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Saturday, January 06, 2001
 
No, I'm not ready yet.

Last night Joe and I hung out with Jerma and Beth. We had dinner and then sat around talking for hours. It was a lot of fun and some very interesting topics came up. Turns out Jerma is really intrigued by the idea of property, like I am. She talked a bit about a man (named Desoto) who wrote about how differently the US and other countries conceive of buildings as property to be valued and considered (or not) assets. Then we talked about how ownership and property as concepts are really very fascinating to think about. Intellectual property, copyrights, etc., of course, are the hot topic now -- but seldom with a truly critical look at what it means to own something at all. With music and writing, especially, there is really very little discussion about what it means to copyright the sounds of music, vibrations in space, or ideas that have no real material essence.

Joe and I are having dinner again tonight with these two friends. I'm sure we'll have a great time. We're supposed to bring wine, but neither of us really knows anything about wine. Oh well.

Welcome to my new home.
Zzz's time. I need to pick up an html-authoring program so I don't have to sit around fiddling with tags and numbers for hours trying to get things to work.
Friday, January 05, 2001
 
I can't believe I did it, but I did. I've sprung for a [domain name] and [host]. I'll probably migrate the stuff on these pages to that account once it's all set up. This way I can be more schizophrenic and develop an academic personality for this site and what I have now for the other. See you soon.
Overheard at The Mad Hatter's Bake Shop early this afternoon someone adovcating the removal of all auction-items from sale on the Internet (in response to [Yahoo!'s] recent agreement to remove items such as Nazi memorabilia from its auction site). His argument: that putting things up for sale on the web takes away the "work" involved in traditional ways of hunting down hard-to-find objects (sifting through stuff at flea markets, making phone calls to people who might know of things, etc.). Kind of interesting. I can see how one might lament the loss of happenstance in searching for things at places like flea markets (not that this man mentioned it). But to extol the element of hard-work in finding antiques, etc. as something to be cherished in and of itself? Strange.

I guess for this guy, the allure of collecting hard-to-find objects is exactly in the fact that they are hard to find. A slightly different take on the joys of acquisition. It's not the having that's fun. It's the tracking down of the to-be-had object that is fun. I wonder what this guy does with the stuff he collects once he's found them? Maybe he has a little book detailing the search history of each object. That would be kind of interesting to see...

Ah...hand-coding entries....

I wish I were a different person. This world is full of contradictions. It is full of double-think in that 1984 kind of way. But perhaps it is not all so negative. What is odd is that there are so many things we must juggle in our lives that force us to accept at one and the same time contradictory ideas. New Year's Resolutions are one such example. They embody this desire for change, for self-betterment (I love using made-up words). They are about bolstering one's self-esteem. And yet, they note exactly that there are things that one does not like about oneself, things that one wants to change. So, to love oneself as one is must exist along with wanting something better, something different.

It's no wonder resolutions are so hard to keep. The built in contradiction makes for easy self-sabotage. One can easily begin to feel worthless, with low self-esteem, because of the very goals that are supposed to make one a better person. It's a difficult task. And I don't believe that we can do without it, really. Otherwise, there'd be no impetus for changing habits that we dislike or that are detrimental to our well-being. Dilemmas, dilemmas...

Thursday, January 04, 2001
 
It confuses me that there are so many webloggers out there who lament a tower-of-babel-like crush of weblogs. The complaint seems to be that there are too many "frivolous" weblogs out there, filled with non-thought content. And this brings immediately to my mind the question, what exactly constitutes appropriate material for weblogs?

One weblogger even suggested (perhaps a bit comically) that there should be a certification process for weblogs -- weeding out the uninteresting material from the stuff that really matters. All of this sounds to me like the exclusionary anxieties of "established" webloggers who are angry at the influx of "newbies" into a cadre of the select, the early, the first. I suspect I am noticing a lot of these complaints on weblogs lately because of the huge increase in weblog production after mainstream publications' coverage of the self-publishing / web journalling phenomenon. The webloggers who were well into writing before these pieces hit the press are perhaps a bit peeved that an elite (as in known only to a select few) world they were a part of suddenly is a much larger world filled with strange, different newcomers.

This sense of being first, of therefore knowing what weblogging is really about, pits the older webloggers against the newer, those who came onto the bandwagon after it became well-known, popular. (I was a fan of such-and-such a singer, actor, writer, comedian, celebrity long before she became famous.)

I think it is entirely pretentious of anyone to assume that they know what weblogging (or writing, for that matter) is really about. Because, not to sound too much like a relativist-solipsist-whatever, there are as many realities to writing as there are writers. And I think the beauty of weblogging and the Internet is in the possibility of realizing those differences. As a weblogger, I don't feel constrained by established or institutional guidelines of what or how to write. (Still, I realize that I'm far from writing in a vacuum or entirely as I please.) I think it's wonderful that there are so many people out there creating their own weblogs. And whether or not their writings are relevant to my life, whether or not they are insightful, beautifully written, or "good," I really believe that they do something for the webloggers. Writing, after all, is more of a process than a product for consumption. While audience, readership, communication are all important aspects of the consciousness of writing, they all must ultimately be subordinate to that very consciousness of writing, the intention, the desire to express.

A day of sightings. I don't know why exactly I am so reluctant to greet acquaintances when I see them by chance in public. I suppose a large part of it is the fear of not being recognized, something that's happened to me on many-an-occasion in the past. In any case, today was odd in the fact that I saw numerous people I know in my short jaunt outside.

The first person I saw was this guy in my class this past semester. I saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was walking back to my car on campus. I didn't say anything. He didn't say anything, either. The second person was Patrick, but this was while driving. I'm pretty sure he was in his car just ahead of me. At that point, I called him at home and left him a message (I'd been meaning to call him anyways). The third person was Sean, someone I definitely do not know very well, but recognize (and should be recognized by). This was at the laundrymat. I actually paused for a second outside the laundrymat after spotting him inside, debating whether or not I should just turn around and go home. But then I went in anyways, loaded my clothes into the machines while trying not to look up and into his direction. Then, I went and sat outside in the warm sun to read. Lo and behold, a short while later, Sean came out and sat on the bench near me. Then he asked, "Excuse me, are you Paul?" So he did recognize me and bothered to approach. How nice. We had a pleasant conversation as our clothes spun away inside the laundrymat.

Given some of the positive experiences I've had in running into acquaintances in public, I'm not sure why I still dread so much these encounters. I know sometimes when I go out (especially while in NYC), I want to be lost in the crowd. I want to be an anonymous face, not to know anyone and not to be known by anyone. It gives me a sense of freedom -- I can be alone and unfettered by social expectations (what to say, what to ask about, etc.). But it still doesn't explain why I often change my path, cross the street, walk by a store I was about to enter, just to avoid someone...

Mmm....gingerbread....

I really don't want to get my day started. I just want to sit around the apartment all day like I did yesterday, watching tv, surfing the web, napping. (I did manage to get a haircut yesterday, though.) But no, I must go do laundry, make lunch, return library books, buy a poster, possibly drop my car off at the repair shop for maintenance work (and to fix that pesky loose plastic covering on the underside), and probably other stuff I'm trying hard not to remember I have to do. Ah well. Some days are just errand days.

Wednesday, January 03, 2001
 
It's fun to go through my music collection because it is really an archival document of the changes in my life. Starting from the time I first got into music, when I first got a cd player, beginning with classical piano music, through my tenure in musicals (Disney and otherwise), through an interest in some contemporary Christian (Mormon) music (I know, strange, but it was because of the homoerotic reading I had of the "he" sung to by male singers), through the grunge rock/"alternative" scene, through a techno-dance-pop crze, to folk rock, and finally to the teen pop that I am obsessed with these days, the music brings up associations with other things going on in my life when it was the background soundtrack of my thoughts.

More than just following the trends of popular music, my music collection flows into my consciousness and becomes a part of the ideas that I grapple with throughout the days. Some music I spent hours on end just listening to, lying prostrate on the ground or in bed. Other music was omnipresent in my drawing days, in my days of studying for biochemistry exams, during paper-writing anguish of finals, etc. To this day, there are some songs/albums that I cannot hear without viscerally being drawn back to a previous time. For example, a tape of introductory violin pieces (Suzuki method) conjures for me the excitement of riding in a car along snowy mountain roads because it was what my parents played one winter when we ascended the Sierra Nevada range on a skiing trip. Tori Amos's to venus and back, as another example, is the New York City subway system and the muted sounds of the city streets in a cold (though snowless) atmosphere. I used to listen to the album non-stop on my walkman as I went about the City. (And unfortunately, her album from the choirgirl hotel came out during finals one year in college, so every time I play that album, I imagine myself holed up in my tiny dorm room, trying desperately to write my papers at all hours of the night.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2001
 
So why am I so unnerved by typical Hollywood action flicks? I don't think it's really the violence or the spectacular explosive effects. There's something about the stories. (Yeah, and I know many people say action flicks are not about the stories, so why bother?) There's always a kind of gender-normative element to the stories. Even when there's a "strong" woman in the mix, she is inevitably wrestled down by a man, usually through sexual means. Even if it starts out as coercion, rape, the male hero wins over or conquers the feisty heroine-villainess with his seduction and sexual prowess. Action stars are always sex symbols.

And so while the theories of some radical feminists like Catherine McKinnon who place power and privilege in the phallus are seemingly absurd, it is not hard to see how these theories work within the context of the cultural production of action movies. Even when the men are good heroes, they always have unquestioned power over all women through virtue of their sex. The greatest blow to their power is when another man challenges his control over women by co-opting a lover, etc. I just don't understand why this idea is so dominant in popular entertainment.

I must read Through the Arc of the Rain Forest by [Karen Tei Yamashita]. I e-mailed Yamashita a month or two ago for some help with sourcing Chua's Gold by the Inch. She very kindly responded with some suggestions. I did not know who she was then nor what she had written. Then as I was reading up for that paper on Gold by the Inch, I kept coming across critical work done on Yamashita's novels. They seem like very interesting works.
New Year's Day spent at Leon and John's house playing [Scruples (Millenium Edition)] and watching [Whose Line Is It Anyway?]. Scruples wasn't as unscrupulous game as I thought it would be. I guess in some contexts it might be more tense -- but the social stakes amongst certain friends (such as John and Leon) just aren't very great. And the moral dilemmas posed in the questions weren't particularly stimulating to me. Still, it was a fun game to play. Some of the questions are just silly and funny, especially because they are supposed to point at moral dilemmas which just aren't very big dilemmas or even completely irrelevant within our group of friends.

We met up with friends of J&L for dinner. We'd met one half of the couple before -- Charles -- but not the talkative, full-of-energy Percy. If I were to hang out more with people like Percy, I might end up talking more in general, just because he does not let anyone lurk in the background of group conversations. Fun guy, though I might be exhausted by him if I were around him a lot.

Today: Watch [M:I-2]. Close old bank accounts. Have lunch with the baby on campus.

Monday, January 01, 2001
 
I must admit I am woefully unversed in the history and work of labor struggles. The efforts of graduate student groups to form unions as bargaining forces with universities is something that I need to learn more about, though. This [piece] on NYU and Yale reminds me of [GESO] at Yale (though the organization is not mentioned by name in the article). And though I don't understand the logistics of academic insitutional power, I cannot help but think that [student] [union] groups' concerns are reasonable and important to pursue.
Hmm...Don't know quite what to think about this brief [article] on the state of gay and lesbian civil rights in the US.

I guess I don't know if I agree with the driving assumption of Goldstein's view: that "sexual orientation has no implications whatsoever for character." (Nor do I agree with the concomitant reasonings that race and sex have nothing to do with character.) I think this is where he loses me a bit. I see the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights, like the struggle for racial equality in the Civil Rights Movement proper, as a movement dedicated to celebrating the very differences and implications of character around understandings of sexuality. This is not to say that there is any one defined way of being "gay," but that many of the characteristics associated with gayness in the public imagination are present in the entire population and need to be de-criminalized, de-pathologized, etc. For instance, the Boy Scouts' gripe with letting "avowed homosexuals" into their ranks is that gay men corrupt young boys, sodomizing them (at times) or making them fey at the very least. Their task, in other words, is in trying to homogenize gender identities, in making "masculine" their boys. And as such, I think attempting to combat their ideological work by claiming neutrality is fruitless. It may be messy. It may not be easy to admit. But the cultural wars over sexuality are exactly defined around the tense issues of race, gender, sexuality, sexual-object-choice and what they mean to our identities as humans.

Happy New Year, etc. etc.

There's nothing like being home, not living out of a suitcase, comfortable in a familiar space (small though it may be). DC was lovely, but cold. I hope I was of support, helpful, to Joe. We did end our stay there with a little tiff, though. I went to some panels at the [convention] itself. Mostly interesting. In one, an audience member raised a question (unanswered by the panelists) that has stuck in my mind. In essence, he raised the issue of the "readability" of works of literature as value. The context was the controversy over a particular novel that had been awarded a prize by an organization which then rescinded the prize because of political and social objections to representations of certain people in the novel. So, is a novel good because it is aesthetically beautiful, moving? Or is it good because it interrogates received notions of beauty and representation? I had read this novel, in fact, and did cry as I was reading it (I have leaky tear-ducts). But I do agree with its critics in decrying the awful racialization of certain people in powerfully antagonistic terms. And yet, it did move me to tears, its prose haunting and the voice of the child-narrator arousing an unbelievable sympathy. It was a fast read, an easy read. How do we compare such a work to that of other works that are difficult to read, to digest, to understand, but ultimately can change the way we see things at all?

Pointed out to me by B. Ron, a much more positive [article] on weblogs.

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