Friday, August 31, 2001

It was quite a surprise to me a few years ago when Joe told me he was afraid of flying. I'd never really thought that many people were actually afraid of flying. Maybe some older people -- those who lived through much of their lives before commercial air travel became commonplace. I was used to flying on planes because I went off to college on the other side of the continent from home. I never really gave flying much thought. It was a plane. It was in the air. It made loud engine and/or propeller noises. But afraid of it? Of falling out of the sky? Never. It seems that there are many people much more concerned about flying than I thought, though. ([Choire's] post is the spur for this rambling.) And now, I am beginning to pick up a fear of flying... a sort-of-undefinable feeling that something might go wrong on this flight...

I've always gone about life as if things are always going to come out OK. Not quite the optimist like Voltaire's Pangloss (?), but at least confident in the utter mundane-ness of my life, of uneventfulness -- and awful things, of course, are eventful. I haven't been wrong (yet). But as the years pass, I'm also less able to hold on to this kind of naivete, this feeling that things will always turn out for the best just because. Maybe it's because I've seen more of the awful things that do happen to people every day. And I've seen awful things happen to people I know directly.

One of the more disconcerting revelations, though, is the idea that there is no moral universe -- at least not one readily discernible. There is no poetic justice; nothing to say that "good" people come to happy ends, "bad" to unhappy and tragic. At times, I despair of this world that is so untidy, so unlike a storybook world. But at other times, I feel that there is much that is possible, that despite the unpredictability of life and tragedy, there are an infinite number of things we can do to make our world our own.

      >> 5:33 PM

It's nice to be in a computer classroom. My students are doing a workshop now, reading their radio show program proposals to each other. It's kind of strange when the groups don't finish at the same time, and that last person is still reading his proposal to his group in a silent classroom. I'll have to think about how to deal with that, maybe.

I'm glad this class session requires much less of me. I just had to walk through the commenting / workshop process with them once, and then they're pretty much on their own for the rest of class.

      >> 7:33 AM

Thursday, August 30, 2001

Where did I learn my instinct to step back from all situations and deliberate? Evening thoughts just tumbling through my head, events of the day and past week flashing by -- seemingly randomly (am I awake-dreaming?). A line from a book I'm reading, understanding an action or any something means forgiving it. Is that true? The elaborate ways we have developed excuses and explanations for things in order to deflect responsibility or at least defer accountability. But these excuses and explanations make sense, must count for something, right? Because taking them all away doesn't justify anything, doesn't leave us with a tabula rasa of social interaction. We don't act in a void or vacuum. Nor do we think in one. A similar debate raised in a class this week, the influence of genetics on characteristics and such that cultural studies has worked so hard to expose as being at least to some extent environmentally / situationally / culturally influenced.

      >> 8:59 PM

With song titles like "Hidden Place" and "Cocoon," softly angelic choirs, and muffled beats that clatter like Mom in the kitchen, it's a lot more appropriate soundtrack to drinking hot cocoa under the covers than hitting a dance floor. "It's about not speaking for days and daydreaming and it's snowing outside," Björk says over lunch on land in the Central Park Boathouse. "It's about zooming in and finding heaven underneath your kitchen table. Most people think that the life they lead is boring and the noises they hear every day are ugly. But if you take those same noises and make them into something magical and out of the ordinary, I think that's brave." -- from the October 2001 issue of Spin

How much do I love [Björk]?? I always did, but now that she talks about "not speaking for days" and conjures up that beautiful idea of heaven under the kitchen table, I am just that much more smitten by the music and personality of Björk. I love her imagination and the stunning visuals she creates in her media appearances and videos (this Spin article mentions the importance of the visual field in Björk's music). I wish I could explain my fascination with her more. But in lieu of adequate words of my own, I offer [this article] at [Salon.com].

      >> 8:28 PM

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Two things I really hate about other drivers (both experienced this evening as I drove to the library):

  1. when they insist on turning onto a road or turning across a lane of oncoming traffic (meaning me) just because there is a large vehicle -- a truck or bus -- blocking their view of said oncoming traffic (if you can't see it, it doesn't exist), and

  2. when they are in the wrong lane for a turn at an intersection and they still insist on getting over to the correct lane except the best they can do is block off at least two lanes of traffic so they can sit there waiting for the next round of green lights for the turn lane.

      >> 7:54 PM

What I should've done in class yesterday was bring up the questions I had about biography in literary studies. We had to read a biography of the Brontës for class, in addition to some of the juvenalia of Charlotte. Most people in class thought that biographical works on the Brontës relied too much on finding biograhical experiences that mapped in a one-to-one relationship to their fictional characters, events, and settings. I agreed with the general uneasiness about that kind of literary scholarship -- but then I was left wondering, what should literary biography do? I should have brought up this generic question in class, but I didn't. In some senses, I felt that the question would've been too common-sensical, something that everyone already was asking in their discussion. But really, I do think that explicitly naming things, asking questions, is the only way to get at the heart of problems of disciplinary knowledge.

So I wonder why I and many other people are interested in the lives of our favorite authors. What kind of information or understanding do we seek? Generally, it seems that we want to know how in the world someone could come up with the kinds of moving, well-drawn characters, situations, settings, and plots that we love. But does knowing about a person's external life necessarily mean I know about her interior life? And if not (as I and most people would argue), what is that relationship between the factual elements of a person's life and the creative world she imagines? I wish I were more articulate on-the-spot. Or maybe better prepared for class.

      >> 5:43 PM

I'm going to have a lot -- probably too much -- on my plate this semester. But I'm definitely one of those people who has a hard time letting go of certain possibilities. I have the opportunity to work as a research assistant (I know how messed up that sounds) for [M. Jacqui Alexander], and since her work fascinates me (even though I've not read a lot by her), I couldn't pass it up. I'm really going to have to learn how to make the best of my time and I won't have much free time for other things...

But sometimes distractions can't be helped. A friend of mine from college stopped by last night on her drive from Connecticut to Florida (more movement!). We had a nice dinner out and chatted a bit. Then I had to prepare for class, though, so she went off to sleep. And bright and early today, she left for Day 2 of her drive as I left for campus at 6:45 am. I really do miss having the kinds of friends I had in college -- even if I'm often amused at how close some of my college friends feel about our relationship (often they feel like we're really close -- almost best -- friends, but I think we're just good friends or acquaintences).

      >> 12:50 PM

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

[Björk's] new album, Vespertine, is out today! I'm going to get it on my way to school in a little while. Listening to the Sugarcubes now. I love the guy who talks in the group. Kinda in a sing-songy way, but not in any discernible melodic strain. I imagine myself, if ever I were to be in a rock band, to be this sort of band-player -- the one who makes dramatic monologues.

      >> 9:51 AM

Monday, August 27, 2001

From my friend milypan: [Prairie Farmers Reap Conservation's Rewards]. I don't like the duck hunting aspect of much wildlife/fowl conservation efforts, but at least the ducks have their wetlands! I'm confused about the state of agriculture, though. And admittedly, I really don't know much about the history of agriculture in the United States, but I was under the impression that there are often government subsidies to plow down crops instead of harvesting them in order to keep market prices at certain (higher) levels. So wouldn't restricting the amount of land used in the first place for planting row crops help to limit "supply"? Especially given this sentence from the article -- "Thanks to technological advances and the globalization of the food market, there is a glut of grain worldwide, and prices have remained flat at 1960 levels." -- it seems like even agribusiness would appreciate conservation subsidies...

      >> 8:33 PM

Blogspot seems to be a very slow host. Maybe having my students keep writing journals on-line wasn't such a great idea after all...

[Growing Audience Is Turning to Established News Media Online] I do watch the evening news on television, but otherwise I rely on on-line news sites. I want to find some different sites, but I, too, seem to gravitate towards providers who have come from off-line pasts in print or broadcast journalism.

      >> 9:54 AM

Sunday, August 26, 2001

Oh my god: [Aaliyah, Singer and Actress, Killed in Plane Crash]

In some ways, it's especially tragic that the other seven people killed in the crash and the seriously injured sole survivor seem to be mere side notes to the headline death of [Aaliyah]. But that's the thing about celebrity death: the closeness of the figure to a general public, the images and sounds that linger after death like a haunting. The albums will still be played; the movies still be screened; but Aaliyah is gone.

      >> 5:21 PM

Saturday, August 25, 2001

HURRAH! I'm done!! Took that infernal comphrensive / qualifying exam today. And I'm done! Can't say I knew as much as I should've, but I think I managed to squeeze by. Given what the faculty have been telling us (you'll all pass), I doubt I could've been such an embarrassment to the program with my generalizations that they would fail me. I think I at least demonstrated that I read many of the books on the list. Now to settle in to the semester, finally.

      >> 3:26 PM

Friday, August 24, 2001

[Asian Artists Make Porn Sites Work for Them]

Glad that people like [Greg Pak] and [Mimi Nguyen] are out there doing their things, making films, writing critiques. I wonder, though, how much their works change orientalist assumptions. Let me say first off that my doubts don't hinder my appreciation of the insightful work and criticism they do. In fact, I think most "persuasive" rhetoric is ultimately useless against entrenched opposition, but it can be instrumental in catalyzing the consciousness of those who haven't thought much about the issues addressed. And this article has given my thinking a new twist, making the explicitly confrontational work of Pak and [Big Bad Chinese Mama] in the realm of exotic porn, for example, a tactic for resistance and visibility. In other words, while the "angry perverts" might not change their libidinal urges, at least they will understand that Asian/American women and men are not quite always the passive, exotic playthings they fantasize about.

But my doubts about "changing" the way people see others, especially through that complicated "sense" we know as sexual attraction and its imbrications of power, submission, etc., is all part of my growing uncertainty about my effectiveness in the role of a teacher. True, I've only taught two class sessions to date, but throughout the many hours I spent designing lesson plans as well, I've constantly asked myself how I might impart information, skills, ideas. Communicating information, plain facts, seems a simple enough endeavor. State it in bold point. But skills, how do I teach the skills involved in effective writing? The theoretical basis of the [Writing Program] is rooted in an understanding of doing as the means to learning these skills. But obviously, simply letting students write constantly is no guarantee of their learning how to construct their arguments, to put together words in sentences that move, point, explain, convince. And I just feel at a loss how to do all of this.

I guess I'm just overwhelmed with the responsibility that's been invested in me with this course. I should realize that I'm not alone, that I have many resources upon which I can draw for ideas, help, and advice. I should also realize that even if my students don't "get" everything I want them to learn, at least they'll have written much, been asked to think explicitly about the writing process, and been shown various ways to improve their writing through practice.

I need to stop making excuses and start doing.

      >> 5:30 PM

Thursday, August 23, 2001

Blog anniversary musings

Ok, so I'm about a month and a half or so shy of the actual first anniversary of my blog, but [Blogger is 2!] and I'm eating this delicious rum cake (made with a whole bottle of rum!) a friend of ours gave us last night, so I'm in a birthday celebration kinda mood. Mmm... rum...

It just struck me, because I'm slow, that this on-line writing thing is exactly what I needed because it maintains the perfect balance between me and my "reader." I've always been a huge letter-writer, but my pen pals are never quite as into the diary-like stuff I want to write about (or at least, that's what I think). I've always had a need to write my thoughts down, too, but personal diaries only brought out the worst in me, the kind of stuff I really didn't want to think about and that needed to be addressed in other forums anyways. What I need is an audience. Or at least the shadow of an audience, the possibility of one. Keeping a private journal means the only audience for your writing is yourself. And that's just not enough people for me! I don't have delusions of grandeur or even aspirations of fame in keeping this blog. But knowing that people can (and do) stop by, both by accident and by design, really gives me the incentive to work through these fabulous things called words, sentences, and ideas. Language and communication, after all, exists between people, not just with the writer.

      >> 11:39 AM

I'm deathly ashamed of my legs and won't wear shorts in public. Or at least, I haven't in the past (since adolescence). I'm not going to describe why I hate my legs because it's too much for me to think about. I used to write cryptic poems about the relentless onslaught of anger, hate, shame, and other negative feelings I associated with my legs.

It's crazy, but I was able to survive by avoiding being outside during hot summer days. I've never been much of an active, sport-playing person, so I was doing nothing new avoiding playing sports with people in shorts. Since I've been with Joe, I've begun to make a little improvement towards accepting my legs as something not to be ashamed of. A little. (The first night I spent over at his place, I was reluctant to change out of my jeans to go to bed. I almost left. But then Joe offered me a pair of his sweatpants to wear, and I gladly retreated to the bathroom to change.) I've been able to expose my legs to the light of day! They have become this really scary pale-translucent color.

I've gone out jogging a few times in shorts. Of course, I stick to the small neighborhood roads rather than run on the busy streets. Of late this summer, I've even gone to the laundromat a couple of times (including today) in shorts. And though I feel that people stare at me / my legs as atrocities of existence, I haven't broken down in panic or anything. It helps that these situations involve strangers, so I'm not talking to anyone or even seen by anyone who knows me. And of course, no one points and laughs or mocks me or even makes any comment about me.

I'm taking the next step. I'm going to walk to [Duke] in shorts in a little bit. I'll even go into the library, maybe. But then I'll change into pants before I get on the [bus] to go to [UNC] for my seminar this afternoon because there might be people who recognize me. Aren't I pitiful? (And let's not even go into other aspects of public nudity, like *gasp* going around shirtless. I obviously never go to the beach.)

      >> 11:09 AM

Dying is easy it's living that scares me to death . . .

Just checking my registration/cashier's bill on-line. Such a long list of fees and charges! All the charges and credits, often repeated, subtracted, counterbalancing each other, yet leaving small discrepancies. It's a wonder they can even keep track of how much they've charged me, for what, and how much I've paid. It looks like I'm still carrying the full balance of my tuition for this semester, oddly. The tuition remission I'm supposed to get and small tuition grants don't seem to have come in yet. At least they haven't put a freeze on my registration.

I have nothing interesting to write.

      >> 8:30 AM

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

I decided not to keep a separate teaching journal. While it would be more portable or accessible or something, I know this teaching thing is going to bleed into the whole of my life at least for the next few weeks. So, I might as well just put my thoughts about teaching into my general-use journal. I am still keeping notes on what works in class, what doesn't -- notations for my slowly developing lesson plans.

Such a strange feeling to be bombarded with work again now that the semester has started. So much to read, so many things to think about. I probably won't be able to follow all the [blogs] I've been reading lately. I'll miss you!

Thanks to all my dear friends for the happy wishes about teaching, by the way!

I had a nice talk with my sister this evening about dealing with anxieties. She mentioned a book by Edmund Bourn called The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook that might be helpful for me to skim. It offers some concrete exercises and such to accustom oneself to anxiety-inducing situations. Our talk revolved much around our (all us four siblings, really) various levels of difficulty dealing with criticism. We think it's because our parents were always very critical of us and everything we did. Even though we understand why they were (they wanted us always to work harder), it doesn't take away that feeling that we can't do anything right.

(Ooo! One of my students just sent me an e-mail to tell me she has created her [blogger] writing journal.)

      >> 10:43 PM

I was on the verge of a panic attack this morning. But I managed to get through the class. I thought that I had planned too much to cover in the fifty-minute class period, but it ended up taking up just the right amount of time because some things I thought would take a long time ended up taking just a few minutes. My students were not so talkative. They stared at me expectantly the whole time. It was very disconcerting. I feel much better now, but I don't know if Friday morning will be any better than this morning. So much planning to do for this class. So much work . . .

      >> 9:10 AM

Monday, August 20, 2001

Last day of summer break, as much of a break as it wasn't. On campus trying to recover. Proctored a first-year composition placement exam this morning, followed by new graduate student orientation, library instruction tutorial, and doing the inter-institutional registration thing so I can take a [very promising class] at [Duke]. At least the weather has calmed down to mellow sogginess so I can make my way back and forth between buildings without collapsing.

I'm excited that classes are starting again, but increasinly dismayed that I will have to get up in front of the class to teach in two days. I agreed to proctor the placement exam this morning partially because I thought it would be a relatively painless way to be at the head of the class. But of course, I didn't end up doing any talking -- my fellow proctor read the instructions to the exam takers, doing all the verbal part of the work. I ended up just passing out exams and blank paper; then I collected them. A complete failure, as far as these self-imposed experiments at speaking in social situations goes. And I know it's really not a big deal, but I can't get past this wall of fear, of feeling my thoughts fly out of my mind, leaving me with a blank look on my face as thirty pairs of expectant (and in my mind, hyper-critical) eyes look on.

I know that relying on drugs to restore / alter "chemical balances" in the mind are not necessarily the best way to go about dealing with neuroses and socio-pathologies. But I wish sometimes that I were on [Paxil], that seemingly-wonder-drug to cure people of their anxieties about social situations. There are always people who think that social anxiety disorder and the like are "fake" anxieties, things that one can just make go away by DOING what is feared (being in social situations, talking to people, etc.). But that's not enough. In the past year, I have continually tried putting myself into these situations that I have always avoided in the past. And while it is true that I have therefore been out more than ever, I still always fear the situations, feel incredibly self-conscious while I'm there, and always have to retreat to a solitary place (like now -- I'm hiding in my office, alone) to ease my nerves.

      >> 2:52 PM

Saturday, August 18, 2001

The world's gone topsy-turvy again and I can't concentrate on studying. There's a party tonight at an acquaintance's house. I don't know if I should go, knowing I might not know many people there, and also knowing I am in a particularly anti-social, yet needy, mood. If only I had really cool, close friends around that I could just drop in on, curl up on their couches, and veg in front of the television, but not alone. I don't really want to talk about it, but I can't be alone.

And not to be overly vague about the whole thing, but why is sadness so insistently repetitive? The thoughts that come over and over, conscious banishment only succeeding in staving off momentarily the heart-clutching, breath-robbing feelings of erasure. It feels like only by tremendous effort can I keep my self extant, my consciousness aware, my body alive.

      >> 7:26 PM

Torture requires always enthusiasm.

      >> 10:07 AM

Friday, August 17, 2001

Go me! I just fixed the coding problem for this page for Netscape 4. The background image wasn't showing up and the CSS script was showing up at the top of the page. (Thanks to [Moosey] for pointing it out and therefore getting me off my lazy ass to fix it.)

Signed up today for the class I'll be teaching. It was a bit stressful, a blotched lottery. But in the end, everything worked out. I'll be teaching MWF 8:00-8:50, just as I wanted! Now to go work more on what I'll actually be teaching . . .

      >> 4:39 PM

I started at the man in the mirror today. Yesterday I decided the facial hair was going. It was unkempt and I had no desire to look like or be similar to a certain someone I despise in the department. So I shaved this morning. I hardly recognize myself anymore. I guess it really did make a difference in my appearance.

      >> 6:31 AM

Thursday, August 16, 2001

(Look how bored I am, resorting to relating mundane details of my uneventful life.)

This afternoon, the man who walked into the mostly empty laundromat talking to himself looked familiar. He set up his belongings at one of the washing machines, fussing out loud as he pulled out his clothes from a small bag. After the clothes were safely packed into the washer, he asked a woman folding her clothes (unsuccessful) and then the people at the dry cleaning counter next door (successful) for some change. Change in hand, he made battle with the vending machine for cleaning supplies. I heard, as I sat across the room trying to concentrate on the article I was reading, the heavy coin slot clunk in and out, dispensing a product. Some more fussing, and then the man appeared at my side.

"Excuse me, sir," he said. And then he explained that he had gotten the wrong product (in his hand he held a single-use box of fabric softener), asking if I had any detergent to spare. But I only bring to the laundromat enough to pour into the week's wash, so I said no.

A little later, the washing machine satisfied somehow, the man wandered back over to where I was reading. He sat down a seat away from me and asked me where I am from. Long since frustrated by the "perpetual foreigner" mentality of such questions, I answered, "I'm from Durham." He chuckled, and despite my noncommital response, persisted awhile longer. He asked how I could read such small print (the words are too small, really). And then he said he knew me -- pausing for a response. It was then I recognized him as the man who asked me for a dollar last week out on Ninth Street. He smiled in return recognition.

In a serious, almost self-important voice, he explained, "I'm a panhandler. I ask people for money on Ninth Street and they give me money and sometimes food." I nodded before returning to my reading, only after he walked away did the way he said, "I'm a panhandler," strike me as odd. It was a way of defining his existence, and he readily accepted it. There was no guilt about being out of a job, of being homeless, of being down-on-his-luck. Instead, he simply was a panhandler. I wonder how he came to be a panhandler, how he came to accept that term as his own, his self.

As I was pulling my dried clothes out of the dryer half an hour later, the man walked by me again, smiling, saying he was off to Ninth Street to ask for money and food. He rubbed his tummy; he was hungry.

      >> 2:19 PM

I need more on-line friends. None of my other so-called friends e-mail me much. Or maybe I need to get up out of this chair and do something other than stare at the web.

      >> 8:21 AM

Dreams can be so beautiful and intriguing. But they can also be awful and paralyzing. The last few days, I've been beset by a whole host of unsettling dreams, none of which I can remember to recount now, except to mention that what was unsettling wasn't so much actions or occurrences, but a pervasive tone of anger, bad intent, frustration.

[Posts] about dreams usually resonate with me in some way, familiar in some details or mood. Way back in the early eighties, I used to dream I could become a crow (oh my god -- isn't that an incredibly loaded symbol?, I never thought about it). My brother and I used to walk home from our elementary school. We had to go up this big hill and around the corner because the shortcut up the side of the hill was always blocked by these older boys who would throw stones at us and call us names. I used to dream that upon leaving the school, I would turn into a crow (werecrow!), fly up into the sky, look down at the hill that would exhaust me so much every day, see the menacing boys (probably in middle school, but they seemed immeasurably bigger back then) as small figures against the dried-out grass on the hill. The hill afforded a beautiful view of the Bay as well, and I would hang in the air contemplating the beauty of water meeting sky meeting mountains, all studded by the mark of human civilization. And then I would swoop back down to my home. The end.

      >> 8:09 AM

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

For some reason, I've been craving chicken pot pie a lot lately.

Was on campus for a few hours this afternoon and I saw a whole gaggle of fellow students. I guess everybody's back now. Classes start next week. The cycle begins anew.

Genius in one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. How much I wish that were true. I've got the perspiration part down pat, at least.

      >> 3:11 PM

Updated my [projects] page on my school web page. I'm certainly taking on too much for the semester, but I'm a sucker for over-stimulation...

      >> 9:07 AM

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

I just finished re-reading Tennessee Williams's [A Streetcar Named Desire] for my written exams. Now I want to remember what I wrote about seven years ago when I did a term paper on Tennessee Williams's plays. I have absolutely no recollection of what I could've written ten pages about (and in high school that was a seemingly insurmountable length). An English teacher with whom I was doing some extracurricular reading recommended I tackle Tennessee Williams's life and work. I knew nothing about him. I was quite surprised to encounter the insistent subtext of homosexuality and gender confusion in most of his plays. I don't know if I was able to write about those subjects explicitly. I doubt it, since I don't think I was able to formulate in words any ideas about what it means to be gay, what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a man... It's been quite a ride, really, since then, and a gradual sketching out, calling out, and naming of all these ideas about sexuality and gender and identity.

      >> 2:11 PM

They're [not] really penguins. It's the doubtful guest! One of my favorite little stories. I often imagine myself to be this doubtful guest, an enigmatic character that just wanders into people's lives (and home), carrying on as if he belongs, yet not really ever engaging the other people in any understandable way. Strange is the best way to describe it. Hee hee...

      >> 10:27 AM

Using a nasal spray for my allergies makes me feel like I snort something more dangerous. I guess I've just been acculturated to think of inhaling chemicals as something inherently bad. Plus, the medicine smells funny (like a stale floral scent) and lingers in my nose and throat for hours. But I guess the medicine's been keeping my congestion headaches, runny and sneezy nose, and other allergy malaise at bay. And for that I'm grateful.

. . .

I'm really torn. I don't want to have my moustache and chin beard, but I don't want to shave, either. I want to be able to rub my face against Joe's shoulders at night, to feel his skin against my face. But I also want to try out this look, this persona, of the "grizzled scribe." I was talking to a college friend a couple of nights ago on the phone, explaining to her my half-formed plan to return to classes next week as a "different" person. I want to use my new look (more hair) as a crutch to catapult myself into a new persona, to be louder, more vocal, more social. Ha ha ha. And I cling to this new persona as a way for me to deal with my fear of teaching, of being at the front of the classroom, an authority figure. But will it really help? Because I've realized over the past week that my greatest fear about teaching isn't that I won't be respected as the teacher, but that I have nothing worth teaching. Or perhaps worse, that I will never be able to convey my thoughts, communicate the lessons I plan. How do people learn? I have no idea. I don't know how I even learn. But somehow, that's something I have to demystify if I am going to become a self-aware teacher (inside or outside the classroom). Of course, I just want to bury myself into books on pedagogical theory. How like me, to think that answers are always (and only?) available in books.

The larger issue, though, is really what kind of knowledge I/we are trying to produce, reproduce, translate, etc. I mean, if I were teaching an introduction to biology course, I think I would feel more comfortable with the kind of knowledge I'm supposed to pass on. The disciplinary domain of the basic sciences makes sense to me in that way -- there are things to learn, facts to memorize, theoretical structures to acclimate students to... But in writing and English? Much of what we all do, of what I know about writing, seems (I don't really want to say "instinctual" because I think it must be learned) unelaborated.

(Sort-of-digression-as-means-of-conclusion: Last night I saw Big Eden. It was a very utopian film of a gay man returning to his childhood home of Big Eden from New York City where he has been for the last eighteen years. This Big Eden, as the blurb in the papers describes it, is a "mythical place where racism or homophobia doesn't exist." But even though everyone is extremely loving, caring, and accepting, there is this strange silence about homosexuality. There is a visible lesbian couple in the film and at a party thrown for the main character, a whole gaggle of gay men. The townspeople all seem to encourage the emerging gay love story and the men, but noticeably absent was any mention of the word "gay" or "homosexual" by the these wonderful people. There is this huge tension that builds exactly because no one is able to come out and say explicitly what he feels or thinks. Coupled with this silence is still a general assumption of heterosexuality, even if it isn't "compulsory" or ultimately demanded of any one person. As Joe talked about it with me afterwards, there is in effect no discourse about homosexuality in the film, even as it is exactly about homosexual love.)

      >> 10:00 AM

Monday, August 13, 2001

My roommate when I lived in Brooklyn sent me this article today: [Slave Traders in Yale's Past Fuel Debate on Restitution]. It really is remarkably hypocritical how many institutions like Yale claim to be historically-staunch abolitionists when they continue to honor and support men who fought and argued vehemently for maintaining slavery. And it's not even a question of being "politically correct," as many people do and will claim in response to the work of the scholars of ["Yale, Slavery and Abolition"]. Rather, it is simply disingenous and ultimately complicitous (in the reasoning behind slavery) for these institutions to extol men who defended slavery without acknowledging that important fact and then to claim to be always abolitionist.

      >> 3:49 PM

Well, the film festival is all over. How sad.

[The Adventures of Felix] was definitely my favorite movie of the nine I've seen. (I'm seeing a tenth this evening at the "after fest" screenings.) This film was just a happy, enjoyable film, but one not at all sappy and sentimental or trite and overdone. The film portrays Felix and all the other characters subtly, giving them particular characteristics (gay, HIV-positive, unemployed, of Arab descent, etc.) without resorting to pointing out these features as features of the characters. Instead, the story unfolded smoothly, allowing audience members to take in the scene and events at their own pace.

The best thing about the film was how happy it was. In a happy / content sort of way. Sure, Felix is on a journey, a quest of some sort, but even the knowledge that he is "missing" something, in search of something, doesn't get in the way of his utter enjoyment of being alive, of experiencing people and things as they come along. Felix spends most of the film walking / hitchhiking from northern to southern France. The people he meets are very engaging, and despite his witnessing of criminal activity early in the film and a violent driver later, Felix seems to draw out the kindness and goodness of people. There is nothing in the film that would suggest a general climate of distrust, of "me against the world" thinking.

      >> 8:11 AM

Saturday, August 11, 2001

I was just attacked by Joe with lotion. I was making my lunch (monterey jack cheese on rolls) when all of a sudden he started moisturizing the backs of my legs. Umm... I guess they're the last part of me still peeling from the sun burn.

The [NCGLFF] has been enjoyable so far. We went to four screenings yesterday. The most amazing part of the whole thing is how many people show up in the evening. I mean, where are all these people other times of the year? I swear, I recognize maybe one or two people, and that's it. Joe says a lot of people probably come from other parts of the state. Maybe, maybe...

      >> 12:57 PM

Friday, August 10, 2001

[Aha!] The transcript.

      >> 8:37 AM

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't blog this: [Bush Backs Federal Funding for Some Stem Cell Research]?

Whee hoo, a quote: "What he is talking about is using cell lines with embryos that have already been killed. We grieve the loss of those embryos, but the truth is they are gone, and we can't change that."

I guess I don't have much to say about the actual decision or what stem cell research offers since I don't know (like most reporters seem to acknowledge as a common limitation) what impact Bush's decision will actually have on such research. I still think, regardless, that it's a crying shame people "grieve the loss of those embryos" instead of grieving the loss of humanity in struggles over the definition of when life begins. But, what I noted was how Bush invoked the holy name of Ronald Reagan with Nancy Reagan's direct plea for funding stem cell research in the hopes of finding a cure for Ronnie's illness (Parkinson's?). And I started thinking again about the question of how we determine whose pleas and voices deserve our attention. Now I'm sure Mrs. Reagan is a close friend of W and the Bush family, but isn't that exactly the way conservative elites like the Bushes operate that is problematic? I mean, considering and valuing only the opinions of people you know and grew up with, no matter how worldly you may be, must always exclude the opinions and values of countless other people. In the case of people like Bush, of course, those excluded people tend to be people of color, queer folk, feminists, etc. And the only people served are those already privileged, already living in the realms of the anything-possible. Sigh...

I also kept thinking, as I sat around doing nothing about it, that I should be taping the broadcast for my class this fall. Since the second unit of the composition course is centered on "public issues" and oral communication, culminating in a non-scripted speech by students, I think this speech would do just fine as an example of what politicians do when they give speeches. In any case, I'm going to look for a full video version of the speech on the web or at the least a full text of it.


      >> 7:41 AM

Hurrah for the [NCGLFF]!! Joe and I just saw Webcam Boys. It really presented some engaging personalities and varying reasons for being on camera 24/7. Some of the boys' stories were very sad. In any case, in about an hour, the video film really gave me a sense of how involving online chats, webcams, and communities can be.

      >> 12:18 AM

Thursday, August 09, 2001

*GASP!* Oh my god, I almost died out there! I went outside to renew some books at the library (renewed too many times on-line already... grr...) and I swear I was about to collapse walking the five minutes between my car and the building. My throat felt like it was closing up and I couldn't breathe very easily. I guess the people on tv (and on the [web]) don't kid around when they talk about heat advisories and ozone alerts. Thank god for air conditioning.

I guess I'm not fit for this Southern climate. Give my Northern California weather any day. Who cares if there aren't any "seasons"? Seasons are SOOOO overrated, especially these damned summers.

      >> 2:55 PM

Sometimes I feel like [Wade], the scaredy duck.

      >> 11:58 AM

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Oh my. [(the daily) dean's] posted letter reminds me of the letters I wrote when I was desperately closeted and when I finally had to tell someone about the secret. I still have somewhere in my piles of papers a sealed envelope containing the first letter I wrote to my parents disclosing the awful fact of my gayness. I remember trying to imagine their responses, trying to comfort them, trying to make sure they didn't blame themselves for how I turned out. I remember writing at the end of the letter the contact information for some local [PFLAG] groups. Why I did I'm not really sure why because I know that the last thing my parents would do is go talk to others about their gay son.

I don't think I'll be opening that envelope anytime soon. I ended up coming out to my parents over the phone a few years after I wrote that letter. It was cowardly of me, but I couldn't face them in person. I had to do it from all the way across the country, far away from any fall-out. I still regret how I handled the whole situation, but out the knowledge had to come, and it did.

Funny how I've come out to almost everyone I know by word-of-mouth, over the phone or in person. Never really in writing. The only two exceptions were two on-line friends I made. For about two years, they kept me sane as outlets for expressing my desires. I came out to a real live person in the beginning of my sophomore year in college. I came out to my best friend in college, still the most unique, trusting, envigorating, and life-loving person I have ever met. She sort of forced it out of me, a confession to explain my lack of response to the developing "us." While we had fast become close friends, I had never responded to, or indeed recognized, romantic possibility. In an effort to understand why, she confronted me upon our return to college that fall, sure that I was romantically attached elsewhere already . . . and though it was not easy, I told her that was not exactly the case, that in fact I was scared and lonely. After our talk, I wrote her a letter, apologizing for any pain I had caused her, explaining more about my confused feelings, and hoping that our friendship would continue. She later burned the letter and flushed the ashes down the toilet, pyromaniac as always.

      >> 5:53 PM

I'm melting! I'm melting!!!

      >> 5:28 PM

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Life's a disappointment. I spent an hour and a half making snickerdoodles, only realizing as the first batch came out of the oven that I hate snickerdoodles and they're totally not what I thought I was making.

      >> 5:21 PM

It's ten o'clock. Do you know where your children are?

I give up on being a cheerful, happy person. It doesn't do me any good. I can't infect anyone with my enthusiasm or my giddy appreciation of life. So I'm going to stop. And be my usual monotoned, apathetic self.

      >> 9:10 AM

Monday, August 06, 2001

I wish I had taken better care of my eyes, especially in the past year. This summer has been awful. Eye strain has kept me from working as consistently on the [department web site] as I would've liked (I take long breaks from working on it to rest my eyes) and has definitely kept me from reading as much as I should've for exams and thesis. I'm trying to sit far back away from my computer screen now, but since I use a laptop, I can only sit as far away as my short arms allow. I can already feel my eyeballs screaming out in pain, and I've only just turned on my computer to check my e-mail . . .

      >> 5:21 PM

Who'd've thought that [Port Charles] has vampires and other supernaturals? I think I've found a soap opera to watch.

      >> 1:14 PM

Sunday, August 05, 2001

Joe acts silly sometimes and it's so cute. This morning, he "acted out" some cheesy love songs I was listening to ("You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Time After Time"). And he was bopping around to [Ozomatli] music a little later in his swivelling seat.

Cooking really is such an art. I love experimenting with foodstuffs and trying to make palatable meals without recipes, but sometimes things just don't work out right. I tried making crispy crunchy chuletas de cerdo yesterday, but they came out soggy instead. Boo. I need much more practice and working knowledge of various cooking methods and what different ingredients do to flavor, texture, cohesion, etc.

My skin is still flaking off in little white flurries. Disconcerting to see so much of me left behind when I get out of bed . . .

      >> 2:06 PM

Saturday, August 04, 2001

Seems like my mustache and chin hair really do change my appearance. Over the last week or so, a handful of people have said they didn't recognize me at first. Anyways, met a drag queen last night. Had dinner at a friend of Joe's place. Ate Goodberry's frozen custard concrete thing (it's apparently the local hangout place for people in the Town of Cary).

Off to the Mad Hatter's Bake Shop for brunch . . .

      >> 10:39 AM

Friday, August 03, 2001

Woke up with a headache.

Someone who works at the [library] asked me today if I am going for the "grizzled scribe look." Hmm... No. More like the, "too lazy to shave look." But whatever.

I'm finally starting in on studying for my comps (comprehensive master's written exams). Made a bunch of photocopies of articles and checked out copies of two plays on the reading list. Too bad my eyes hurt too much to read.

      >> 3:06 PM

Thursday, August 02, 2001

YAY! Only my friend Fuzzy would send me guava cheese through the USPS. I went out to the mailbox this afternoon expecting only the usual array of bills and junk mail. But much to my surprise, a hefty but compact package lay in the warm confines of the mailbox. Inside the package, I found that yummy, sweet stuff made of guava pulp and sugar. Mmmm...

      >> 3:57 PM

[News] worth noting. As fraught with ambivalence as I am about the institution of marriage as an indicator of liberation, I still think it is better for states to allow same-sex marriage than to outlaw it.

And now doesn't seem to be a good time to be an older writer: [Science Fiction Master Poul Anderson Dies at 74]. And he lived in Orinda, where my parents live. I remember I used to think he had such a cool name because it was like mine, but different, you know. I don't think I've actually read anything by him.

      >> 2:54 PM

Very sad to hear that [Mariah Carey] is not feeling well and has checked in to a hospital for psychiatric care. I'll refrain from commenting too much or lamenting the general too-cool attitude of many people in regards to Mariah and other pop stars. Suffice it to say, I believe very much in the person-hood of these people and wish I could protect them from all the maledictions and snotty holier-than-thou comments directed at them. (It's one thing to be critical or unappreciative of certain types of music; it's another to construct the singer or purveyor of such music as the scum of the earth.)

      >> 10:10 AM

12:48 am

I need to go to bed. But Blogger is MIA and not available for insignificant posting (yet necessary to quiet my brain for sleep).

The August 2001 issue of [Out] has Alyson Hannigan on the cover. Also features an interview with [Bea Arthur], a celebrity Joe and I spotted in NYC on our last trip there (she was making her way slowly across the dining room at a restaurant uptown).

I'm starting to get itchy all over. I'm guessing it's mostly due to the fact I stopped taking my allergy medication. But it could be the shrimp I ate at dinner (I'm allergic to shellfish). Or it could be that I've been reading some public library books this evening (for some reason, they always seem to have a particular smell and griminess to them -- maybe they house dust mites or something).

Ok, I really to bed should go. Randomly visiting sites in [BoyLOGs] is fun and all, but my eyes are starting to hurt. I should quit anyways especially when it appears I'm running out of new sites to visit.

      >> 8:46 AM

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

[I] hardly recognize [myself] in photos. I wonder if that's common.

      >> 4:44 PM

I live across the street from a cemetery. Usually, I don't notice it. No loud music. No drunken neighbors stumbling around on the street at all hours of the night. But this afternoon as I left my apartment for the laundrymat, I encountered a long line of cars turning into the cemetery. It was a slow, stately procession of mourners. That lasted for five minutes. With police escort. And when that line of cars finally ended and I made it up the street a bit, another line of cars proceeded slowly towards me, headlights all on. I wonder who died...

I also live on the wrong side of the train tracks. After I made it past the funeral procession, I was stopped by the flashing red lights of the train tracks crossing. I watched the long train pass by slowly. And stately.

      >> 2:27 PM

People tell me I look like what I am not. I'm endlessly fascinated by perceptions, self-perceptions, and actions. I was at a little birthday gathering last night, and the people there told me I look like an "urban hipster," that I seem cool and aloof. But I'm not! I have this urgent need to be liked by everyone, and being aloof and distant is the last thing on my mind. I want everyone to love me, to be my friend, to covet my company. It's strange that people profess to like me, to want me around, but I always just lurk in the background, at the edges of groups, rarely talking to people. What can they possibly see that makes them like me? I suppose in my silence / reticence I seem unassuming and non-antagonistic (something that can't be said for some people in the English graduate program here).

Another person noted that I smile too much to be an aloof hipster. And that's true -- I have this automatic reflex to smile and laugh in social situations as a way of compensating for my not knowing how to talk to people. I also have this incredibly annoying nervous habit of sweating when I feel eyes on me. It's one of those things triggered by noticing that someone is looking at me (in a conversation, for example). Then I heat up and start sweating, and I become more awkward and usually cut off the conversation so I can get away. It happened last night with this one woman I have always thought despised me (okay, maybe not that strong of a dislike). So now she's never going to want to talk to me even more after I sort of just trailed off our conversation and stopped responding to her (I became ultra-obsessed with the fact that my face felt red-hot and that my hairline was beginning to leak).

I need to get over my anxiety and nervousness of talking to people.

Uh oh... starting to sneeze...

      >> 8:50 AM