Thursday, February 28, 2002
Brrrrrr. I don't think the radiators ever came on last night. It's freezing in here.
Arrrrghh. Much work to do today. I'm horrible at making myself prepare for class (grading, lesson planning, etc.). Especially when a cute guy is in the picture. ;)
>> 9:06 AM
On a very related topic, the ever-delightful [bj] mentions transexual activist Sylvia Rivera's funeral and comments on the easy way in which "straight-acting" (not bj's term and I know he doesn't like it either) gay men can distance themselves from the transgendered and transexual. He wonders:
I dunno, I'm starting to ramble, but i guess the point is, how much do we (I) actually do to support the notion that folks should be free to be whoever they are, period. Don't add some obligatory phrase about "as long as they're not hurting anyone" - as if crap like that needs to be said ("It's okay for those lumberjacks to wear plaid, as long as they're not hurting anyone") And someone shouldn't have to be a part of a history or movement that benefits me to be deserving of that, either.
Yes, why must an outcast be part of a history or movement that benefits me to "deserve" my support? There's something very interesting going on with the idea of community, of how we throw in our chips with others (or not). I'd be fascinated to do a study of how people define their communities. I know there are theories of kinship, culture, etc. for thinking about communities. There is a model based on "shared oppression" (often mobilized by minority communities). And there is a "gay" or "queer" model that has sprung up based on both the idea of shared oppression and chosen-kinship (the making of family networks outside biological reproduction). But why this need always to incorporate into a community of likes? Can we not share in the lives of others not like us?
This reminds me of the way the [LatCrits] work consciously and conscientiously to expand a notion of community in their work, to deal with disagreement and dissent by extending communication and dialogue. In many ways, the LatCrits seem to want to incorporate coalition politics into community organizing, a move that seems both contradictory yet (dauntingly) hopeful. In an odd way, I'm also reminded of [the awful talk] I went to last week because in very poorly stated terms, the speaker was trying to articulate a relationship to the past that would allow all of us to accept and learn from important figures like Frederick Douglass, even if we are not black. He wanted to claim Douglass as everyone's ancestor. Not a very interesting claim, necessarily, especially when he then tried to force that claim into the idea that we should claim him as our ancestor because we are all one people without any divisions in a way that really devalues the history of racial struggle and oppression.
I think it was J.S. Mill in On Liberty or something who discussed a political philosophy based on the idea of not harming others. Politics, in many ways, is about negotiating your needs and desires when they come in conflict with someone else's needs and desires (we both want to eat that apple). One important strain of political theory has developed along the lines that satisfying your own wants is okay as long as you don't hurt anyone else. Of course, we see that such a view is never completely satisfactory. Proving intent to harm is hard enough alone sometimes, but we also have to consider consequential harm -- harm that results even without the intent to harm. "Community standards" (i.e. for pornographic content) are one such way that political and social forces have entered into realms where harming others is really not the intent. Anti-abortionists are another a great example. How much are women who have abortions really hurting those grey-haired men and women picketing the Planned Parenthood in your neighborhood? What is their direct relationship to the anonymous woman getting an abortion? I have this book sitting on my shelf titled In Harm's Way by political/legal theorists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. I've not really looked at it yet, but it's a collection of writings and testimonies in antipornography trials. I'm just fascinated by the whole feminist-antipornography thing. But the debates have a lot to do with determining what harm is, how it comes to be, what its sources are, etc.
>> 12:16 AM
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
I watched [All About My Mother] today, finally. (The video is now two days overdue, but I'm too lazy to head out in the cold to return it.) I was quite surprised by the content of the film. It was filled with transgendered and transexual prostitutes. I liked how the film was framed by writerly concerns. There's this scene early on where the son is writing in his notebook and the camera goes to a shot of the pencil point writing, as if the camera lens were the face of the paper.
The film was also punctuated by acting and theater, especially by Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. The film reiterated performances of the final scene of Williams's play. The ending was modified, though. Instead of Stanley triumphant over a complete humiliation and defeat of Blanche, holding an equally disempowered and sobbing Stella, the film's staged performance had Stella rejecting Stanley's ultimate comfort and leaving stage left with her baby after Blanche. I think it signals the film's attempts to break from the "usual" story of men's (although that gender identity gets blurred in the film, too) domination over and humiliation of women despite the traumas done to women's bodies in rapes and pregnancies. (This is of course a gross oversimplification of the film.)
And the film starts off with a reference/viewing of [All About Eve], a film I often hear about but have yet to see. As far as I know, it would really resonate with the themes of diva-dom and women acting.
>> 11:38 PM
Tuesday, February 26, 2002
>> 2:04 PM
Monday, February 25, 2002[Boomerang in Suppressing Gay Art], a review of Richard Meyer's [Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in 20th-Century American Art]. I'm not sure what Meyer's argument about the effects of censorship on representations of homosexuality in art is, but as a historical work documenting and analyzing various instances of the tension between homosexual visibility and censorship, it seems worth reading.
I've been meaning to comment on [How to Write a Better Weblog]. While I agree with much of Dennis A. Mahoney's ideas about professional vs. amateur writing, I think it's odd that he seems to be reinforcing such a divide in the medium of weblogging. He manages to re-instate this particular distinction between "good" writing and "bad" by suggesting that webloggers who want higher traffic rates need to practice certain conventions of writing. And this makes sense, right, because we tend to read weblogs that are well written in understandable styles.
But I don't like to think of weblogs as the playground of disgruntled writers -- as the place where those who can't quite make it in the professional writing world yet go to hone their skills. I think there's something different about the medium of weblogging. It's not about being a "good" writer in the same sense as you would strive for as a professional columnist, for example. It's a place where each writer generates her own standards and goals. But I disagree with Mahoney when he says that in order to entertain others, to garner a large audience, you need to professionalize your writing. Because I think what's most intriguing about weblogs is that they all have different relationships to the usual conventions of good writing. The most successful ones, then, are ones that make their own terms of writing accessible and understandable.
>> 11:51 AM
Saturday, February 23, 2002[one passage] in particular that leapt out at me. It's great as an example of sublimated sexuality, of unacknowledged homoeroticism.
>> 7:06 AM
Made it through the school week, but now of course next week looms menacingly over my weekend. Sigh.This time, I'm going to get a huge chunk of the work done over the weekend so the week itself will be less stressful. Yes.
Student conferences generally went well. I don't think any of my students really hate me. In general, they also seem to understand what they need to work on in their writing, although many of them seem only able to repeat what I and their other writing instructor(s) have told them they need to work on. They know the names of their problems, but not necessarily what those problems really are nor how to fix them. I think some of my students had "realizations" in conference, though, and that is always a nice thing to see.
But yesterday in general was a tired day. I had lunch at a cafe and then tried to read. I ended up falling asleep for fifteen minutes or so. I woke up (thankfully drool-less), and a fellow graduate student walked by saying, "So, you're finally up." Oops. I only got through Part I (about a fourth) of Brazil-Maru, but we still had a good discussion in the reading group about the novel. It's really very different from Yamashita's first novel (on which I based my recommendation of the second as a book for us to read). In the second novel, Yamashita seems to be stuck in this tension between producing truth/knowledge through an ethnographic/anthropological mode and producing knowledge through fiction. Luckily, this tension is one of my research interests; that is, I like to read about how authors and critics negotiate the different importance and power of sociological work and fictional work. What kinds of arguments can the two modes provide? How do these two kinds of writing generate evidence for their work? What do we do with fictional work when "a point" is besides the point?
>> 6:20 AM
Friday, February 22, 2002[CCs] Thursday nights are great. I can't believe I've never been. It's a really cool, fun-loving, laid-back crowd.
I met up with M, the guy I ran into Monday at the Kirk Read reading, and we were joined a little later by R who was getting off work at midnight. I didn't have to run away from scary molesters this time. The place was packed, and there was a lot more energy in the room than there was at the other club I visited. Afterwards, R and I went to the Waffle House, one of the few 24-hour eateries in the area, for a late night snack. Coincidentally, four guys from my graduate program were walking in at the same time we got there. Apparently, they stop by the place often Thursday nights after hanging out at a bar earlier.
Trying to read Karen Tei Yamashita's Brazil-Maru today. It's much too long for me to finish before the [reading group meeting], but I'm going to read as much as I can...
>> 7:13 AM
Thursday, February 21, 2002
(Link via [encorswish] who in turn got it from someone else. Ah, linkiness.)
I can't believe I'm claiming North Carolina as my own now. Perhaps this one is better:
Might be off to a Raleigh club tonight. Also trying to watch The Innocents (a movie adaptation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw), but might have to put that off until Friday night or Saturday.
>> 5:35 PM
So Gregory Stephens gave a talk titled "Frederick Douglass as Integrative Ancestor: Trans-Racial, Trans-gender, and Trans-national Perspectives." He was championing Douglass as more than a hero of African American history, more than just a role model for African American racial liberation. He talked about Douglass as someone who was neither African nor Irish, someone who struggled to articulate his racial identity somewhere in between the binary of black-white. Okay. But what to do with this "realization," as if the simple recognition that racial categories are constructed can solve our problems of race? The worst thing is that throughout his talk, Stephens tried to talk away the "limiting" language of racism and racialism by insisting that we just need to stop thinking in racial terms. He referenced a variety of people who have done work on race like Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Coco Fusco, Michael Lind, and Paul Gilroy. But he didn't really engage with their ideas very well. He seemed to use all discussions that complicate the idea of race as biological or naturalized to prove his thesis that we must work away from race-consciousness. (This is not the point of most theories of hybridity, mestizaje, or the trans-Atlantic character of the African slave trade.) And yet, he wanted to say that he wasn't arguing for a sort of post-racial understanding or even color-blindness. So what is he arguing?
One audience member tried to push him on this idea that claiming Douglass as an African American figure is bad. Because in some senses, Stephens wanted to argue that "everyone" should understand that Douglass is an important father-figure for America and indeed the world. Okay. So you want to make visible and important the work of Douglass to a wider audience. But that doesn't mean that he isn't still important as someone who has struggled for black freedom and equality. When pushed, Stephens responded that of course it's been important for black studies and African American Studies to have resurrected Douglass and others from the annals of marginalized history. But he just would not "see" or realize that the problem with his rhetoric is an incredible lack of understanding of the racial politics that create injustices and selective memories in the first place.
Another audience member (one of my professors) asked Stephens to clarify his claims about race, whether he was arguing that we should think of everyone as belonging to one race or think of dealing with a multiplicity of races. In other words, she wanted to know what his driving analytical tool was in dealing with racism. Was he advocating a discourse of universal equality? (In many ways, a color-blind view of social equality.) Or was he leaning towards ideals of hybridity that attempt to fuse and foment racial categorizations in order to create social change and acceptance?
And another audience member asked him about his use of the term "trans-gender" because he was clearly not interested in blurring the lines of a binary gender. All his invocations of the current academically hot pre-fix "trans" were just not in the ways that are trully "transgressive." All he really seemed to say was that these categories we have for race, nation, and gender are "inadequate" without explaining what that means or what his alternatives are. (He claimed that Douglass was both black and white and both a man and a feminist, as if those ideas are revolutionary in themselves.)
I just think that it was shameful how, as a scholar, Stephens kept saying at the end when people were pushing him on his flimsy ideas, that language is "inadequate" to deal with our problems of race. Well, then, what can you do? He claims he is interested in thinking about how to teach these ideas of racial "trans-ness," but if he can't articulate them, then what's going on? In the end, all he seemed to be doing was criticizing race-consciousness (something Derrick Bell and others are "guilty" of in Critical Race Theory) for replicating racism. Yet, he refused to make that argument when pushed. He kept claiming he wasn't arguing for a post-racial discourse. He just wanted a feel-good, liberal ideal of racial happiness and equality without paying any attention to how racism works through so many different discursive levels, not just at a conscious level of race-hatred.
Argh. The worst thing is that I fear I sound like this guy at times, that I am completely naive about the complexities of the issues I want to deal with. He rambled so much, too. He spoke for over an hour. He just did not have a well-organized talk. Gah. Someone needed to sit him down and help him revise it.
* * *
In other news, R and I have broached the subject of us. Currently entertaining the possibility of more.
>> 5:05 PM
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Rís been here for a few hours studying for his class. I figured itíd be easier for both of us to get work done if we werenít just left to our own devices with computers, televisions, and stereos for distraction. I think itís worked. Iíve managed to stay awake instead of crawling into bed. And it looks like R has been studying fairly diligently.
>> 3:31 PM
>> 5:27 AM
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
>> 8:41 AM
Monday, February 18, 2002[Kirk Read] this evening at the Regulator Bookshop. I thought I'd go ahead and stop by, especially since I haven't read his How I Learned to Snap, nor will I have the time to read it anytime in the next ten years or so. And I thought it would be cool just to see someone that [the Tin Man] knew -- that sort of six-degrees-of-separation thing where knowing someone who knows someone can be fun.
Read was very snappy. I totally admire him for being so out there and for embracing the highly visible snap queen persona. He said he wrote his memoir as the kind of book that would've helped him acknowledge and deal with his sexuality and gay identity when he was a teenager. In many ways, I agree that such a book is an admirable goal. But I also wonder if how he sees his project is more grandiose than it can ever really be. That is, gay culture and identity, like other cultures and identities, are many-faceted and diverse. To suggest that his portrayal of the snap queen persona as a paragon of gay self-acceptance can oddly be restricting. Still, to see such a person comfortable in his sexuality is a wonderful thing. Although the idea of role models can be simplistic as a "cure" for societal homophobia, it can still be the saving factor for some gay youngsters who still can feel fundamentally isolated in the home and in their communities despite the greater visibility of gays in popular/celebrity culture.
As I was leaving the reading, a young man stopped me. Turns out we went to college together. I hadn't even seen him in the audience, but he caught me as I was going up the stairs. He even remembered my name. And though I recognized him right away, I wasn't sure if I would've remembered his without some difficulty. We weren't close in college -- he was two years my junior -- but being gay-and-out on campus meant you at least knew of other gay-and-out kids. So this guy is from Durham and is living here for a year before going off to Winston-Salem, NC, to an arts school for a degree in vocal performance.
It's been a long day. Getting up at 5:30 is tooooo much....
My class at the law school is going fairly well, I'm happy to note. We're reading Arna Bontemps's Black Thunder, his second novel. It's a fictionalized retelling of a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1800 led by a slave named Gabriel. I got into thinking about the novel and its historical and literary contexts. I remembered a lot of things Joe told me. In my response paper, I cited his dissertation as an important work on Bontemps, race, literacy, and culture. :)
I don't know any of the students in the class, but they're being friendly to me now. Two women stopped to talk to me during the break. They wanted to tell me how glad they were that I was taking the class and all. It's difficult, though, listening to their (at least good-naturedly) pronouncements of English and literary studies as a "fun" thing and something to do "when I have the time." I wonder how they would feel if I were to characterize legal studies as my "hobby" or "distraction from my real work." And I'm not really saying that literature is not fun or whatever, but I hate the way people think of literary studies as something that people do for fun, and hence is not something that is really important in the "real" world. (My response often is, then, that I don't want to be in the "real" world.)
It's great to have a large number of black students in the class since the English department is so very lacking in non-white students. I'm very glad that I'm taking this class on the literature of/about slavery in this context because I'm hearing some very impassioned students talk about all sorts of extra-textual ideas about race and freedom. There are these three students in particular who beautifully triangulate discussions of radical socialism, racial politics, and black power.
The rest of this week is going to be very difficult because I'll be holding individual conferences with my composition students. Sigh. If only they were all writing perfectly, my job would be so much easier. :)
I talked to Joe on the phone last night and it made me sad to hear that he's feeling lonely and depressed. He has so much to look forward to and so many new things to experience in his new home and job. I think he's really getting into teaching, and it makes me happy that he's finally getting to do what he's wanted to do since college. I just wish he would stop feeling dizzy and lonely.
>> 8:31 PM
Sunday, February 17, 2002
And then I wonder where all my time goes on the weekends. I actively avoid doing any work. I suppose I should curl up in bed with a book now and just read for a couple of hours....
>> 3:51 PM
I need focus.
>> 2:12 PM
Yesterday was really beautiful, though. I did manage to do some reading at Mad Hatter's and also graded a couple of student papers. (It's always hardest for me to get started, so I'm glad I was able to do some grading yesterday.) I spent a big chunk of the day shopping with R. He needed new clothes for work and I was looking for a pair of shoes. We both walked away from the mission with success, although tired to the point of exhaustion and also (for him) with much less money than before. He actually bought most of his clothes at Structure, a store I pointed out to him a few days ago. The salesperson there was really helpful, although I wonder what she thought of us spending something like an hour-and-a-half in there. She chatted me up while R was in the dressing room trying on pants and shirts. She's a student at Carolina, too -- a sophomore English/journalism double major. There was this gorgeous grey coat that I wanted. Unfortunately, they didn't have the right size for me. But I had R try it on, and with the salesperson's encouragement, we convinced him to buy it. I hope it wasn't a frivolous purchase. It really is fabulous, though, and it was only sixty dollars or something like that for a really nice coat (sixty-percent off). At one point while R was trying on things, the salesperson commented that she loved to see guys all dressed up. It's amazing how cool clothes can be. Of course, I'm not about to go become a clothes-horse because I don't have the funds or the energy to dress myself beautifully.
Well, time to hop in the shower and get my day started, I suppose.
>> 7:46 AM
Friday, February 15, 2002
What do I do if I think I like someone?
It's been a vaguely productive day. I feel like I've done something, but I can't really say what. I haven't done a ton of reading. I haven't graded any papers. I haven't written anything.... But I've been up since before six, so I must've done something, right?
I did spend a couple of hours at the wine bar earlier this evening to help a friend celebrate passing her oral defense (of her dissertation). The defense was this afternoon, and shortly after, she and her committee headed over to the [wine bar] to celebrate. It was great to see how positive the experience can be.
I was actually over at the wine bar last night, too. Some single friends of mine (good acquaintances more than close friends) in the program have started this tradition of having dinner and drinks on V-day. It's kind of cute in a way, even as it is kind of silly that they feel they have to do something on that day or else they'll feel left out.
>> 7:11 PM
Thursday, February 14, 2002
This assignment sequence for the social sciences unit is kicking my ass. I've stared at it for the last five or six days and haven't been able to figure out how to write it. I'm trying to focus on public health / health policy issues. But I'm realizing just how little I know about any of this stuff. I think I would prefer to focus on the epidemiological aspects of public health, but I've somehow been steered (by my conversation with a resource librarian) towards policy issues. Hmmm....
Almost choked earlier today on my flu medicine. I've been disloyally taking different-branded medicines during my illness. I started with Advil Flu medicine, moved on to TheraFlu (ah....relief...), then to Tylenol Flu, and now I'm taking these Robitussin soft gels because they have expectorant, the stuff that's supposed to help with chest congestion and dry coughs, which I am unfortunately experiencing lately. The Robitussin soft gels are humongous, though, and get stuck in my throat. It's not that they go down the wrong tube, but they get lodged in my throat lengthwise and cause this intensely painful sensation. Ack....
Almost two p.m. Really need to try to finish this assignment sequence asap so I can forward it to the resource librarian so she can tailor the library orientation tomorrow morning to what my students are doing in class...
>> 12:51 PM
Less than three. Do the math. Nobody's really commented that it's a broken heart.
>> 6:41 AM
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Yesterday I did skip out on class, too, because as the day progressed, I kept feeling worse and worse, despite all the medicines I had flooding my system. I felt ague-y and generally disaffected. Seems like my flu is making a comeback.
>> 8:04 AM
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
(Of course I celebrate the new year twice each year. Twice the fun. Twice the newness.)
I feel like playing hooky from school today. But I should probably just head on over to class. I'm just feeling paralyzed. Augh. I need some perspective. Hrm....
>> 9:58 AM
Monday, February 11, 2002
Went to the Lewis Black comedy show tonight. You might have seen Black on [The Daily Show]. My going to the show was quite random. A friend I bumped into earlier in the day had an extra ticket, so I went.
I don't know if I really get humor. I laughed, sure. And I enjoyed the show. Black is this wonderfully bitter, cynical, and acerbic lefty political commentator. But nothing he said seemed particularly revelatory. A lot of his humor was quite peurile in the bodily-orifices way. But his delivery and the energy of his performance were spectacular. He made the audience crack up just by waving his hands.
But I think I need to get my funny bone checked. I really do think that humor is essential to humane social interaction. And maybe that's why I feel so asocial. Much of the time during the show, while I agreed with Black's comments and the utter grotesqueness of the political climate and affairs, I didn't find them ha-ha funny. What does make something laugh-out-loud funny? Hmmm.... I just don't know. I am quite drawn to people who can be funny seemingly effortlessly. (Like [Gargy], for instance.) It really is a skill....
>> 10:27 PM
I rented and watched [Glitter] last night. It was actually quite a fun movie to watch. Mariah Carey is not a terrible actor. But of course, the movie itself lacked any real redeeming qualities. Still, as a sappy love story, it had its moments. The music scenes were great. And some of the lines were priceless. (Dice: I didn't know you could blow like that. [referring to singing, of course] Sylk: I didn't know you were so interested in how good I could blow.)
Nothing much happened yesterday as I convalesced at home. Lots of talking. I unthinkingly gave my parents my home phone number where I don't have caller ID.... It's Chinese New Year's Eve, by the way! Ummm.... That's about it.
>> 9:47 AM
Saturday, February 09, 2002[Mulan]. It's very much a Disney-fied version of the woman warrior story. As I recall, most versions of the story/myth have a much bleaker ending, with Mulan's family slaughtered and Mulan transmuted into an avenging spirit. (The Disney version incidentally stars the voice of delightful [B.D. Wong] as Captain Shang.)
After Saturday morning cartoons today, I tried to spend some time reading in the library, but felt too feverish and weak to make it over. So instead I stayed at home and watched [The School of Flesh]. I had noted this movie as one to watch awhile ago because it's adapted from a Yukio Mishima novel. And it was definitely worth watching. I think it did a great job of fleshing out (ha ha punny) some complicated affective / non-rational dimensions of relationships. Starting off with a "paid" encounter, Dominique and Quentin proceed to push and pull each other in the relationship, attempting to define the limits and possibilities of what it means to love and be loved. Gah, I need to read more Mishima...
>> 5:18 PM
>> 10:56 AM
Thursday, February 07, 2002
On my drive home, I was behind the Robertson Scholars Program bus. (The program is a joint Duke-UNC endeavor designed for select undergraduates to learn from both schools. Inter-institutional registration has been available for all students, but this program awards joint degrees and a more integrated education. Anyways, the bus is this free -- for people with Duke or UNC ID cards -- express service between the campuses. I need to take the bus more often.) I noticed the web site address [www.robertsonscholars.org] printed on the back of the bus. Nothing so strange about that, I guess. But then I was remembering how less than ten years ago, the audience at a movie I was watching laughed when the web address for a movie appeared at the end of its trailer. And I started thinking about how the culture, how "mainstream" consciousness and cool-ness shifts. How did the Internet and computers become the sleek, new thing after being the realm of geeks for so long? How did e-mail and the web come to pervade the lives of the young-and-hip demographic (ages 18-35?)? When and how did it become cool, and in fact necessary, to be e-connected?
And how does knowledge spread in our culture? How did that movie audience some years ago know what the string of letters that appeared on the screen meant? How did they know that it was a web address, and moreover, that it was something related to computers, and therefore geeky and worth their derision? I think this was in my senior year of high school when I had just found the 'Net thanks to my enrollment at UC Berkeley in the Accelerated High School Students Program. Otherwise, I would not have known what the www thing even was. No one else at my high school seemed to know what e-mail or the web was. If they did, they were either in the AHSSP with me or they avoided acknowledging that they would ever use e-mail. The laughter of the audience was like disavowing that "thing" of computers for fear that association with or knowledge of it would mean contamination (i.e. geekiness).
A year later in college, I noticed that an e-mail address was quickly become a necessary item for communication. But it was amazing to see how the people of the more senior classes were very reluctantly setting up e-mail accounts. I'd be sitting in the computer cluster surfing the web and see these kids come in giggling to set up e-mail accounts with their friends' help, making a point of being "computer illiterate" all the while.
So, what are the avenues/venues of cultural education? Where are the sites of education? Everywhere there is social contact? Sometimes I think we learn about new things mostly through television. Would that be a cynical or depressing thought? I guess a lot of people find out things on the web now. Or in chat rooms from buddies in different parts of the country/world. But how does the process of individual acquisition of ideas, trends, and things become a wholesale social reality? How does one thing become known or accepted while countless others fall by the wayside?
My throat is scratchy...
>> 7:24 PM
Wednesday, February 06, 2002
>> 6:53 PM
Tuesday, February 05, 2002holcombe waller" & "homosexual." I can only assume that the searcher was trying to figure out if Holcombe Waller is a homosexual. Well, I wonder that myself sometimes, despite overwhelming evidence that he "is." But why do we want to pin down his sexual identity?
i'm not a straight boy but i play one on tv
i keep a straight, straight face, i keep a steady aim
so some good Christian woman won't spit fuck off you little queer
so i won't think 2000 years to get from Jesus Christ to here, yeah
In the title track of his first album, Advertising Space, HW sings "I am not a straight boy but I play one on TV," as the first line of a song that goes on to critique the hypocrisy of Christian fundamentalism as well as a conservative social climate intent upon reinforcing social norms ("slip into your social sockets"). In another track on the album, HW flirts with [Allen Ginsberg] and shops "for imagery on the internet" while logging in and out of chatrooms as alternately Jack Kerouac and Barbara Hutton, twirling together a gay icon and the new social space of sexual interaction and changeable identities on the web.
roll out of bed, slip into your social sockets
downtown eyes to feet, shoulders shrugging hands pocketed
voting hate in, spreading sin thin
and you point your anxious finger, i'm just thinking about love
I first found out about HW through my college LGBT events listserv. If nothing else, it is clear that HW is queer-friendly, someone dedicated to exploring in his art the complexities of both sexual desire and sexual identity. On the one hand, his songs mark a strong homosexual identification and the articulations of desire in a heteronormative world. On the other, he also seems very committed to avoiding the easy naturalization of gay identity, of saying what he "is" as a stable sexual entity. His love songs often (always?) avoid explicit gendered-objects-of-desire, but when he does mention a sexed body, it is usually (always?) male. I'm thinking about HW-the-singer-performer's sexuality-ambiguity and [Ricky Martin's] pointed refusal to answer questions about his sexuality because he doesn't believe it matters. And contrasting HW's careful silences about the lover in many of his songs to Ricky's insistent heterosexuality in his lyrics. (Although some people have noted that one of his lyricists is gay and when Ricky sings about women and all that, there are still coded messages of a male, often specifically latino, homosexual bent.) The comparison helps me articulate two things: (1) the split between the "private" life of the singer and the public persona of the singer and (2) the importance of queer content (as opposed to queer readings). (Note: Holcombe Waller is a stage name.)
breathe deeply darling for tomorrow when we die
there'll be the image of the perfect life gleaming in your eye
and the breath of the perfect love moving off your lips
and touch of the purest flesh buried in your fingertips
My favorite recording by HW is not available on his albums. The song is a demo version of ["Twist"], a simple track with HW on his acoustic guitar sighing: "i don't wanna fight what we're supposed to be." Somewhere in the notes he wrote about the demo, I got the impression that his "significant other" was a woman. I don't think he ever wrote this point down as such, but something in the way he described his longing, his loss at her/his departure suddenly seemed to be achingly heterosexual, in a way that his songs usually seem so ambiguously homosexual.
cause hey-oh, i don't have anything anymore
just this visionary moment knocks my feet right off the ground
and i don't want it, i don't want it, it just keeps following me around
hey-oh you won't learn anything from this face
but keep your eyes peeled steady, tune in, touch base
i will make a big fortune, i'll sell advertising space
I think HW wouldn't mind the label "queer." Whether or not the man behind HW (the non-stage self) is sexually deviant or not, HW is in his music, and in a way such as to muddy the waters of sexual categorization. More than just lyrically, the very sound of his singing blurs the natural distinctions of gender (and by extension sexuality). His voice often registers as a female voice. I've played his music to friends who then invariably ask "who is she?" I think it would be especially stunning if the man behind HW identifies in his practices as a heterosexual man. But somehow, I still think he desires men. I've seen him perform live a number of times, and if there were ever a need to point to an example of a flamer, he would be it.
>> 10:55 AM
Monday, February 04, 2002[Judy Shepard] over at Duke earlier this evening. Let me preface my comments by saying that I think her touring the country giving presentations about acceptance of gays and lesbians is great. Her political commitments (she recently joined the board of directors of the [Human Rights Campaign]) are great, and I'm glad she's a visible face for the campaign to expand federal hate crime legislation to sexual orientation. But . . .
I wonder what it must be like to take on a new life defined by the murder of your son. I wonder what it's like to get up in front of a crowd and re-enact the pain of your son's death. I wonder what it's like to read those words from the "victim impact statement" (given at the sentencing hearing of your son's murderer) over and over again. I wonder what it's like to feel that pain repeatedly in front of teary-eyed strangers.
I guess I'm a little suspicious of discourses of "compassion," no matter what the goals of that compassion are. I guess it's just the way emotions and compassion have been pitted against reason in such a way as to trump all reasoning. When all else fails, bring out the tears. And so I'm wary of how much we (meaning queer-friendly, progressive peoples) should rely on these tactics of persuasion. Compassion becomes the strategy of shutting down conversation, sometimes of vilifying the opposition as inhuman...
On the other hand, I'm thinking, too, that one of the shortcomings of progressive activism is its inflexibility (of action or strategy). Ironically, conservative ideologies seem to find expression in many more venues. "Traditional family values," for example, makes its way through the discourse of politicians as well as the plots of sit-coms. They've not a sense of immobilization (paralysis) brought about by realizing the contradictions of how they use their ideas.
Ummm. I'm not even coherent anymore. I really need to go to sleep. There's a part of me that is still very interested in the practical. I hear about the [Matthew Shepard Foundation], for example, and think that this hands-on education of different publics about hate crimes and homosexuality is really what will bring about a fundamental shift in societal perceptions.
>> 9:41 PM
I didn't leave my apartment at all yesterday. I waited and waited for my phone to ring. Just waiting for anyone to call. And thankfully my mom called in the afternoon. So that was one call. But no one else did. :(
I wonder what all my so-called friends were doing. (And the Superbowl couldn't have been what they were all watching... nor was I invited to any watching parties.)
Ok. Need to stop feeling sorry for myself, yes? It's just so hard when I feel so isolated if I make no efforts to contact people. Phones are a two-way technology, yes? And on e-mail, all I got today was like ten spammings and five flame-mails on the campus student LGBT listserv. The flame war has shifted from a shouting match about whether a letter-to-the-editor of the campus daily was "really" anti-LGBT or just anti-funding of extracurricular student groups to attacks on the "leadership" of [QNC]. A sample passage from the latest e-mail:
I think it's quite past time we decide than QNC cannot meet the needs of the LGBT community, and no longer allow them to call themselves the "gay group at UNC." There are certainly plenty more organizations and that claim has begun to make me nausous. A new organization needs to founded with more ambition (which isn't saying much) and more support (not saying much either). We need an organization that will not only bring in political speakers but also organize social events or workshops to provide a sense of community. You can't build community around a political agenda at UNC. It just doesn't work. Don't try to pass on by mumbling that you are sick of people complaining when you do so much. It's time for change. QNC has proven they can't provide it.
I noticed this increasing need for "social" events and creating "community" (watchwords for an increasingly apolitical gay youth, I think) at my undergraduate institution, too. By the time I was a senior, the main LGBT organization on campus, the [LGBT Co-op] (Cooperative), was far more concerned with throwing good dances and parties than combating homophobia (though the reputation had always been that the "Co-op Dances" were the best). And in some ways, the shift wasn't entirely bad. The younger folks clearly were growing up in a much more open environment where they could be out. And many of them were out to their parents and families (had been since high school). But at the same time, they were willing to let things go at that. In other words, they understood homophobia as operating only on a "personal" level rather than a systemic and institutional level. It's why I shifted my energies to [Prism], a "discussion group" for queer people of color within the Co-op, which was still strongly committed to doing political and institutional work while creating social networks and support. (I'm glad to see that Prism is still alive and kicking with its work. My roommate from Brooklyn and early organizer of Prism e-mailed me earlier this month about a conference Prism is organizing: [Beyond Visibility: Queer People of Color Shattering Single Issue Politics].)
But I see similar concerns with the social at UNC in the excerpt above: "You can't build community around a political agenda at UNC." And it makes me wonder, why not? Political communities are fundamental to democracies. And especially at local levels, these communities are necessary for the deployment of ideas and initiatives.
But who am I to talk, as uninvolved in campus politics as I have been...
>> 1:51 AM
Sunday, February 03, 2002[Holcombe Waller] has his own little group on [LiveJournal]...
Yup. I have absolutely nothing to say. And I'm lonely.
>> 4:40 PM
What is a ghost? An emotion, a terrible moment condemned to repeat itself over and over? An instant of pain perhaps? Something dead which appears at times alive. A sentiment suspended in time... like a blurry photography... like an insect trapped in amber.
It was a very haunting film full of all this unexplained (unexplainable?) and displaced longing... I wish I knew more about the Spanish Civil War (in the early twentieth century?) and the state of medicine / medical discourse at the time so I could understand the allegorical work of the film in relation to the politics of the time. The devil's backbone, according to the doctor in the film, is a birth defect (in stillborns only?) in which the backbone lies on the surface of the back. The doctor talks about the devil's backbone as superstition, stories of an incipient evil. It's always easier to displace evil and ills onto the supernatural...
The movie was worth it just to gawk at [Eduardo Noriega], too.
>> 8:46 AM
Saturday, February 02, 2002[Skott Freedman] show at The Cave earlier in the evening. The Cave is a small bar -- an intimate setting, some would say. And Skott was cool. R met me there and we just hung out at the bar, had a couple of beers, and listened to the music. R says he liked the music. I'm glad, because when I invite people to go to music shows with me, I always feel somewhat responsible for their enjoyment... Skott's set ended, and R and I left the bar to take a quick stroll before he headed out to work (he's a night-shift manager at a grocery store). And that was really nice to have someone to chat with and take a walk down the street. I/we should've stopped to talk to Skott after the set, though. He was sitting at the booth with his CDs for sale. I wanted to buy one (or two), but didn't because he was sitting there, making it unavoidable for me to talk to him if I wanted to buy something. So instead I went on-line shortly after and purchased his CDs at [CDBaby.com]. I suck.
I talked to Joe on the phone after walking R to his car. He thinks R might be interested in me. (I met R through Joe who met R on-line.) Which I don't think is the case. But it wouldn't be a bad thing because R is far less creepy than Jesus. And R is shy. And he hasn't tried to feel me up yet or repeatedly kiss me when I show little enthusiasm for all that. Anyways, R and I are having dinner later tonight.
Even earlier in the evening, I walked by [Pepper's Pizza], a local eatery. In the window they had a chalkboard that read: "Here at Pepper's we've upped our standards. Up yours and eat here." Hee.
And when I got back from Insomnia (the name of Friday night's dance party) at [Gotham], I did indeed have insomnia, or was at least wide awake. So I responded to some e-mails and chatted on-line with friends. I got to talk to [Mark] and ran into [Peter] for the first time on-line. They helped cleanse me of the unsavory Jesus encounter by lending their unsuspecting eyes and fingers.
So I leave you this morning with this enigmatic e-mail I just received from someone I don't know (does it look like typical spam to you? - I'm not even listed as the recipient of the e-mail - is there such thing as misdirected e-mail?):
An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his dossier and says, "Ah, you're an engineer -- you're in the wrong place." So, the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in. Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After awhile, they've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the engineer is a pretty popular guy. One day, God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer, "So, how's it going down there in hell?" Satan replies, "Hey, things are going great. We've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and there's no telling what this engineer is going to come up with next." God replies, "What??? You've got an engineer? That's a mistake -- he should never have gotten down there; send him up here." Satan says, "No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and I'm keeping him." God says, "Send him back up here or I'll sue." Satan laughs uproariously and answers, "Yeah, right. And just where are YOU going to get a lawyer?"
>> 10:47 AM
I met Jesus at a club. And he tried to pick me up.
I feel so violated. Well, not really. But I'm so incredibly not able to deal with people and social situations. I went to Gotham, a local club with gay Fridays, to dance a little and enjoy the loud music. I haven't been dancing in many months and just wanted to be in that atmosphere again. So I was at the bar, having my beer, bopping to the music, just enjoying myself watching people dance (that's my favorite part). At first, there weren't a lot of people there. There were these two guys sitting next to me, and the one right next to me occasionally would give me these glances, which I pointedly did not return. But in a little while, he got bolder and offered me a cigarette. I declined. Then a little later, he asked me my name. I told him and said hello. I asked him his name, and he said he's Jesus. (All the while, his hand rested on my knee.) And then a little later, he asked me if I had a boyfriend. I said no. And then a little later, he asked me if I liked to dance. I said no. Then a little later, he asked me to dance. And I said I didn't really want to dance and went to the restroom, but told him I'd be back. Then I came back. He stroked my throat. And I sort of looked at him funny. He said I was nice. So I smiled at him. And then I wanted to dance, so I sort of invited him to dance with me. (I think that was my big mistake.) So we were dancing. And then he kissed me. And I was fine with that because I'm all about free love and all that -- as long as all parties involved are always within their limits. I pulled away after a bit. And we danced some more. And then he kissed me again. And I pulled away again. We danced some more. He kissed me again and then tried to feel me up! (And the telling thing is that I was so far from hard even after all that kissing...) So I pulled away and told him I wasn't looking for that. But we kept dancing. And then he kissed me again, and I was like, whatever. We danced. We kissed. And then I led him back to the bar and told him again I wasn't really interested. But he still held my hand. Then he wanted to buy me a drink and I declined. So I was thinking that this wasn't working at all. The club by this point (close to two a.m.) was finally hoppin' and I wanted to watch all the fun people dancing. But there was this guy forcing himself on me. So I told him I had to go. He looked sad and asked me for my number. Which I gave him. And then he gave me his. And asked me to call him tomorrow (today). And I said yes. What is wrong with me????
The problem is that I just don't want to be unnice. I want to be friendly and make friends and just have fun. So I don't want to rebuff anyone who's interested in hanging out with me. But come on! Do I have to slap him in the face to get him to understand that I'm not interested in anything more than hanging out and dancing with him???? I also can't imagine myself giving someone a fake number because I can't stand the thought of someone calling the number and realizing they were rejected so viciously. So now he has my number, and I'm probably going to have to deal with him again. I'll probably even call him later and tell him I'm not interested in anything more than being freinds. And then if he still doesn't get it, then I'm finally going to be rude, I think. I just don't know how to deal with these things!! I can't go to a club by myself. I need my wall of friends to protect me from scary predators. Because really, I think this guy thought I'd be an innocent, naive kid to seduce.
So I'm wide awake now, feeling slightly disgusted with myself. I might as well take a shower before crawling into bed so I don't smear my sheets with smokiness...
Anyone have any [advice] on how to deal with unwanted solicitations in a club?
>> 1:42 AM
Friday, February 01, 2002
>> 3:52 PM
>> 12:25 PM
>> 11:39 AM
So I'm trying to develop this symbiotic bond with my [Palm] digital assistant. (I was a little disconcerted to find out that they've discontinued the model I just bought less than a year ago.) I don't want to think of it as my dependence on this little gadget of pleasure. It's much more like we need each, right? Because the Palm is nothing without me! I'm thinking about my relationship to the Palm because I find myself resisting committing my schedule and appointments wholeheartedly to the thing. I'm still printing out e-mails of events I'm going to attend, still making notes to myself on pieces of paper about things to do. And I wonder if it's just part of the process of getting myself to rely on the Palm more insistently to keep track of all the things I'm doing. The format of the Palm as organizer is a little different from the week-at-a-glance datebooks I used to keep, and I'm finding it a little difficult to have a more holistic view of my week's engagements. I can really only see the details of things on a day-to-day basis. (There's a week and a month view of the calendar on the Palm, but you can only see blocks when you have appointments rather than the descriptions.) I guess I'm just going to have to learn how to flip through the "pages" of the daily engagements on a periodic basis. I'm just a little worried that I'll forget things because I almost forgot to pay my rent for February, partially because I thought I'd entered reminders in my Palm each month for paying rent by the first of the month, but apparently I didn't.
I went to the Judith Halberstam talk yesterday. The title was "What's that Smell? Theorizing Queer Subcultures." And it rocked my world. I've only heard or read about Halberstam's work on drag kings, so I didn't really have a sense of her theoretical orientation. But her talk was just everything I wanted to hear about doing academic work and thinking about archives. Although she was talking particularly about dyke punk bands and the cultures they constitute, her project was to make a case for the work of "academics" or intellectuals in relation to the cultural production of non-mainstream artists. It was wonderfully refreshing to listen to someone with such a nuanced account of the importance of documentation, archiving, and interpreting the stuff of expression and living. I liked what she said about theorizing archiving not necessarily as the preservation of material (though she is interested in how to save zines, lyric sheets, etc. for future generations) so much as the making important of often-fleeting cultural productions. So the work of the academic is to help disseminate information about and offer explanations (note the plural) of the importance of these cultural productions. Halberstam herself has documented the worlds of drag kings for years now, and she understands the tensions between documentation-as-appropriation as well as documentation-as-celebration. Her work, and the work of archiving she proposed in her talk, is to offer a concrete way to make these subcultures available, important, and dynamic for others (queers, especially). I'm excited that she's giving another talk/presentation today on her documentary film on drag kings!
And while she was talking yesterday, I couldn't help but think that weblogs, blogs, on-line journals, etc. do this sort of archival work. And I just love reading about the sorts of things that happen around and in the lives of [wonderful people].
I shouldn't be typing. My wrists hurt. :(
>> 9:52 AM
atom site feed
asian american writers' workshop
the new york times
jon carroll @ sfgate
the village voice
let bygones be...
the old stuff