham the very day of the snowstorm. The airport completely shut down. My flight was cancelled. Snow in Durham? Yup. Over a foot of it. The roads are still not much cleared. I don't know if I can even get back out to pick up dinner and supplies. So since I was flying out of Boston, I decided to stay there instead of going back home with my sister to Providence (about an hour-and-a-half's drive away). It was a pain, but ultimately less stressful than doing the commute between Providence and Boston again.
This morning, I got up bright and early at five am so I wouldn't miss my nine o'clock flight. I was staying at the Hilton at the airport, so I was at the gate by 6:45 or so. And then the flight time got pushed back. And then pushed back again. And then the gate changed. And then the flight time got pushed back again. And then they told us passengers that the plane hadn't left Raleigh-Durham yet, even though it was an hour after the original scheduled departure time from Boston. So the flight wouldn't leave for another two hours at least. And on and on. Finally, another gate change later, the plane arrived and shortly thereafter, we were herded on it like so many exhausted sheep. I was surprised to find they had stuck me in the first class section, though. Nice, big comfy seats. Ah.
And then I finally got here.
My time in Providence was great. Very relaxing and I got some reading done, though not much lesson planning for the class I start teaching on Wednesday. My sister and I did a lot of walking, too. It felt great to wander around on the streets and talk to her about things. We went out to restaurants and had a good time.
>> 4:05 PM
Tuesday, January 01, 2002
Saw [Hedwig] last night. It was pretty good, though I didn't really understand a lot of what was going on. I'm slow. More than I had assumed, Hedwig dealt with gender and sexuality away from the usual conceptions of homo- and heterosexuality. But I think it was confusing because it didn't follow through with its explorations of what desire is, does, can do, provides, or whatever.
Went to sleep around eleven last night. Not much for the parties and stuff, you know. I think I've only been awake for the midnight thing on New Year's maybe four or five times in my life.
Need to get going on my work. Classes start in a week!
>> 1:18 PM
atom site feed
asian american writers' workshop
the new york times
jon carroll @ sfgate
the village voice
let bygones be...
the old stuff