Tuesday, April 30, 2002

First attempted posting, 2:30 am.

Whee. Just spent four hours in [Perkins Library] skimming four years' worth of The Colored American Magazine. It's been awhile since I've been diligent about doing work in the library, looking through books and taking notes. I've gotten accustomed to checking books out by the armload and carrying everything back to my apartment instead. Of course, the problem is that I still have to read the books and take notes, only I have far less resolve to stay focused in my apartment than in the library.

Went to a talk earlier yesterday by Arturo Aldama who teaches in the [Chicana & Chicano Studies] program at Arizona State University. The title of his talk was something like "Mestizaje, Borders, and Decolonization in the Global Age." It was a perfectly good talk laying out the contours of colonial history while discussing the racing and manipulation of indigenous populations in the Americas. Aldama also provided some helpful readings of chicana/o theorists of decolonization like Gloria Anzaldua. However, he didn't really do much with a question he raised at the beginning of his talk by framing his rehearsal of the colonization of the Americas with a brief discussion of the neo-colonialism of globalization and transnational capitalist formations. He did suggest that he was interested in hearing what the audience might have to say about the use of theories of decolonization based on the history of indigenous peoples for dealing with the new strategies of colonization deployed in transnational practices. But when I asked him to elaborate in the Q&A, he seemed simply to skirt the question, opting instead to provide more information about globalization's structures of neo-colonialism. And while such diagnostic work is important, I wanted him to make the connection he implies in the framing of his talk -- how can we take the anti-patriarchal, anti-homophobic, anti-misogynistic work of someone like Anzaldua who has specifically theorized a decolonizing subjectivity from the bodies of oppressed women and apply it to an era of global capitalism, cybertechnology, and the seeming effacement of the very body itself? I guess he suggested the answer by returning to the material realities of maquiladoras and the bodies of the women who work over twelve hours a day, six days a week in these factories. By exposing the pressing reality of exploited bodies in the face of globalization's disembodiment, maybe Aldama is saying the strategies of neo-colonialism still have the same effects on the bodies of the oppressed, and hence the old strategies of decolonization are still valid.

Afterwards, I talked to Aldama and tried to get him to talk more about the connection between digital culture, borderlands, and colonization as he had suggested at the beginning of his talk. He wanted to talk about the "digital divide" as a problem with Native Americans. But more than that, I asked him if he was suggesting that there is a particular space of resistance in the digital world. And he did helpfully refer me to the work of some latina/o digital artists. One collective he mentioned is [Los Cybrids]. Here's a quote from their manifesto:
Los Cybrids read "cyberspace" as a cultural artifact and archetype for access/desire, body/space, culture/globalization, and surveillance/ freedom. We resist the idea that cyberspace provides a “level playing field” on which cultural difference is immaterial. Underlying notions of cyberspace include the idea that all people can or should gain access to “white male middle-class culture.” The promoters of the “Digital Divide” feed into this inequity by creating an imperative for ‘marginalized’ people in and outside of the US to ascribe to and strive for access to the white male middle-class ideology of a cultural geography without difference, friction-free capitalism and unfettered cultural harmony. Los Cybrids obliterate this false ideal of equal-access-to-all, suggesting that power inequalities are perpetuated, not solved, in the new geography of cyberspace.

Just glancing at the site, they remind me a bit of the [Critical Art Ensemble] that I was looking into a year or so ago. It's amazing how similar their language is.

Aldama also mentioned an on-line journal that he co-edits called [Bad Subjects]. I'll have to look into both of these a little more later. Should go to sleep now. Zzzzz.....

      >> 2:12 AM

Sunday, April 28, 2002

I've been reading this essay ["Passing for White, Passing for Black"] by [Adrian Piper], an artist I admire for her engagements with racial stereotyping, perceptions, and racism. It's very disturbing to read an account of racial perceptions and the uneasiness that whites and blacks have with each other. I suppose it's a surprise to me in the end because I am neither white nor black in the most simple, skin-color and place-of-origin senses, and therefore do not easily fall into the paradigms of race that structure American thought. (Though I do at times claim blackness as a political position, etc. -- I'm thinking here, too, of [Robert Chang's] argument about passing for black as an Asian American and his play on claiming a "high yellow" position.)

But what's most troubling about Piper's claims in her autobiographically-argued paper is that it seems very right: the way she describes a fundamental racial mistrust between blacks and whites and the sense of betrayal she faces when she corrects people's assumptions of her "whiteness" (she looks white, identifies as black). It's very disturbing because she draws (or diagnoses in our culture as something that has been demarcated) a strong line between a white community of privilege, access, hypocrisy, and need for racial purity and a black community that is about family, heritage, communal care, and real loving. While I want to say that her argument is simplistic, that her reduction of race relations to the very fact of skin color and belonging to distinct communities is nothing like how race functions, it's hard to argue against the anecdotes she provides of how people -- both black and white -- have treated her when they "discovered" that she wasn't (purely) white. I want Piper to say more about the implications of the fact that biologically, genealogically she is both black and white. But she continues to draw this distinction between black communities and white, making black communities more grounded and real, more concerned with people as people rather than as race-d creatures.

An interesting distinction she makes between the racism of blacks and whites, though, is one of the kinds of stereotypes she sees deployed: "When we [blacks] are among ourselves we may vent our frustration by castigating whites as ignorant, stupid, dishonest, or vicious. That is, we deploy stereotyped white attitudes and motives. We do not, as these remarks [by whites characterizing blacks] do, dehumanize and animalize whites themselves." I do like how she thinks we should handle racism, though. She wants to acknowledge that everyone (meaning both blacks and whites, but what about us others?) is racist, even in ways unacknowledged and henced unpoliced by political correctness. The best way to deal with racism is not to suppress it or deny its existence, but to allow its inadvertent expression to encourage us to create "structured, personalized community forums for naming, confronting, owning, and resolving these feelings."

I know that so many people make these comparisons between racial passing and homosexual "passing" (as straight), but as I read Piper's piece, I kept thinking about how similar her discussions of the psychological space of racial passing was to what people have described of the psychological stakes of homosexual passing. In both, there are the gained privileges and access to intimacy but at the cost of other connections and a denial of certain self-identified desires.

      >> 2:20 PM

Saturday, April 27, 2002

So I'm thinking that this PhD thing needs to happen quickly. I don't plan on staying another five or six years as projected by the program's guidelines. Three or four years, I say, and, I will be mostly done with the dissertation and off. Maybe. In keeping with this timetable, I am going to start thinking about and researching my dissertation. I even came up with a tentative title today: "Disciplinary Fictions of Race." I'm going to pursue this idea about fictions that take up the lenses of disciplinary knowledge to think about race that I've sketched out [earlier]. I figure I might as well take on a fairly specific project. I don't know what my data set (the texts I'll consider) will be yet, nor the particular approach I want to take in considering what counts as disciplinary fiction.

It's all in keeping with my obsession so far in graduate school about figuring out why people write and study fiction. The paper I'm working on currently, for example, is about the pedagogical use of fiction by Pauline Hopkins. Hazel Carby claims Hopkins was insistent upon the pedagogical value of fiction in expanding people's conceptions of race and history. After all, Hopkins published three novels in serialized form in a general circulation periodical. My thesis on Lawrence Chua's Gold by the Inch came back in twisted form to the question of fiction as a way to deal with the dead-endedness of some social theories of globalization (the effacement of individuality and the reduction of the human to body to sex to money). A paper I wrote last year was about Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee and how it has been picked up by Asian American Studies, in particular literary studies, as an important text to rethink sociopolitical-aesthetic modes of inquiry. (My interest was in the status of Cha's text -- an incredibly abstruse conglomeration of texts and images that, though published in book form, is far more easily understood as an avant-garde work of art -- and how its use in Asian American Studies might be understood given its lack of conformity to the usual genres of fiction and literary works.) Why do people write fiction? I'm not suggesting there's a one reason why people write fiction, but what are some important reasons why people turn to fiction to deal with social, political, philosophical, and other kinds of issues that other disciplinary methodologies purportedly tackle? I keep coming back to this question, and the answer is probably incredibly simple, but I just can't quite make it out.

Today, I took my thesis to a woman in Durham who is going to bind it up in a beautiful cloth-bound cover for me. I can't wait to get it back all nice and bound for my bookshelf. :)

      >> 10:39 PM

Made some lentils and rice yesterday. Yummy yum yum. It's a great snack by itself.

Lonely. :(

I think I'm going to go watch the last new episode of [Buffy] in preparation for Tuesday's new (finally) episode.

Why does it seem like so many young pop stars are [dying] lately?

      >> 10:20 PM

Friday, April 26, 2002

On my drive home this afternoon, I decided that taking turns speaking is a waste of time and energy. (I also realized again that I am an evil single occupancy vehicle on the commute between Durham and Chapel Hill. I'm going to take the bus more often.) Maybe it was the lack of sleep on both our parts and the resulting inability to recognize and negotiate conversational cues, but this morning my officemate and I repeatedly talked over each other. It wasn't a big problem, though, because we didn't do it for long, and I was able to follow what she was saying even as I spoke. I think we should all develop the skill of listening and talking at the same time. Think of how much more we could do in a dialogue.

I've always been fascinated by songs in which two or more people are singing different lyrics to different melodic lines. The force of counterpoint and harmony makes the singing work because you don't necessarily have to listen to the import of the words. But if you ever try to listen to the two or three strains of thought-words at the same time, it can be quite fascinating. And why not? I've decided I am going to develop this skill of listening and talking at the same time. Just be warned the next time you talk to me.

      >> 5:01 PM

[Vote in House Strongly Backs an End to INS]: "'It is time to separate fully our services to legal immigrants, who helped build America, from our enforcement against illegal aliens, who violate the law,' Mr. Ashcroft told reporters on Capitol Hill before the vote."

While I agree that the INS needs to be reorganized, I'm not sure the proposed dissolution of the monolith and resurrection as two distinct agencies will address the "whys" and "hows" of terrorist infiltration. The reporter writes, "Immigration inspectors at airports, for instance, are the first line of defense against terrorists, but they are also the first officials encountered by a foreigner seeking asylum." Making the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, between those who come here to "build America" and those who come to destroy it (apparently all illegal immigrants are here to destroy us), might be important, but it doesn't seek to figure out the problematic distinction between legal and illegal immigrants as currently conceptualized by the US. People have been freaking out over the fact that the INS approved extensions for two of 9/11's terrorists a few months after the catastrophe. The problem there isn't that they got an extension, but that they were granted legal visas in the first place. What is the criteria for entrance to the country? Somehow, the criteria seems suspiciously related to money. How are people making the connection between foreign terrorists and illegal immigrants who risk their lives crossing the Mexican-US border to work in the US? How is this new structure of the agency going to keep (rich) terrorists out?

      >> 8:56 AM

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Yesterday was the signup for sections of composition. By the time my lottery-assigned spot rolled around, I didn't have much choice but to teach MWF again rather than TuTh since I have to teach two sections in the fall and the only available TuTh sections were all at 8 am (if only I could split myself at will). So I'm teaching MWF at 8 am and then directly after at 9 am -- both in my computer classroom. I'm never going to teach in any other classroom ever!

I'm currently in the stewing phase of my last paper for the semester. I spent a large chunk of yesterday afternoon photocopying a whole bunch of book chapters on African American literature for the paper. I'm not quite sure how the project is going to turn out (since it's mostly unwritten), but I know I'll have to situate my reading of Pauline Hopkins's Of One Blood in the concerns of the field. I just don't feel like I have anything new to say.

At some point, I'm going to have to return the stacks and stacks of library books decorating my apartment. Although it is aesthetically pleasing (ok, maybe only to me) having piles of books all over the floors, tables, and chairs of my apartment, I realized today that it really is time to set these precious creatures free, to let other people enjoy their existence. There's a copy of Vijay Prashad's Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting lying open, face down, beside my bed. Rob commented this morning that it's been in that same position for the last couple of months and that it's a library book. I assured him that I knew it was there and not overdue. Now I'm thinking I'll have to skim it for use in my paper on Hopkins. It's a book that re-reads cultural history to undermine the myth of any sort of "cultural purity," especially in narratives of great civilization and modernity. And Hopkins's novel directly asserts that Western civilization is not based in whiteness, but in blackness (Ethiopia), while at the same time sidestepping the issue of purity in presenting a cast of characters who are all children of a white father and a black mother.

I can't help but think about the whole issue of racial authenticity in writing about Hopkins, too. Reading some of the critical work that's been done on her work, it's clear that many people dismiss her for being not "black" enough, however the critics define that loaded term. And of course, this made me think of something else that I've read this semester (this time a poem one of my students chose to write on from The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry): Dudley Randall's ["A Poet Is Not a Jukebox."] And I had actually first heard about [Dudley Randall] as the founder of The Broadside Press when I sat in on Joe's class at the end of March.

      >> 6:22 PM

People who have animal selves are cool.

      >> 11:24 AM

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Aside from the fact that it's followed by a post on the death of a friend, this [post] made me laugh out loud (I love storms):

Third: yesterday afternoon, the sky turned green and gray and the wind began knocking down trees and pulling things off buildings and people started running through the streets screaming. Best. Storm. Ever! The heatwave has finally broken and some claimed to have seen funnel clouds. The city was scoured clean. An oil tanker ran off course in the Hudson river. Women beat their men.

      >> 8:07 AM

I got the The Gay Men's Wellness Guide yesterday (among a handful of other books) at the campus bookstore's bargain books sale. I thought it would be fun and useful to have an Our Bodies, Our Selves-like guide to the gay male body and self. It's kinda hokey. One example: "Retrograde ejaculation can be disconcerting and reduces fertility, since sperm are washed out with urine, where they will not have any chance of meeting a coparent's egg or boyfriend's chest." Hee. Or: "The foreskin probably serves little purpose in the modern world of clothing."

For your education, here are two short sections from the book:
Putting Anger to Good Use

The oppressed young gay man sits at home resenting his male friends and siblings. They are all out on dates with girls. He is angry because he doesn't know how to ask a girl for a date. He is angry that he can't go out with a boy. Angry that God has made him the way he is. Angry that he has to pretend he wants to go out with a girl. Angry that his former playmates are now fooling with girls who don't interest him. Angry that he cannot change himself and be like all the other guys. Angry that he only gets to see his friends after they've finished making out. Angry that he has to listen to them describe in heterosexual detail what they did. Angry that he has to pretend that he cares about their mechanics. Angry that he can't get some tenderness from another man, the way some of his brothers are getting tenderness from girls.
If that description vageuly resembles you, get it out. Call a hot line. Talk to a counselor. Or go to the woods and scream. Your situation could change completely. If you fell comfortable enough to announce to your parents and family one day the simple, honest fact "I like Johnny. Do you think I can ask him to go to the movies with me?" or even ask Johnny if he is also attracted to boys, you will have channeled your anger into productive use. Actions like this can improve your mental health.
When anger hurts more than fear, you will say or do something to advance your progress. It is better to choose a positive action, in spite of fear, than a destructive one, such as hurting yourself in silence or lashing out at others in fury.
You have the right, as a human being, to express your needs and desires at any time. All the time. There should never be a situation in which you have to stuff your feelings for the sake of family, friends, or boyfriends. If you can't be yourself, you can't love yourself. If you can't love yourself, you can't live healthfully and achieve optimum wellness.

Sucking Precautions

Sucking takes place during two distinct and sometimes combined actions: fellatio and irrumation. Fellatio is the act of the sucker moving on the penis. This is popularly known as "giving head." Irrumation is when the person being sucked moves back and forth in his partner's mouth. A popular term for this is "fucking face." Either act can be a means of disease transmission. The maximum protection a sexually active man can have is consistent use of a condom for each sexual act.
Swollen organs such as salivary glands, tonsils, and uvula can inhibit swallowing. Difficult swallowing occurs when a person has a sore throat. A person should not try to perform fellatio when his throat is sore, since soreness is often accompanied by swelling that can impede successful sucking.
Forceful entry of the penis can cause trauma to the mouth or abrasions to the pharynx. Abrasions can be painful and, like most internal injuries, very slow to heal. A person who likes to irrumate his partner must be in touch with his force. He is responsible for making sure that his partner is having fun, too. Pounding face should not be taken so far that it puts a partner in danger. The person whose face is getting fucked should always be sure to tell or stop his partner when the action is getting too rough.

      >> 7:22 AM

Monday, April 22, 2002

Whee!!!!!!!!!! Dropped off the copies of the thesis today. Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!

Need to hunker down and grade a whole bunch of papers now. Then start writing my seminar paper on Pauline Hopkins's evocation of "the hidden self" in Of One Blood and her engagement with the black press as a forum for education and racial advancement.

      >> 11:07 AM

Saturday, April 20, 2002

It's done!!! I've printed out five copies of my thesis and am going to take them over to my office on campus. I needed to get them all done or else I'm going to keep fiddling with them (all day yesterday and today). I left the signed title page in my office yesterday because it was thunderstorming (don't want to get that precious piece of paper soggy). I'm going over there now to pick it up, photocopy it multiple times on the special paper, and then I'll stick the individual copies into their own special envelopes for delivery to the Graduate School on Monday. I have to give them three copies, but I thought I'd make a couple extra for myself in case I need them. Or something.

On a side note, the mail servers for this site seem to be named after The Fellowship of the Ring characters. I was glancing at the detailed headers of some messages and saw lines like, "received by Frodo" and "received by Gollum." Hmmm.

Ok. Off to get this thing over with.

      >> 1:49 PM

Friday, April 19, 2002

Nobody told me it was going to thunderstorm today!

      >> 3:44 PM

Thursday, April 18, 2002

[Making Books: The Fine Art of Packaging]: "They used to make books so ugly when it didn't cost any more to make them look good."

I'm partial to trade paperbacks because they usually look nicer than hardcovers. Actually, it's the ugly-ass dust jackets on many hardcovers that makes me cringe. (Oooo. Except the dust jacket of Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla's [Ode to Lata] which convinced me to buy the novel, even though I had never heard of Dhalla nor the book. But then again, that's a special function of the naked man thing.)

      >> 4:29 PM

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

["We, like you, are people."]: And so, in the Middle East, humanity has slipped to second place, and second place becomes no place at all.

      >> 4:03 PM

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

April 12, 2002

Elizabeth C. Bunting
State Residence Committee

Dear Ms. Bunting:

With this letter I transmit the record on appeal on behalf of petitioner Paul Lai, who desires to appeal from a decision of the Residence Status Committee of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill affirming the decision of the classification officer and determining that he is not a legal resident of the State of North Carolina for tuition purposes. The case was heard by the Residence Status Committee on March 4, 2002, and I certify that as of that date the "information had been viewed by [this] institution as current and susceptible to consideration toward satisfaction of the statutory durational requirement of 12 months."

Mr. Lai, within ten days of receipt of the letter from the Chairman on behalf of the Residence Status Committee, filed notice of his desire to appeal its decision. On March 12, 2002, I wrote Mr. Lai informing him of his right to prepare and submit to me a written statement of the reasons for his appeal called for by the Policies and Procedures of the State Residence Committee. This statement is included in the record submitted with this letter.

With a copy of this letter I am sending to petitioner a copy of each item in the record on appeal not previously furnished as part of the institutional record.

This paragraph constitutes a brief statement of the basis for the institutional disposition of the case. The Residence Status Committee of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill determined that the evidence presented to it orally and in writing by Mr. Lai, when all considerations had been balanced, did not produce a preponderance of evidence in favor of his assertion that he had in fact become a resident of North Carolina for tuition purposes for Spring Semester, 2002.


Grant Wolslagel
Residence Status Committee

      >> 9:14 PM

Sunday, April 14, 2002

I've been reading William James's "The Hidden Self" for class and thinking about associative processes between the physical senses and memories. It's really a very interesting article about diassociated selves, hypnosis, and the splitting of sensorial knowledge. Through some French doctors' observations and experiments with extreme hysterics, James discusses a psychology of consciousness that is multiple and split. For example, a person could be numb on half her body, but when put under a trance, can feel on that half while numb on the other. The inability to access tactile sensations is somehow a function of distinct selves in the consciousness. Although James does write of levels of selves -- the primary self and secondary selves -- there is not much a sense of a simple conscious / subconscious distinction because the secondary selves (hidden selves) are always perceiving, and when they emerge, they dominate upper-level consciousness (defined mostly as the ability to verbalize). Most interesting, though, is the extremity of mutual exclusion between these partial consciousnesses in some cases.

Now I'm even more afraid that my sense of smell will never come back, and I'll have lost a whole array of smell-specific (or -dominant) memories.

      >> 6:29 PM

Saturday, April 13, 2002

I'm all congested and can't smell anything. It's very disconcerting, losing one of my senses completely. What if there's a gas leak in my apartment and I can't detect it? (Though I don't have anything directly powered by gas here...)

      >> 10:33 AM

Friday, April 12, 2002

Oh yeah, saw [Panic Room] yesterday. Was very underimpressed. It wasn't suspenseful at all, and while some of the situations were clever, they lacked the immediacy that I expected. Thinking a little more about the movie, though, I guess I could concede that it's not so much a suspense thriller as a detached meditation on safe psychological space as it maps onto physical spaces (homes). But it still wasn't a good movie. The ending was completely anticlimactic, eschewing any sense of resolution to the home invasion plot by superimposing a harmless scene of the continued search for a new home (why do we need so much space?).

I'm excited about seeing [Monsoon Wedding], though (possibly free at a screening on campus in a couple of weeks).

      >> 12:51 PM

I need to learn how to read Chinese because [this] fucking rocks (IE should be set to Chinese Simplified Encoding)! I have this thing, if you must know, about the texture of words on a page (yay fonts!). And Chinese characters just have a totally different visual pleasure than the Roman alphabet and English words. My dad would be so happy to hear me say I want to learn Chinese.

      >> 12:35 PM

Just browsing Aaron McGruder's [The Boondocks] and was reminded that I don't think I've heard anyone (news media) mentioning that gas prices have gone up twenty cents a gallon (at least here). Last time this happened, there were daily news reports about gas prices and where you could go to get cheaper gas in the area. I wonder if the silence on the increase has anything to do with not wanting to seem critical about the government, the craziness in the Middle East, and all the sticky associations with oil interests that are coming to the fore ([or not]) lately.

Whoops. Guess I just haven't been paying attention.
[At Pump, Spirits Dip While Prices Soar] (4/11/02)
[Wholesale Prices Rise 1 Percent] (4/12/02)
[Crude Oil Prices at a 6-Month High on Mideast Worries] (4/3/02)

      >> 8:52 AM

I've been discussing [Mary Jo Bang's] ["Open Heart Surgery"] with my students. It's a great piece to introduce first-year college students to literary analysis, I think, because there is such a marked play with the distinction between literal and figurative language. Poems about "the heart" are always great to talk about because of the cultural weight we've given to the poor, pulsating thing. I also like the reference to [Gertrude Stein] at the end, though I must admit I have not read much Stein and do not know how to gloss that last stanza. It's interesting that one of my students had heard of Stein and her (in)famous pronouncement about the rose (["a rose is a rose is a rose"]). Perhaps Bang is drawing a parallel between the mundaneness of the rose in Stein's comment and the mundaneness of the heart.

      >> 8:37 AM

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

I can't believe how many piles of books, photocopied articles, printed e-mails, and other paper junk I have surrounding every sit-down area of my apartment. Sifting through some things on my desk in the study, I've realized (again) that I still have lying around unfiled articles and drafts from papers I was working on last semester. It's like a mess of undigested material. This semester has been such a long trek, even though the end just a month away seems too soon. I can barely remember how the semester started off with a sense of premature birth, as if really there should've been at least two more weeks of winter break just to debrief on fall semester before the new one began. And things never slowed down to allow space and time for recuperation and synthesization of information and material.

I need to find articles and bibliographies of work on Pauline Hopkins that I know I have lying around somewhere. I spent three hours over dinner and dessert discussing with C a presentation we have to give next Tuesday on Hopkins. The assigned topic is the feminist recovery of Hopkins, but I think we're going to extend it to encompass a brief outline of the contemporary reception and engagement of Hopkins's work, especially with figures such as Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Anna Julia Cooper. I'm very interested in the role of publishing in Hopkins's work and the way she pursued her political and social project. She edited and wrote for a periodical called Colored American Magazine in the time of the emergence of a black press that provided forums for African American voices.

C and I also talked a lot about our interests in literature and cultural/social theory. We talked about Kenji Yoshino's reading and discussed why a lot of people we know didn't like the talk. It's odd that much criticism we've heard of Yoshino is that he's not saying anything "new" about growing up queer or about a queer-positive stance in the law (some other, more established legal scholars are Janet Halley, Jerome Culp, and Kendall Thomas). But what about polyvocality? Isn't it important to have many people making these points to different audiences? (Many of these other queer theorists in the law have written for a social theory or cultural studies kinds of audiences, ones that have grown out of lesbian and gay studies in the academy.) Yoshino seems insistent on raising issues of gay rights as a law professor in the legal academy. His book-in-progress, too, will be published by Random House, a non-academic press, and marketed to a general audience -- one that might not necessarily be familiar with the in-group pervasive stories of growing up queer, for example.

In any case, just some thoughts. And I still think that Yoshino is particularly important for his push to change legal frameworks of antidiscrimination law. Rather than try to advocate a wholesale rejection of current law that identifies immutable characteristics (they can't change what they are, so we can't discriminate against them) for categorizing protected groups of individuals, Yoshino proposes changes to the way of thinking within legal thought that would extend current law towards a queer understanding of difference. His approach, as he commented, tries to remember that there are still gay people being hurt and beaten, who can't afford to be simply "queer" and outside essentializing categorizations. (Though this is in some ways the common critique of poststructuralist linguistic thought -- life isn't just the performative utterances of words -- I think it's still important to remember that people are still being hurt. And Yoshino is clearly not saying poststructuralist thought is frivolous or unimportant. He is in fact very much influenced by it.) A lot of people (even at the reading) wanted to pit Yoshino's subtly-reformist queer legal politics against Michael Warner's more radical antinormative queer politics. And while there can be a distinction made there, the point really is that while Warner's politics work one realm of political engagement on a broader social scale, Yoshino's politics are just as important in engaging another realm in the law. They are not mutually exclusive.

      >> 10:07 PM

Monday, April 08, 2002

I've been reading W.E.B. Du Bois's [The Souls of Black Folk] for class. Du Bois was truly an amazing person: a historian, a political scientist, a leader, a thinker, a cultural critic, a theorist of race relations. It's amazing how this work, published in 1903, still seems remarkably prescient today; it's also depressing that so much of what he analyzed in the problems of the social relations of blacks and whites is still evident today, almost a hundred years later. His work seems so nuanced to me, so attentive to the wide range of critical thought about race, while still holding fast to the idea of social equality, political enfranchisement, educational advancement, and economic equality for ex-slaves and the colored freedmen of the North. He was also remarkably aware of the dynamics of "the American experiment" increasingly turned towards capitalism as a way of life: "Work and wealth are the mighty levers to lift this old new land; thrift and toil and saving are the highways to new hopes and new possibilities; and yet the warning is needed lest the wily Hippomenes tempt Atalanta to think that golden apples are the goal of racing, and not mere incidents by the way."

      >> 11:15 AM


I had corn last night? And... Are the kernels supposed to come out as if undigested?

      >> 10:53 AM

Sunday, April 07, 2002

['Queer Duck,' a Web-Footed Survivor, Migrates to TV]: "Mr. Reiss, who, like Mr. Weinberg, is heterosexual." Hee hee.

This article reminded me of when I saw Queer Duck on the now-defunct icebox.com and was trying to [figure out] what the politically incorrect satire was all about. And then a [little later], I came to distinguish between QD and Mr. Wong because one made me laugh and the other only made me cringe. It's exactly the problem that plagues us all with the idea of political correctness. Just because shows (movies, books, whatever) traffic in stereotypes doesn't mean they're necessarily "bad" or "discriminatory" (in the sense not just of making distinctions, but of making distinctions that affect the political or social power of a person or groups of persons). In fact, much storytelling hinges on (stereo)types, on the storyteller drawing on social understandings of characters, motivations, etc. What is important is to acknowledge how incredibly fluid characterizations really are, even "within" one person. (Someone you type as intelligent can do the stupidest things.) The fear of stereotypes, of course, is when typing becomes ossified, pigeonholing certain peoples into particular negative or limiting characteristics. Ummm.... I'm not really going anywhere with this....

Oh, but to point out that the article's author seems to make a point that the creators of the show aren't gay. And it reminded me of all this stuff about identity politics and how important it is for self-representation, as if being gay gives you complete authority over a gay-positive voice. I totally think it's important to have self-representation, to be able to articulate your views and particular situation (and be heard), but it also leads to people being "shocked" that there are such people as "gay Republicans" or "gay conservatives" or whatnot (when in fact, I would categorize most gay men as fairly conservative). (I think this month's issue of The Advocate has a cover story of some gay conservative, framed in such a way as to suggest how odd it is that such a creature exists while proudly declaring that we gays are as diverse as the rest of the population....) Anyways, it's much more important to me that someone is queer-positive than whether or not s/he identifies as queer or even sexually non-heteroseuxal. (I know some cool "heterosexuals" -- self-identified as queer, but not just in that trendy way -- who are far more queer than gay people I've met.) There really is a queer, antinormative stance on living your life, I think, that is more than just same-sex desire.

      >> 10:12 AM

A rant against sickness.

I pulled a disappearing act yesterday, and I am definitely not proud of it. But I was stressed beyond belief and in severe physical pain. The week-long muscle fatigue, feverishness, dry mouth (from the decongestants), and sore throat all seemed magnified a hundred times. My throat hurt so much I couldn't swallow, despite having taken all sorts of decongestants and pain killers and sucking on oral analgesics to numb the area. My head was woozy from congestion, ache, and feverishness. After a week of trying to convince myself it was nothing, that I wasn't really sick, that it was just "allergies," my body was telling me in loud, neon screams, "NO!"

I was supposed to go to E's house in Chapel Hill early afternoon for a cookout with some friends. I left Rob behind, still getting ready, so I could get to the house early as I had promised E who said C was going to be there early and wanted to see me but had to leave early. But when I got there, E was the only one there. I dropped off the food I had brought for the cookout and headed to Rob's to pick him up. I couldn't reach him on his cell phone. I was cranky and really didn't want to be around people. So I decided about halfway back to Durham that I wasn't going to the cookout. I swung by Rob's house anyways, but didn't see his car (I had called the phone there and was told he hadn't been back). So I left him some messages telling him not to go to the cookout and called E and told her I wasn't feeling well enough for the party.

And I spent the next few hours driving around and browsing books. I bought a thermometer and noted bitterly that I did have a fever. I was angry because when I went to see the doctor on Monday about my severe sore throat and muscle fatigue and feverishness, he looked at my throat and chart and said it was not an infection and that I didn't have a fever. And then he didn't bother to talk with me about what might be ailing me. He summarily dismissed me so that I felt stupid for having gone to the doctor on such trivial symptoms as a sore throat and muscle fatigue and feverishness. And then I spent the rest of the day on the point of collapse, dragging myself between buildings on campus and trying to read while my head throbbed.

I talked to my dad on Saturday finally, and he advised me that I probably have a combination of allergy problems and a cold/flu. He said muscle fatigue or pain is usually an indication of a viral infection, not just allergies. And he advised me what kinds of medicines to take to treat the symptoms (since there is still no fucking cure for the cold). Now, why couldn't the doctor I saw on Monday have said something about how to treat the symptoms I was having? He said I didn't have strep throat so he wouldn't have to prescribe an antibiotic for me, but then he didn't suggest that there were types of medicine I could take to feel better. I was still taking some of those medicines (given my experience with cold/flu this semester), but since I believed I didn't have a cold, I was hesitant to take some of the things that might really have helped.

Well, anyways, I disappeared from people yesterday, and it was a childish, petty thing to do, because of course I knew that people (and Rob especially) would feel like I was spiting them or something. I really didn't want to be around people, though, because I was physically in so much pain and mentally stressed out to the point of exhaustion because I haven't done any work all week and everything is due tomorrow, of course. I just want it all to go away (pain and work).

I tried to explain to Rob yesterday that I wasn't running away from him in particular but that I just really wanted to hide away from everyone. I didn't want to be taken care of. I didn't want to have to socialize with people. I didn't want to smile. I didn't want to talk (my throat hurt so much I could barely talk). I just wanted to hide. But I'm afraid he still thought I was avoiding him. He sent me an e-mail early this morning (mid-day for him) with his thoughts on my avoidance and a suggestion that my symptoms might be more indicative of depression. And I can sort of see why he would think I am depressed because I really feel trapped in this cycle of fatigue-stress-no-work-stress. It's a spiralling cycle, one that I've tried numerous times this past week to break by just reading a little of something, just trying to look at my students' papers briefly, just trying to write a little. But it hasn't worked. It's only gotten worse because I haven't let myself just rest, just acknowledge being sick and do relaxing things.

Yesterday I watched two episodes of Queer As Folk and Buffy on dvd.

I went to bed last night still congested as all hell (despite all the medicine) and barely able to talk through the pain in my throat. But this morning, I'm already feeling much better. I'd best take it slowly, though. Work on recovery a little bit at a time. (Last night, I e-mailed my students and cancelled class on Monday. There's no sense in teaching if I haven't had time to prepare adequately over the weekend, even if I'm feeling all better by then.)

Oh, and I must apologize to Rob about not talking about pop music with him more because he feels like I was making a snide comment about him and his music tastes in my weblog. I hope I wasn't condemning people who dislike *Nysnc and whatnot. I was really saying how much it tickles me how they react to it. (I had spent a morning earlier this week torturing Rob with my *Nsync, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, and Ricky Martin cds. He wouldn't get out of bed.) But anyways, I wasn't really even writing about what he has said against my Christina, etc. I think it's adorable how he fears these groups. (Muhahahaha....such power.....) I was really thinking about some webloggers I used to read until I got fed up with their hypocritical ideals about "authentic" music and all. (That should be a fairly safe statement to make since music is such a common topic for webloggers.)

      >> 9:32 AM

Saturday, April 06, 2002

I don't want to spring forward tomorrow. Grrrr.

We need rubbery time. (As espoused by [Neil Gaiman] in an entry dated 5 April 2002.)

      >> 12:06 PM

[Oprah Will Curtail 'Book Club' Picks, and Authors Weep]

Much as anyone can criticize the way certain populations (housewives? -- and what's wrong necessarily with housewives?) flock to Oprah's book selections, I can't help but think that any force that can stimulate people to read is a helpful thing. I'm fascinated by reading practices, by shifts in cultural expectations that allow/endorse certain people to read and others to scoff at books and still others to languish illiterate. And of course, literacy itself is an interesting phenomenon -- because just being able to read the words on a page is not enough most of the time. Being able to understand the nuances of the words, to be able to read subtexts and connotations, is often far more important. (I still remember being introduced to "irony" as a literary analysis term in high school and thinking how incredibly difficult the concept was -- and still is.) Also, being able to take a step back from Oprah's (or anyone else's) recommendations, to engage her reasons for liking the books, is a fruitful endeavor as well. It helps to generate discussions about literary, artistic, cultural, and other kinds of value.

And more than that, literacy really entails a lot of other understandings, too -- historical, cultural, literary, political, etc. You can read a lot of books and understand what's going on at a basic plot level, but not understand what it all means unless you have certain cultural understandings of the factors at play in the presented situations. Just one simple example: One of my students is writing on James Tate's ["A Wedding"]. While the poem may seem fairly easy to understand, it still begs many questions that you wouldn't really consider unless you already had certain expectations (a cultural literacy) of weddings. What do you expect from weddings? What images do you see when someone mentions "wedding" (white bridal dress, flowers, professional photographs, many-tiered wedding cake)? What ideals (love, faith, devotion, etc.)? And only if you already understand these cultural meanings of a wedding will you stop to wonder why Tate presents such an odd picture of a bride and groom in a civil service marriage. Why are these two people getting married anyways? (My student wanted to put a reading of "arranged marriage" on this poem, despite a lack of strong evidence for such a reading. But it's interesting how she saw the failed expectations in this particular marriage and automatically jumped "outside" our culture to the mysterious idea of exotic/primitive "arranged marriages" devoid of love.)

Anyways, understanding reading practices and literacies is one reason why I've decided to study and teach literature as a career.

      >> 11:39 AM

Friday, April 05, 2002

Toe groe, I thought you were going to stop reading....

      >> 2:57 PM

Oh, gimme the beat boys and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away...

      >> 2:53 PM

Sickness = awfulness. I've spent the whole last week comatose, in-and-out of naps. Haven't done a lick of work, either, so I'm feeling even worse about being behind in work. I keep getting farther and farther behind.

      >> 7:59 AM

Thursday, April 04, 2002

It tickles me when people are shocked that I like [Christina Aguilera], [Mariah Carey], [*Nsync], etc. It also confuses me, too, because I don't understand either the intense jadedness (of people who can't bop along to the admittedly unoriginal/derivative) beats or the claims of inauthenticity. Despite these pop stars' status as marketing forces, I think it's still possible to extract fun from them. And I don't imagine these singers to be "musicians" in the sense of songwriters (although some of them are) who write from the heart (and isn't that just a particular Romantic vision of the artist?). Instead, I enjoy their presence, the way these stars are able to generate a personality on such a grand scale and project such pathos in their singing to reach hordes of screaming (of course) fans. I dunno. Maybe I'm just silly.

      >> 5:03 PM

On this day in 1968, [Martin Luther King] was shot and killed in Memphis.

      >> 8:31 AM

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

I gave my students Elizabeth Bishop's ["One Art"] last week to read as an introduction to our final unit on writing about literature (literary analysis). I just love this poem so much. It's beautiful in its anti-possessive logic, even as the speaker of the poem is ultimately taking up this kind of logic to deal with a loss too painful to bear. I also really love her ["Sestina"]. (A [sestina] is a highly structured, beautiful poetic form.) The Academy of American Poets' [poets.org] is a wonderful resource of online poems, by the way.

      >> 10:18 PM

I hate being physically unwell. Haven't been able to do much aside from cower, trying to make the head congestion, feverish sweat, and headache go away. The decongestant is making my heart race. I should stop taking it.

      >> 9:12 PM

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

[A Dim View of a Posthuman Future]: I'm still greatly disturbed by people who claim a natural evolution of society towards an endpoint -- a telos for humanity -- especially when they base such a claim on the "fundamental" human nature to gravitate towards capitalism and scientific manipulation of the world.

(And as a counterbalance....)

[Anybody Want Spare Change?]: "This is a column about the nature of existence, the philosophical problem of evil, and about cats."

      >> 10:27 PM

Quick notes on things (mostly talks and movies from the last week).

The last two days I've been plagued by this weird physical shutdown. My throat hurts. I feel feverish and sweaty. My muscles feel laden with lactic acid whenever I move about any appreciable distance (walking enervates rather than invigorates). I have a headache (sinus?) that recurs throughout the day. And generally, I just haven't been able to function. I've been in bed most of today. Yesterday, while I stayed on campus all day, part of that day saw me on the floor of my library carrel, trying to relax when my muscles were on the verge of giving out/cramping. I even went to the doctor yesterday, but he poo-poohed my complaints (not really) because he could determine no cause for my sore throat, etc. My friend E, in her infinite wisdom, seems to think I am having severe seasonal allergy problems. And the more I think about it, the more I think she is probably right. It's just so odd that I don't have sniffles or other nasal congestion problems. Then again, this area has done some pretty wack things with my allergies, like give me blindingly painful sinus headaches that I'd never had before.

Talk: Just went to a panel discussion on legal responses to hate crimes with [Frank Wu]. Professor Wu was incredibly articulate in that law-professor-way of being able to break down issues into discrete parts ("there are three points I want to make"). The three respondents on the panel were incredibly dull, inarticulate, and simply not adequately informed to discuss hate crimes. Wu made a comment in his response about the need for us all to be able to make clear, coherent arguments for or against hate crimes more than just saying "I think" or "I believe" hate crimes to be good or bad. I think he was commenting on the lack of rigorous thought or inquiry into the workings of hate crime legislation on the part of his respondents. The questions in Q & A were very good, though. I bought Wu's Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White after the talk and had him sign the copy for me. I've never had an author sign a book for me. :) (Though I guess I've had comic book illustrators sign comics before.)

Wu's talk really got me thinking more about law and society. Yesterday, my law and literature class got me thinking about the various functions of law and literature. It was plain that many of the students in that law class had a very fixed, mimetic view of literature. Stories give us a snapshot of realistic events that we can relate to (or not). They do not have any other vision of how literature can prompt shifts in ideological understandings, generate dialogue about differences, create change in how we relate to our lives, etc. But on the flip side, I think they also have a fixed view of law as an instrument of social change or "real" work with society. As Kenji Yoshino noted to me a couple of weeks ago, though, it's dangerous to romanticize the importance of legal work in reforming society. So on the one hand, people think (or want to believe) that the law is a space for changing our world. On the other hand, some people think that the world must change before laws can change. In other words, do laws shape our morality, or do people enshrine their morals into law? In some of his responses tonight, Frank Wu indicated that there is a dynamic process in this relationship between law and society. Laws can shape how we think (hate crimes lead us collectively to view racial discrimination as a bad thing), but we must actively put those laws into place (there must be some impetus, a critical mass of people, to make hate crimes an accepted remedy for discrimination).

Movie: I finished [Ghost World] this afternoon (started it last week before I left for St. Louis). It's incredible as an exploration of alienation, change, and loss. I can't help but identify with Enid in her critical assessment of a world full of superficial, wacky people, but also feel so oddly distanced from her when she seems to frustrate herself to the point of insanity in trying to get something out of her life. (I like [Scarlett Johansson] a lot in this movie and in The Man Who Wasn't There, too. In both, she comes across as such a self-possessed teen/young woman. Even in Ghost World where she is someone who isn't an "insider," her character seems somehow comfortable in what she's doing.)

Performance: [Magdalen Hsu-Li] interests me. I went to her performance last week on campus and was generally entertained by it. I like that she is overtly a "political" artist, dealing with questions of identity, stereotypes, and social meanings. I like that she plays the piano and crafts pop melodies. But I'm a little tickled by her new-agey attitude on race, sexuality, creativity, and being.

Talk: [George Lipsitz] rocks. I need to read his books. Trained as a labor historian, he has been an important scholar of "American Studies," even as he has the most nuanced understanding of a knowledge project as being globally situated. He sees transnational connections in events, persons, and stories that most people would understand only as the most regional, national things. And he has such a classically materialist (Marxist-influenced) way of understanding the flow of ideas, labor, and power that funnel into nationalist discourses.

I got to see Joe teach a class last Friday. He needs to give himself more credit for being a good teacher. He provided his students with a background on the Black Arts Movement. And his students were clearly engaged and interested in the issues he raised because they asked questions at the end of class without promptings.

Movie: Blade 2 was bloody. The story was dull, very Oedipal in the most unoriginal way. And there was no Stephen Dorff in this one (yes, I know he got dusted in the first).

      >> 9:27 PM