Friday, January 31, 2003

P'r'aps it was because I read Luis Francia's article ["Brown Man's Burden"] yesterday. This morning on NPR the BBC News was talking about Tony Blair's unfailing support for Bush and their interest in talking about the world in good vs. evil terms, about their respective countries' duty to maintain the order of the world. In his article, Francia talks about America's colonization of the Phillipines at the end of the nineteenth century and in the first half of the twentieth century. So I began to wonder this morning about the rhetoric that maintains imperalist and colonialist practices and whether Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and other parts of the Middle East might soon become US possessions. Of course, the terminology has changed in the last half century; world opinion would probably never condone outright possession (though consider post-WWII occupations of Germany, Japan, and Korea, among many other strategically located places in the Pacific and such).

Francia writes,

Vigorous public opposition to the [Phillipine-American] war as morally unjust and to U.S. annexation was spearheaded by the Boston-based Anti-Imperialist League, whose most eloquent spokesman was Mark Twain. At first applauding the U.S.'s seemingly altruistic intervention in the Filipinos' struggle against Spanish rule, Twain later wrote against hypocritical U.S. foreign policy, pointing out the existence of "two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive's new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him, with nothing found on it; then kills him to get his land." Rudyard Kipling, on the other hand, penned "The White Man's Burden," exhorting the U.S. to take over the islands. President William McKinley, duly persuaded, said it was America's duty to "civilize and Christianize" the natives, ignoring the fact that they had been largely Catholic for over three centuries.

Sound familiar? Liberating the Afghan and Iraqi people from their terrible rulers is the first step. What's next?

This is perhaps why I could never be an entirely effective historian; I am always very presentist and can't help but try to analogize past and present. It is a naive move, though, to constantly harp on "learning the lessons of the past" and whatnot.

      >> 8:37 AM

Thursday, January 30, 2003

[Cute Formalism]: I'm linking this so I can come back to it to read more carefully when I'm not half asleep. Brought to you by ['goatee].

      >> 11:16 PM

Look! It's Friday!

      >> 11:07 PM

Ok. Perhaps it's time to go home. I haven't graded a single paper in the last two and a half hours. And the cleaning crew is on the floor now. They're vacuuming in the office next door. This is all very eerie. I've never been here this late before.

      >> 10:47 PM

My students' papers travel a lot. It takes me about two weeks to finish grading them. I lug them back and forth between the office and home three or four times a week. So let's say seven round trips there, each round trip about sixteen miles. Total of 112 miles. Oh, and then sometimes I take them to cafes to work on. So that's another twenty miles or so. All in all, they travel some 132 miles before they make it back to their owners.

      >> 10:29 PM

KimpiraBurglar: You know? Reducing it down to anime, I love Spirited Away about 100 times more than Ninja Scroll.
kcudlyp: why?
kcudlyp: i haven't seen ninja scroll
kcudlyp: rob loves it
kcudlyp: we can't find it here, though
KimpiraBurglar: The animation is pretty stunning, but it's mostly just a lone swordsman hacking up all kinds of weird monsters.
kcudlyp: :)
kcudlyp: sounds like rob

      >> 10:24 PM

[Hybrid Cars Are Catching On

A hybrid's battery is recharged by the internal combustion engine and by collecting energy when the car brakes. The battery powers an electric motor that supplements, or takes over for, the gasoline-powered engine.

A century ago, gasoline-powered Oldsmobiles, like the Runabout, gained popularity and eventually helped to make steam-powered vehicles obsolete.

      >> 3:59 PM

[On Film and in Print, 'The Quiet American' Still Fascinates

The book endures, having served as a journalistic guidebook, a prophecy and even a tourist icon. Banned in Vietnam in the 1950's, "The Quiet American " is now sold at kiosks in Ho Chi Minh City as a symbol of local color, like "Moby Dick" on Nantucket or "Cannery Row" in Monterey. The book heavily influenced correspondents who covered the American war in the 1960's. "Many passages some of us can quote to this day," said David Halberstam, who received a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting while a correspondent for The New York Times in 1964. "It was our bible."

      >> 3:46 PM

It's cold and rainy today.


1) Rob and I currently live in a two-bedroom apartment, with one bedroom as an office/study. We decided today we need at least a four-bedroom apartment: one bedroom, one office/study, one studio, and one library (for all my books).

2) The first time my dad walked into my apartment, Rob was asleep in the bedroom with the door closed. Later when we returned, Rob had left for work. My dad walked into the bedroom. I could see the gears in his head churning. He made the comment, "There's only one bed in here." And this, even after he knew that I was living with my boyfriend.

3) One of my professors has an office with walls painted light green. There are no books in his office. It is a radical departure from the usual books-lined, cramped offices in the department.

      >> 11:51 AM

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Sometimes it's the little things that make you realize how human, how fragile, your parents are. It really is the teen years when you begin to realize how incredibly flawed your parents are -- how they have their insecurities, prejudices, blindnesses, and misunderstandings. But then you reconcile that initial shock as you careen toward legal adulthood, balancing the image of your parents as the looming god figures of your life with one of them as two humans negotiating the world in their limited perspectives, just like everyone else. And then a little later, when you've been living on your own for a number of years, you sometimes forget again that your parents are not monolithic agents (either positively or negatively), that they have faults here and there, things that they can't reconcile with their world. I got a replacement credit card in the mail yesterday, and as I was peeling off that sticker that has activation information, I remembered how, recently, I was with my mom and saw that she still had the sticker on her much-used card. I mentioned that she was supposed to remove it, but she insisted that she purposely kept it on so that she had the 800 number to call regarding the account if ever she needed it. She didn't realize that the number on the sticker was only for activation purposes, and that the 800 number regarding account information was printed on the back of the card.

      >> 4:36 PM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Although Bush claims he still supports affirmative action, his alternative is not adequate for the task because it threatens to reduce the number of minority and poor students nationwide.
Blindly admitting the top 10 percent fails to account for the fact that socioeconomic status can play a major role in determining a student's academic performance. Bush's plan would thus favor richer students over poorer ones. ("Answering Need, Not Ideology", Daily Tar Heel, 21 Jan 2003)

Damn skippy. When I heard Bush's "alternate vision" for maintaining/increasing racial diversity in this country's colleges, I thought, "What crap!" What troubles me most is that his idea of admitting the top 10% of each high school follows the assumption that those schools will be segregated based on race. And given the increasing turn away from a commitment to desegregation in elementary through high schools, that may in fact be more and more a reality. But really, is this top 10% going to be helpful if indeed we return to segregated schools? Will a school of largely non-English speaking immigrant children, for example, be as well-funded and geared towards college as a school in a well-to-do neighborhood (which, let's face it, would be largely white)? Can't we remain committed to affirmative action while working to change the conditions that would indeed make it unnecessary? In other words, we can't simply make gestures towards improving the quality of schools overall (though that is necessary as well); we also need to address the problem of race as a factor in the distribution of privileges, access to various social strata, etc. Affirmative action is only on one level about class status -- it is also importantly about combatting the history of racism that continues to be perpetuated through our educational systems, job hiring practices, informal social networks, etc. Let's repeat that phrase "institutional racism" again because, yes, it exists. It exists in many forms, often in the guise of "tradition" or "the way things are."

A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free. Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Shrub, "State of the Union Address", 2003)

Ok, so this from Bush's speech. Great. Go for funding research on hydrogen-powered cars. But what about doing things NOW to help the environment in terms of transportation? What about making already-available gas-electric hybrid cars a greater priority? What about increasing funding for updating all city bus systems to run with electric buses? What about helping develop electric rail commuter trains? Instead of simply throwing some money in the direction of a yet-to-be developed technology (though yes, I agree we should continue to fund innovative research into alternative power sources), beef up some of the existing efforts to cut down on car emissions. Sure, the electrical power often relies on power plants that emit a lot of pollution, but that's also where we can cut out some of these grandfather clauses that allow older power plants to run at sub-standard pollution emission levels, etc. etc.

And why are we returning to a War on Drugs?

I can't even talk about the stuff about Iraq, Iran, and Korea. And the little bit about saluting American armed forces. It freaked me out when I started hearing about all these military reservists being called to duty and shipping out to various points in the Middle East. (One of my friends had a student in the Marines reserves called to duty just last week.) I wonder if in a few years we'll return to a Cold War climate of bomb shelters, disaster drills, and the like.

Ok. I'm going to bed now.

      >> 10:23 PM

Let me tell you, it's quite intimidating to see a handful of your professors sending out a flurry of e-mails. My inbox usually is the temporary holding ground for the dozens of spam messages that slip by Brightmail™ each day. Today, however, my exam committee has been setting a date for the first collective meeting to hash out my exams reading list. E-mails galore!

I didn't watch the televised address, but [Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address] troubles me a lot.


      >> 9:38 PM

Kick ass and take names.

      >> 2:27 PM

["Video Killed the Radio Star," Erasure, 3:50, 1.77MB]

At last! The singing computer!

      >> 12:56 PM

Monday, January 27, 2003

It was so cold this morning on my walk up the hill to class that I thought my lungs would freeze, drop out of my body, and shatter on the sidewalk beneath my feet. (Image sponsored by The Rage: Carrie 2 in which the closing scene offers a chilling image of our raging heroine shattering in front of her beloved.)

Sometimes it amazes me how fragile people are, how much they are motivated and inhibited by neuroses. And yet, I gravitate towards people who are outwardly fragile -- those who don't feel the need (or are unable?) to hide their fears about life from the world and their friends. The worst thing is to see people I idolize for their strength appear rather fragile. Usually, such fragility turns to pettiness, to a twisted anger that mars the other strengths of those people.

      >> 8:29 AM

I saw [The Rage: Carrie 2] on the SciFi channel tonight. Frankly, the oft-repeated commercial for Stigmata showing immediately after was more disturbing than The Rage. I find it quaint -- not necessarily in a bad way -- when movies try to up their "literary" value by making bold references to Shakespeare (especially Romeo and Juliet) in English class discussions of some deep concept like tragic romance and fated love. It's odd that there were so many familiar faces in the movie (I admit it, I watch lots of teen movies), and yet looking through the cast listing, I really don't recognize any of the actors' names. Oh well.

I saw [But I'm a Cheerleader] on dvd this morning. It was fucking hilarious. I laughed out loud. A lot. And I'm not usually one to guffaw. Maybe a giggle here or there, but usually no guffawing. True Directions, the homosexual-therapy retreat that helps confused teens find their true direction in life. Preferrably before losing them to college and "that liberal arts education." [RuPaul] as a counselor there wearing a "Straight is Great" t-shirt. Just the whole send-up of the ex-gay movement's desire to "fix" effeminate men and non-gender conforming women (not necessarily butch). The whole conflation of gender roles and sexuality. All the instruction for the girls on being good wives, submitting to men. "Now, it's important to make your man feel at ease when he comes home from a long day at work... Now, when it's time for love-making, Dan kisses Sue and touches her breasts. Women often find this sensation pleasurable." The dildo-like aversion-therapy rods. Megan masturbating while reciting an anti-temptation prayer and clutching that aversion-therapy rod, then her reaction (EEEEWWWWWW!!) upon seeing Dolph (the gay wrestler) and Clayton making out. "Everybody thinks I'm a big dyke because I wear baggy pants and play softball and... I'm not as pretty as other girls, but it doesn't make me gay. I mean, I like guys. I can't help it. I just want a big fat wiener up my... ." Oh my god, oh my god, the last lesson they learn on "simulated sexual lifestyle," the leotards with fig leaves on the crotch! "Foreplay is for sissies! Real men go in, unload, and pull out!"

      >> 12:55 AM

Saturday, January 25, 2003

[Donnie Darko] is a very very very very very interesting movie. For those of you in the Durham area, it's screening at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham at their [Nevermore Horror, Gothic and Fantasy Film Festival] through tomorrow. Just immerse yourself in the movie's atmosphere. It's provocative, twists your conceptions of time, predestination, and whatnot. Like [12 Monkeys], it's messy, incoherent, but in a satisfying way. The narrative is fractured and contradictory; it's a brain puzzle to try to figure out "what happened," only to realize that no one answer can account for every element of the story as presented on-screen.

This is my classroom. Rather drab, isn't it? But very grey.

I've taught in the same classroom each of the four semesters so far that I've slaved for the Writing Program. It's a computer classroom. I love the fact that I have ready access to the projector (VHS and computer) as well as a printer. You have no idea how handy it is to have a printer at ready disposal right before class.

Don't do it, man.

I've decided to make the [signs project] a discrete project limited to the time I was in San Francisco this past December. Instead of continuing it indefinitely, I'll start up another one if I come across another situation where there are lots of cool signs. It's also been difficult here to take pictures of signs since I'm such a slave to my car and rarely walk around town. It makes a huge difference, the pace at which we travel through our landscapes, how we perceive the native flora and fauna. In the meantime, I'll still snap shots of any signs that intrigue me and post them here. A friend of mine in the program did suggest a sign around town that I'd seen a few months ago, too. I forget what it says now, but it's rather odd. I'll have to track it down sometime.

I'm thinking about undertaking some sort of window project next. We'll see . . .

I'll never get tired of snapping shots of my office window at night.

It's lonely on campus Saturday evenings.

      >> 5:11 PM

Friday, January 24, 2003

There's something off-kilter about the office in my apartment.

Whew! Glad my depressive spell has ended today. Talking to my friend this morning really helped. She let me rant on about how class Wednesday night was awful -- how the professor used my question as an object lesson in what naive understandings of race and gender-based programs of study are, how she really didn't listen to my question or attempt to answer it, how all the other students can only espouse "party-line" platitudes and don't delve into the driving questions of a project like Cultural Studies, etc. In any case, I left class Wednesday feeling really lousy, stupid, and like I was totally in the wrong career track. But now I'm more optimistic that I can still make a career out of what interests me, even if it is not quite what these senior scholars think is relevant to these various fields of study.

I was in the toy store today. I noticed that so many 1980s toys are coming back. I guess toy fashions are cyclical. Probably a lot of nostalgia, infused with kids of the '80s coming into power at toy companies, too. My experience of going into the toy store was also very nostalgic; I yearned for that childhood when the most pressing thing was to have that toy or that game. Life was simple then, you know? But among the list of resurrected toys: [Cabbage Patch Kids], [Care Bears], and [Strawberry Shortcake].

I got myself a Grumpy Bear because that's how I felt.
Apparently he wears a constant frown to remind us how silly it looks.
The picture on his tummy is of a cloud raining hearts.

Happy hour this evening was wonderful. I got to chat with elusive Patrick. The bartender was also very friendly. I chatted with her a bit about people not "aging" after 27 or 28 (she overheard a conversation some of us were having that began with noting Patrick's upcoming birthday). Then later she gave me free lemonade. Yay. I guess people can be friendly and nice without knowing you. Sometimes I forget that strangers can be friendly, especially when I'm down about myself and my life.

I also picked up these Blue's Clues zipper pulls.
I sent one to each of my siblings so that we four would hold the complete set.

I just wish retail therapy didn't hold such thrall over me. Because, really, it doesn't deal with the real problems in life. Right? And it adds on those pesky numbers on credit card bills.

      >> 7:09 PM

My crusty speech falls into a void, people there not there.

      >> 4:10 AM

Thursday, January 23, 2003

My eyelid is swollen.

      >> 6:59 PM

I'm ready to give up this academic intellectual life. Actually, I've ready just to give up on this social life and talking to people thing. Time to fall back on my alternate career as the eccentric recluse (cf. Edward Gorey). I can still live with my boyfriend, right?

      >> 12:26 PM

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

So the [30th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade] has been all over NPR of late. This morning I heard a woman read a little essay about how she changed from an "idealistic adolsecent" fighting for reproductive rights to an older, "wiser" woman who realized the pitfalls of abortion. Whatev. Given what she said -- that our "culture" (undefined in her essay, but of course meant to range across all of the US, in all communities, for all people) supports abortions and women who have them while making it difficult for women to have a child -- it would seem less like legalizing abortion is the issue than providing more support for people to have children. She said that so many of her friends had abortions because it was the thing to do and that boyfriends, parents, relatives, and other people did not support their having children. Well, BULLSHIT. Why would making abortions illegal help the situation? Would these boyfriends, parents, relatives, and others automatically pitch in their support, then? At least two things are very important to consider here:

1) [Planned Parenthood] and other reproductive-care centers not only help women get abortions, but also importantly provide them information on making that choice. They help women weigh their options, help them figure out if they can afford to have a child, if they are ready to have a child, if they are willing to have a child. They do not simply say it's easy to have an abortion.

2) Where is the support for more extensive [child care services] among anti-abortionists? If, as the woman I heard this morning argues, there is not enough support for women having children (out of wedlock), maybe what we need is a more concerted attempt at shifting cultural mores about single mothers and providing them with the institutional support to have those children (natal health care, pregnancy leave, on-site child care, child care subsidies, etc.).

Earlier this week I did hear a dialogue between a pro-life woman and a pro-choice woman. And it was nice to hear because they wanted to stress the fact that the people on the two sides often don't really listen to each other. But of course, the symmetry is not equal. On the one side, you have pro-life people who want to make all abortions illegal. But pro-choice people are not arguing that all women must necessarily have abortions. See the difference? I just don't understand why legalizing abortion is such a thorn in people's sides. (I do like to hear pro-choice people who say they don't think women should get abortions, but are still willing to concede that other people might have different situations, different expectations, and such so that they are able to let the choice remain legal.)

Getting off my soap box now. (This is why I identify as a feminist -- supporting the ability of women to pursue all kinds of lives rather than trying to limit them to a housewife/child-rearing capacity.)

      >> 10:16 AM

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

["Bring On the Men," Linda Eder, from Jekyll & Hyde: The Complete Work, 5:08, 2.5 MB]

Here's a fun little song. Unfortunately, it was cut from the Broadway version of the show. I did get to see it on stage during the show's pre-Broadway run. It's delightfully bawdy, and in a story of heterosexual love, it was one place where male-male couples and female-female couples had their moments of intimacy on stage (as backdrop). Of course, this all takes place in a bordello.

I can totally see it at a drag queen show in a celebration of sluttiness and men. Or it is yet another instance of portraying women as sex-starved slaves to men.

      >> 4:50 PM

Monday, January 20, 2003

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

. . . We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history's most cruel and senseless wars. America must continue to have, during these days of human travail, a company of creative dissenters. We need them because the thunder of their fearless voices will be the only sound stronger than the blasts of bombs and the clamor of war hysteria.
Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as the war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war we must spread the propaganda of peace. We must combine the fervor of the civil rights movement with the peace movement. We must demonstrate, teach and preach, until the very foundations of our nation are shaken. We must work unceasingly to lift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a new platens of compassion, to a more noble expression of humane-ness. . . .
(From "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam," February 25, 1967. Full text available: http://www.yonip.com/peace/casualties.htm.)

Please see also [Campaign to End the Cycle of Violence].

      >> 3:29 PM

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Woo hoo! I have plans for the summer! Be a groupie!: [Timberlake, Aguilera Will Team Up For Summer Tour]

I hope [Christina] chooses "Can't Hold Us Down" (w/ Lil' Kim) as her next single. so, what am i not s'pposed to have an opinion, should i keep quiet just because i'm a woman . . . this is for my girls all around the world, who have come across a man that don't respect your worth, thinkin' all women should be seen not heard, so what do we do girls, shout out loud . . . nobody can hold us down, never can, never will . . . to all my girls with a man who be trying to mack, do it right back to him and let that be that, you need to let him know that his game is whack, and lil' kim and christina aguilera got your back . . . you must talk so big to make up for smaller things . . . spread the word, can't hold us down, yeah, we here, we back again, yeah, lil' kim and christina aguilera . . .

      >> 3:37 PM

Gulf Wars Poster

Just got this from milypan who saw it at the San Francisco anti-war rally yesterday. Click on picture for larger image.

I suppose this is an example of [detournement] with its appropriation of a recognizable cultural phenomenon and the shifting or calling into question of its accepted meanings and understandings.

      >> 11:08 AM

This past week for an architecture course, Rob had to come up with five representations of a lemon. Among other things, I suggested he take a lime and paint it yellow. He didn't like the idea. So I went ahead and did it myself!

Reject from a lemon project.

It occurred to me to add the label with the "scientific" name of the lemon. Therefore, it's not just a lime painted yellow, a lime masquerading as a lemon (I also thought of displaying it with the label "I am a lemon"), but it is part of a taxonomic project. Except it's not quite done right, like it's a sloppy scientist who couldn't find a lemon for his project and had to improvise at the last moment by disguising a lime as one.

My other thought for Rob's lemon project was to find a picture of Mel B or Mel C from the [Spice Girls] and place it in a circle with a slash through it. NO MEL. Then get a mirror and show the picture to the class in a reflection. Get it?

      >> 11:06 AM

Blue Coffee Company. Downtown Durham. My new favorite coffee shop.

Chairs in the Blue Coffee Company. Mellow on Saturday afternoons.

Still some snow left on the ground. Tree stumps out front of my apartment.

It was cold around midnight when we went out for a drive.

The car window. Gas station. Duke U's East Campus across the street.

Light streaks. Going down Broad Street by the Whole Foods.

      >> 11:00 AM

Saturday, January 18, 2003

E sent this pic ["Frodo Failed"] to me earlier this week. Funny as shit.

      >> 12:11 PM

Friday, January 17, 2003

Just back from the best job interview I've ever had. Of course, that doesn't mean I'll get the job. It's a part-time position as an assistant for this really cool project that works with bringing science education to minority and rural areas. What's interesting about it is that it has a strong commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Anyways, I enjoyed the interview because I wanted to find out more about the program and all. I even came away with a copy of Octavia Butler's Dawn so even if I didn't get the job (maybe it was consolation prize?), I got this cool book I want to read.

      >> 1:36 PM

The most beautiful sight this morning on the expressway, a light dusting of snow swirling across the dark asphalt, like a dance of angels.

      >> 8:21 AM

The next generation of alarm clocks will monitor your sleep cycles so that they can wake you up at the ends of cycles when it is easiest to get up, even if it means waking you up a half-hour or hour earlier than you need to get up (be forced, against the will of all nature and unnature, to stumble out of bed).

      >> 5:31 AM

Thursday, January 16, 2003

IT'S SNOWING!!! And I don't want to go to school tomorrow!

I love my yellow hat.

Have you made tracks in the snow lately?

A few great things today:

1) Talked to Wahneema Lubiano about the bibliography project for class, and we're going to work on developing my written exams reading list with it. (I'm happy that she even remembers me from a couple years ago!)

2) Went to a nice talk by Emily Bauman, a job candidate in film and literature for our department. Her talk was on the figure of angels in postwar urban cinema. Generally very lucid and interesting, though she had rather a non-response to my question which surprised me. I asked her to talk about the differences between angels based on the messages they are meant to convey -- whether they don't have a message (spectator angels), carry a message of hope (guardian angels), or bring a message of destruction (apocalyptic angels). It seems an important way to classify angels if you're studying their movement through popular understanding. But apparently, she hadn't really considered this idea. I didn't push.

3) Ran into a student I taught Fall 2001. She was my favorite student, even though I was upset (and she, too) that I couldn't give her an A in the course. (She got a B+, not a bad grade. Just goes to show, though, that good writing is not automatic with good thinking and such.) In any case, we caught up briefly in the street. She went to South Africa last semester to study abroad and did a research project on the role of the church in Afrikaaner communities and apartheid rhetoric. She's damned smart.

4) Saw an advance screening of [The Hours] and loved it. I'm not sure what to think of it, if I agree or not with the perspective on ideas it contemplates -- living, death, illness, love. All the major ones, of course. I gave one of my sisters the book by Michael Cunningham for Christmas so I called her as soon as I got out of the movie and chatted with her a bit about the book/movie. (Shame on me for not having read it.) I think what I liked about the movie was this insistence that characters are not really redeemed for abandoning their family (obligations) nor are we the audience asked to forgive them for their errant behavior. In particular, while understandably these characters aren't redeemed by the other characters, they don't really seem to be redeemed by the structure of the story, at least not in any conventional sense. Instead, their very plight -- dislocation, inability to fit prescribed roles, etc. -- signals an important moment to consider what it means to live, and what it means to not live despite all the trappings of success and happiness. What puzzled me the most was the place of homosexuality in the movie. Practically all the main characters have homosexual "encounters" (used loosely), though it's unclear whether such moments are meant to convey a deeper question of sexuality, of love, of intimacy, or whatnot. We'll probably end up reading the Cunningham novel in our contemporary fiction reading group.

5) Hot chocolate.

      >> 10:10 PM

No, let's face it. People aren't interested. The don't care. That's the truth.
"Most decent people living normal lives [have] no interest in social and economic history. No serious study informs [their] political opinions. For [them], life is about job and family and friends, and if events in the world occasionally intrude, [they] take account of them as best [they] can, gleaning impressions from media coverage, from chance encounters with persuasive people, from [their] personal feelings for public figures, and from the mood in [their] immediate milieu.... It just doesn't seem natural [to them] to be so intensely involved with events in distant times and places at the expense of living the way most people do—invested in their immediate surroundings. It seems almost perverse."
I find this description true, and it pains me deeply.
(Thomas de Zengotita in Harper's, Jan 03)

A post from [the daily dean] (would link it rather than copying wholesale, but archives don't seem to work). I'll have to track down this article in Harper's. I'd agree that this description does seem very true. What I'm interested in, in addition to the minimal circulation and impact of social and economic history, is also the uptake (or not) of social, economic, political, and cultural criticism of the here and now. In a simple way, this is a matter of publication and forums for the work. So much of it is specialized, academic, etc. But even stuff that's geared more to a general public -- how much of it actually gets read, absorbed, worked into the thinking of "decent people living normal lives"? It seems to be a question of the role of literacy in the sense of being well-read and knowledgeable about history and critique, the value of being knowledgeable about this histories and thoughts.

      >> 5:48 PM

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Can hardly believe it's only the second week of classes this semester. Still feeling optimistic, energetic, and thoughtful about the semester's work and my larger research goals. I'm meeting tomorrow with a professor about organizing a course project around my exams' reading list. Doubling up on things is always a plus.

I've got this weird feeling that half my outgoing e-mails aren't reaching their destinations. Either that, or a whole bunch of people are ignoring me. :(

Late night hours are seductive. They always have been for me. In high school, I would stay up well past midnight reading or drawing, even as my brother slept across the room. There was something secretive, furtive, and downright exciting about being awake while the whole world (the whole damned world!) slept around you. The world of a novel or short story became that much more compelling, more imaginative, more precariously perched at the edges of your reality, threatening (or promising) to crash in on you at any moment.

Since college, though, I've also discovered the peaceful wakefulness of early morning. I would walk out of my dorm freshman year across the quad, listening to the muted sounds of dozens of alarm clocks futilely calling out to their owners. The quality of crispness is also most evident in the early morning hours, when the quiet of the not-yet-bustling city streets diverts the senses to something between touch and movement, the enjoyment of being among the first to cleave a new day's existence with your presence.

      >> 11:28 PM

If you're looking for a whacked out movie, try [A Matter of Taste]. I watched it earlier this week and was initially just blasé about it. But upon reflection, it really is rather cleverly twisted. Very generally, the movie is the story of an eccentric rich guy who hires another man to be his food taster. The narrative is fractured, alternating between earlier scenes and later scenes "after" a significant event. It's sort of a crime story, a mystery, developing an understanding of motivation. But what I find fascinating about the movie is its play on this idea of doubling. The rich guy essentially wants his taster to become just like him (in tastes, appearances, etc.). But there's something weird going on with this particular manifestation of a double or echo. The hired man in some senses comes before the rich man in all things. He tastes food before the rich guy eats. But he only tastes. As the rich guy says at one point, his job is to taste, not to consume. The rich guy wants to create some sort of relationship that is a copying of himself, but with this eerie sense that he wants to mess with the common-sense idea that he is the "original." In any case, see it if you can. Let me know what you think.

      >> 1:17 PM

Rabidly avoiding reading for class at 5:30. I'll read anything except what I should be reading. [Bush to Oppose University of Michigan on Race]. It had to happen sooner or later. I thought it would be sooner. When it's not just outright depressing, it's quite interesting to follow the rhetorical contortions both sides of the affirmative action debate go through -- but especially those against it -- about the worth of "diversity" and considering race as admissions factors in promoting such diversity.

      >> 12:00 PM

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

So, this [Boondocks] strip sort of points at the reason why I'm trying to figure out if social change can happen without explicit critique as the most visible (or only) mode of action. I just get the feeling that the vast majority of people find critique or criticism to be distasteful, that it somehow attacks their very existence. Another thing is that my brother has this all-out hatred for "liberals who are always criticizing the way things are." It's not exactly that he is conservative, but that he somehow adheres to the defeatist idea that we (he) can't change the world, so rather than criticize how bad things are, we can only accept things and try to find some other part of the world that is better. It's why I'm a little heartened (is that a word?) to hear him say that Who Moved My Cheese? is the first book or thing to get him to think that maybe there are things he can do to make his life better. It's still a far cry from making "the world" better on a structural and social level, but a step nonetheless.

      >> 6:02 PM

Squee! [Bar Code yourself.] Apparently I come in at a bargain of $9.62. As an undergrad, I worked in the cataloging department of the university library. It was more fun than it sounds. (Or maybe it's just me.) In any case, my job invovled cataloging a huge backlog of books that had been collecting dust in a caged area in the basement of the library. I got to use a barcode scanner to bring up the provisional computer entries on each book. After entering full cataloging information, I passed on the books to another nether-region of the off-site storage facility. In other words, my job was to help move books from a dusty, caged basement to a climate-controlled storage facility miles from campus. As a going away present, one of the women I worked with had a t-shirt made with a duck logo taken from an Italian publisher on the front and barcodes on the back and sleeve. Good times, good times.

I also find this project [Bar Code Noise] mesmerizing.

      >> 5:23 PM

I'm 'bout to go over to the library to pick up this book my brother just insisted I read. It's called [Who Moved My Cheese?] (no kidding) and is apparently an inspirational bestseller. I dunno. We'll see what it's like. I'll report back more once I give it a read-over.

      >> 4:00 PM

So, from the Better Fangs :F? files, [Not Your Usual Vampires, But Scary Nonetheless].

      >> 2:30 PM

I've discovered that just a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper in scrambled eggs gives the mouth, while eating them, a wonderful fullness of feeling. Mmmm...

My windshield in the morning.

In contrast to the colorful dawn upon my arrival on campus,
this is the view of the sky I see when I leave my apartment in the morning.

My dresser is booby-trapped with a sound-activated macarena-dancing gorilla.

Bender of Futurama anchors my cell phone on my desk.

      >> 9:13 AM

Sunday, January 12, 2003

So re: [my vague thoughts] about alternatives to straight-forward "critique" (as in polemical rhetoric) as a method of advancing progressive cultural, political, and social change, I think I've found a useful term: [detournement], or the appropriation of cultural phenomena for subversive ends (in linguistic terminology, this is like catachresis, the incorrect use of words -- this is also what Judith Butler calls for in a queer politics of deliberate resignification of meaning). This is a term coined by the Situationists, apparently, a movement that coincidentally carries great weight with the people over at [City Lights Books] as they have a whole [Situationism] section. This tactic is also evident in the magazine [Adbusters] whose editors proclaim themselves to be "culture jammers."

So I guess what I'm interested in exploring, at least in part, is how people do go about practicing detournement, resignifying, speaking catachrestically, and otherwise being queer. "Detournement," as explained by the Dagwood comic, is more precisely about appropriating recognizable cultural phenomena, such as trademarks, popular comic strips, or whatnot. And I wonder how much the element of explicit critique must accompany these attempts to counter the conditioning of spectacles. Is this kind of practice successful? Does it really get people to rethink what they've been conditioned to accept?

      >> 9:17 PM

Yesterday I saw Ronald McDonald, headless, in the bushes.

Tonight I saw the moon as a tiny circle in the sky.

      >> 7:05 PM

How would you describe this feeling I get on weekends, those empty hours stretching before and behind, the new work week looming just moments away? I can't get myself to sit down at a desk to read, write, think. I just want to be out, somewhere that is not here. Is it ennui? Simple avoidance? Depression? These times I need to blast some music, but too often I find that my cd collection leans towards the melancholic. It only reinforces this uncomfortable feeling.

Guess I'll grab my books and papers, head out for a cup o' joe, try to do some work.

      >> 2:49 PM

Saturday, January 11, 2003

[Elmo's Diner.] We eat here entirely too frequently. Great, queer-friendly vibe.
Our lesbian lovers upstairs neighbors work here.

This is where I work. Whee.

This is the school.

      >> 11:45 AM

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Getting up before sunrise sucks. Seeing this colorful dawn doesn't.

A sign plastered on a campus building.

It's always the duck. From a picture book Fuzzy-kins sent me.

      >> 7:10 PM

[Possession (Rabbit in the Moon Mix) - Sarah McLachlan 5:53]

      >> 11:07 AM

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Why, god, why? Why do people keep imprisoning poor little rubber duckies in glycerin soap? My friends keep sending me these ducks-in-soaps so that I can liberate them. (Thanks, Better Fangs :F? !!)

Be free, my fine, feathered friend!

      >> 6:43 PM

There's a conspiracy against me! But I digress... I went today to read evaluations from my students. They were uniformly antagonistic. Not just apathetic or whatever, but openly unhappy with me as the instructor. At least now I know first-hand why my students never came to see me in office hours. Apparently I came across as uncaring, uninterested in helping them. I guess I suck at the sort-of Socratic method we're supposed to employ in these courses. As with last year when I taught this course, this time I got a lot of comments about how I never answered their questions, only asked it back to the class. I've just not been successful with one of the course goals -- getting the students to rely on each other for comments, answers, feedback, etc. The students also wanted more feedback from me on their papers. Perhaps it's because I already give them too much feedback, though. It's like that old tale about teaching people how to fish rather than giving them fish so that they learn how to take care of themselves rather than just how to accept gifts. I'm supposed to teach my students how to read and critique each others' papers. Instead, I've got them relying on me for feedback instead of their classmates. It's so hard not to agonize over this stuff. I just hope this semester plays out better.

<breathe> I do find it fascinating, despite the sinking feeling I have in my stomach right now regarding my worth as a teacher, that classes take on a life all their own. It's the "whole is greater than sum of parts" deal in terms of class character. For anyone who's ever taught the same class repeatedly, it becomes especially noticeable. I'm the same teacher. The course material is the same. But for some reason, each class I've taught has taken on a noticeably distinct character. The first class I taught was very reverent, kind, and genuinely trusting of where I was leading them, even if the students didn't always understand what I wanted them to do. The second class I taught was the most light-hearted, again quite trusting towards me and each other and willing to work at the projects I assigned. This past semester, I taught two classes that were for the most part apathetic about the assignments, the class, and each other. The later class was, however, far more antagonistic, with several students who openly expressed anger, frustration, resentment, and I-know-better-than-you attitudes during class. It was hard to defuse the tension in the class as a whole, even if it was only those three or four students who had the 'tudes. It was fascinating during the semester to gauge the ambiance of the classroom, notice how it could shift dramatically at the turn of a phrase, at the tone in a student's question or comment.

      >> 5:15 PM

In other bookstore news, I visited [City Lights Bookstore] while I was in San Francisco, and my god, that place is fucking amazing. It is indeed "an intellectual Mecca and reader's pilgrimage," as the web page reads. The shelves are lined with so many books I'd never seen in other stores or even at all. I quickly picked up a novel published by City Lights, Sara Chin's Below the Line, and Alice Echols's new book, Shaky Ground, before forcibly extracting myself from the store to prevent myself from buying an armful of books.

      >> 8:02 AM


      >> 7:55 AM

Monday, January 06, 2003

Today my hair turned blue.

      >> 8:55 PM

Strange toadstools ringing the tree outside my apartment.

As self-centered and narcissistic as I am, I have an aversion to seeing myself in photos. It doesn't stop me from taking pictures of myself, though, and back when I used to draw, from doing annual self-portraits in pencil, watercolor, or pen and ink. It's this strange fascination with seeing my reflection, seeing my image, and not really recognizing the face. Is that what I really look like? And I swing wildly between liking and loathing what I see. For better or worse, here's a pic of me from today:


      >> 2:34 PM

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Life has a strange way of, if not quite coming full-circle, linking up moments separated by a wide chasm of time and emotions. A few years ago, a lifetime ago, I was driving down Market Street in San Francisco alone one night. I have no recollection why I was in the city by myself. I do remember passing by the intersections of Castro, Noe, and Church, gazing wistfully at the rainbow flags prominently lining the streets and stores. In particular, I remember passing by Metro, a bar at the corner of Market and Noe with a second floor balcony. I remember looking at the people gathered on that balcony, laughing, visible, enjoying themselves in the balmy night. That moment is marked by my longing for openness and intimacy. That summer I had only just accepted, somewhat reluctantly, that I was this thing called gay, and as many other gay people coming to that realization must have, I felt only a loneliness that stretched further than my dreams could imagine.

Last week, as I walked around San Francisco with my boyfriend, I knew then that I was somewhere else, sometime else. Sunday night, we stopped at the Metro bar for a drink, spending an hour watching the busy intersection below, male-male and female-female couples walking by holding hands. I was quiet and reflective, though I had then not yet remembered that other moment just a few years earlier, when this present seemed not even a possibility in my dreams.

* * *

A view of my office as reflected in the window at night.

* * *

you're so beautiful
a beautiful fucked up man
setting up your
razor wire shrine

[sarah mclachlan, "building a mystery"]

      >> 9:16 PM

Hmmm. I'm rather surprised that reviews of [Adventures of Felix (2001)] are just so-so. Joe and I saw the film at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival a couple years ago and loved it immensely. Joe sent me the dvd for my birthday, and I watched most of it again yesterday.

Stephen Tropiano's review ["Un for the Road"] describes the film well, but I don't quite understand why he sees Felix as self-hating or flawed as a character. True, Felix is not a "perfect protagonist," but I think that saying "his self-hatred makes him assume the worst about other people and prevents him from doing the right thing" is precisely besides the point. His journey is not about doing the right thing or not. It is not about a world of good and bad. It is about how people create those worlds, whether good or bad. It is about how people create their families, more than receive them through blood-lines and connections.

Indeed, many of Felix's actions are conventionally morally corrupt (stealing a car, having sex with a man not his boyfriend, etc.), but I think the film presents these actions in a way that emphasizes their intimacy-creating possibilities. He steals the car to impress his "little brother," to share an experience with him. He shares a passionate affair with his "cousin." He is taken under the care of his "grandmother." And he helps out and bickers with his "sister." These ways of interacting with people, the film suggests, are not fixed by some sort of outer structure of familial relations. Instead, we make them through the actions we choose.

About midway through the film, there's an exchange between Felix and Mathilde, the grandmother-figure he encounters, about the soap opera they both love. (In earlier encounters, Felix's boyfriend and "little brother" mock him for watching the show. His "little brother" Jules proclaims soaps to be what grandmothers watch.)

F: You watch this soap?
M: It keeps me company.
F: It's dumb, isn't it?
M: Dumb? It's totally idiotic. But they're so mean, it's fascinating.

This exchange makes it clear that Felix and Mathilde live not in the kind of soap opera world that most people mock yet reproduce (i.e., a selfish, get-what-you-can-for-you-and-yours mentality) but instead in a world where trusting strangers and enjoying fleeting encounters is fulfilling. And even still, they can enjoy the manipulative world of soap operas, delight in the utter ridiculousness of a world closed to trust.

Mathilde is probably my favorite character of the film. As she and Felix part ways, she corrects his "until next time" farewell with a "good-bye," noting that they will never see each other again, but that is ok because life is not about constant nostalgia, an always-yearning for the lost past and lost acquaintences. There are always more and new, unexpected encounters in our present and future. We make the intimacies we enjoy.

I particularly like the use of the sentimental soap opera as a counterpoint to the affective world in which Felix lives. Against the manipulative, conniving world of soap operas, Felix negotiates a world more open to intimacies, even if he does hold some anger and fear of the racist world in which he lives. It is still a world where strangers communicate in good faith, a world where hitchhiking produces relationships rather than ends lives (though even here there is the hint of danger as one of the men who picks up Felix confesses a tendency to pick up lone female hitchhikers...).

      >> 11:53 AM

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Signs are wonderful things. They tell us what to do, or more often, what not to do. They direct us. They correct us. They tell us where we are. They tell us where we want to be.

I started taking pictures of signs while I was in San Francisco. I decided to start a separate page for them. It's a project all its own. [Signs.]

      >> 2:27 PM

More pictures from Cali. Yay.

My mom grows a persimmon tree in front of the house.
These last two fruit are bird food.

I like bare tree branches.

This tree looks odd.

What did the mushroom say to his date at the end of the night?
You're a fun guy.

Windows are cool.

Strip show?

Rob had a rum and coke on New Year's Eve.

I like long camera shutter openings.


Smoke break on the drive from Roanoake, VA, to Durham, NC.

      >> 9:19 AM

Friday, January 03, 2003

Back in Durham. Arrived yesterday. I know this photo-taking craze will subside shortly. But until then, fix yourself a snack or something while these load . . .

I flew out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Whee.

Layover at Washington-Dulles where I had to take these buses that run willy-nilly across the runways to connect the terminals.

I arrived at Oakland International Airport. It's become quite a busy little port.

I spent Christmas with the family.

There was also a train.

We walked along the Richmond Marina. There were some ducks.
Someday, I will figure out why mallards travel in threes, with two males and a female.

On Christmas night I picked up Rob from the airport. We stayed with my sister in San Francisco. The next morning we had breakfast at Crepes on Cole, a restaurant that became our regular haunt for our week-long visit.

This is the radio tower on Twin Peaks in San Francisco.

Rob and I then made a pit stop in Orinda to return my mom's car which I had borrowed to pick him up. We watched The Two Towers at the Orinda Theater.

The following day we took the MUNI light rail vehicle downtown.
I saw this beautiful sight outside. Yellow wall, duck, grey pole.

We communed with the smelly and noisy sea lions at Pier 39.

We made our way out to the Golden Gate Bridge in drizzly weather.
We whistled as we walked.

We ended the five or six hours of walking with a cable car ride.

The following day, Saturday, was very wet and stormy.
We drove out to the coast and watched the turbulent Pacific Ocean.

Sunday was the first day the sun decided to make an appearance.
We made it over the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods.

We played amongst the redwood trees.

We spent New Year's Eve with Jo and Carlos, watching Ballistic: Ecks vs. Severs.

On New Year's Day, they took us for a final spin around the city.
We stopped to visit the bison in Golden Gate Park.

We also visited the cliffs and caves along the Pacific Coast.

We should've landed in Raleigh-Durham the morning of the second, but extensive cloud cover and fog reduced visibility to zero.

We were diverted instead to Roanoke, Virginia. A car rental and over three hours later, we finally made it home. Six hours after that, my misplaced checked bag found its way back to me.

      >> 11:54 AM