Sunday, November 30, 2003

Activity Center, Academia Sinica, in Taipei, Taiwan, where I stayed this past week.

Plaza of CKS Memorial Hall.

Outside the National Palace Museum.

Park in the city of Taipei.

Ducks! Quack!

Sunflowers on the estate grounds of the late CKS.

Path winding down.

My parents.

A cool tree.

Stone frog at entrance to insect observatory.

A brilliant purple lily.

Multi-colored chrysanthemums.

Taipei 101, the tallest building.

Blurry people in rail transit station!

Waiting for the train, some blurrier than others.

It arrives.

Love the pics.

      >> 8:08 PM

Monday, November 24, 2003


      >> 12:28 AM

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Grr. Argh. Still grading papers. In my office. Just stumbled across [gaydarradio.com] while searching desperately for some music I can stream on this computer. So many sites require a more recent version of RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. Unfortunately, I don't have administrator rights on this computer and can't update the software. Grrrr.

      >> 9:42 PM

[F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies.] Linking this article probably puts you on the F.B.I. list. This all doesn't make a lot of sense to me. One, is there any evidence that the 9/11 terrorists attended demonstrations and rallies in the U.S.? Two, (then) why would antiwar demonstrations (large as they may be) be targets for terrorist attack? The reasons offered by agents for the importance of this surveillance work just don't really sound convincing.

The memorandum discussed demonstrators' "innovative strategies," like the videotaping of arrests as a means of "intimidation" against the police. And it noted that protesters "often use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations."
"Activists may also make use of training camps to rehearse tactics and counter-strategies for dealing with the police and to resolve any logistical issues," the memorandum continued. It also noted that protesters may raise money to help pay for lawyers for those arrested.

And on the other hand, the stuff that the F.B.I. memo points out as possible evidence of highly organized terrorist activity seems ludicrously not that. Notice how the memo ever so slightly shifts the meaning of things like videotaping arrests and raising funds to help hire lawyers for the arrested. These are no longer strategies to protect demonstrators from the possible abuses of the state, but to intimidate the police and somehow circumvent the justice system (demonstrators are obviously guilty before proven so). Notice also how using the Internet as a means of communication and organizing becomes some sort of nefarious practice. Planning demonstrations beforehand becomes the running of "training camps," a phrase so cleverly militaristic. All of these demonstrators' practices become tactics and counter-strategies, already against the very idea of the U.S. (rather than against the abuses of civil rights by various arms of the U.S.). Ack.

It would, of course, be interesting and useful to compare the rhetoric in the F.B.I. memo with the rhetoric of antiwar demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators tend towards the hyperbolic as well, though, and traffic in the same kind of sensationalism as the F.B.I. This is perhaps why some people get turned off by mass-organized protests, even if they are antiwar and agree with the actual content of the demonstrators' messages.

      >> 5:09 AM

Friday, November 21, 2003

I just spent an hour at the local Big Kmart picking up some bathroom supplies and browsing the wide range of other items. Every time I go to a Kmart now, I can't help but think of [Kmart Confidential], a great short film by a fellow grad student. [The film] is available on-line, for those with a fast connection. This documentary is the kind of work that I find most exciting with personal essays, creative critical writing, and other varieties of thinking-writing-performing that straddle the usual divides between criticism and narrative, autobiography and social commentary, fact and fiction.

      >> 7:40 PM

This just sucks that I'm still so stressed out. I have so much grading left to do... I want to get it done before I leave town for a conference next Tuesday. I can feel how much unhappier my body is now than it was this summer when I took care of it. Soon, I'll be falling apart like I was last year. I've been falling asleep with the lights on, either in the bedroom or on the couch, piles of papers to grade always just an arm's reach away. I can feel my arms tensed, nerves on the verge of going numb. It's really very creepy how the body does refuse to maintain a high-stress life after a point. (A friend here has been having severe nerve-deadening problems since last winter, largely stress-related.)

This morning driving to campus I could swear my car was invisible. Three times I had to slam on the brakes to avoid running someone over. Once it was a car that made a left in front of me. Once it was a pedestrian who strolled out in front of me, and even after noticing that I was there, didn't speed up or step back, but just continued on her merry, slow way. Another time it was a car that pulled out onto the street in front of me when any other sane driver would've waited for me to pass.

There are so many things I need to take a look at, but haven't had a chance. One is the Massachusetts court ruling on the gay marriages case. I really do feel like I should go to law school just because I really want to know what is really at stake in these cases. It's never about whether or not the court thinks it's good or bad for gays to marry. There are always different arguments, based on precedence and constitional law, that courts can take to limit or extend institutional access. It sounds like the Massachusetts case of course didn't rule that gay marriage should be "legalized," but rather that it was premature for the lower courts to have barred same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses. From what I've skimmed in people's accounts in the news and on-line, the ruling really just kicked the ball (the question of whether or not same-sex couples should be able to obtain marriage licenses) to the state legislature. I'd like to know the reasoning and what that means for the court to say that existing marriage laws don't automatically include same-sex couples.

Have you all been watching this Michael Jackson arrest stuff? I haven't really been watching it, but it's been unavoidable. Last night (or was it the night before), Rob and I were sitting in front of the television balking at the outrageous amount of news coverage the story was getting. As some of Jackson's spokespersons have said, it is indeed quite a spectacle perhaps because the accusation resonates so strongly for people (the molestation of a child). I do think it's all rather crazy, the media sensationalism. The New York Times article about the arrest is really creepy, too, in its descriptions of MJ and the story of the arrest. The descriptions seemed consciously to make MJ "look" evil or monstrous. The way the article related the events of the arrest also made the whole scene seem somehow twisted, as if MJ were orchestrating some strange delusion.

Anyways, I think tonight I'll be spending grading, grading grading. My goal is to finish up by the end of tomorrow afternoon so I can devote at least a day and half to this conference paper I need to send out to the conference organizers by Monday.

My body is going numb. This is not good.

      >> 4:40 PM

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

      >> 3:08 PM

Crazy ass people who have no idea what they're doing (and as a result are making life worse for everyone else)...

      >> 10:42 AM

The irony of a pop-up ad asking if you're tired of pop-up ads and want to block them....

      >> 10:41 AM


My hair: one strand black, one strand white.

      >> 6:42 AM

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

[No Longer Joined, Boys Face Arduous Trip]:

Dr. Kenneth Salyer and Dr. David Genecov, plastic surgeons who specialize in craniofacial surgery at Medical City Hospital in Dallas, will build up the boys' skulls using a material made from cadaver bones as well as a bone-growth promoter. They will also use pieces of the boys' own skulls that were removed in the October operation and inserted under the skin of their thighs to keep the bone alive and sterile.


      >> 9:52 AM

I think from now on when I describe my research project to people, I'm going to talk about it as an American literatures project. Three or four people this week alone have asked me variously about doing "Asian Studies," going to "Asia" to do research, etc. I'm not even a staunch not-Asian reactionary as far as Asian Americanists go. I'm excited about the field's increasing attention to exploring Asian and Asian-American interactions as well as the more dynamic transnational cultural productions that characterize contemporary Asian America. But it really is quite a disappointment that despite thirty years of Asian American Studies work, the vast majority of people still don't understand the difference between Asian Studies and Asian American Studies -- differences that range from objects and locations of study to more important theoretical, political, and epistemological orientations towards knowledge production. (And yes, I know part of my work must necessarily be "teaching" people about these differences. But it is so passé.)

      >> 6:14 AM

Monday, November 17, 2003

The deaths brought to 420 the number of American troops killed in the Iraq war, including 281 since the end of major combat.
There is no reliable estimate of Iraqi deaths over the course of the conflict. The Associated Press reported an estimated 3,240 civilian Iraqi deaths between March 20 and April 20, but the AP said the figure was based on records of only half of Iraq's hospitals and that the actual number was thought to be significantly higher.

Rob's sister is finally back in the States, having been at the center of the fighting in Iraq since before the official war campaign started. As a nurse in the army, her duties were to support the efforts of the 82nd Airborne. In her letters back home, she has mentioned the horrors of the fighting and the intense violence. As a medical professional, she has seen the deaths and injuries, had to work up close with all the casualties.

      >> 10:25 AM

Thursday, November 13, 2003

[Osama University?]:

Until recently, though, this fight has been rhetorical, confined to Web sites, books, magazines and lectures. Now, with HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act, the House has taken sides. If it becomes law, it will create a board to monitor how federally funded international-studies centers impact national security. The board will evaluate whether supporters of American foreign policy are adequately represented in university programs. Conservatives, says Kramer, "need to be able to compete on a level playing field with others."
Inherent in the act is the assumption that if most established experts believe American Middle East policy is bad, the flaw lies with the experts, not the policy. "There's the threat that centers will be punished for not toeing the official line out of Washington, which is an unprecedented degree of federal intrusion into a university-based area studies program," says Zachary Lockman, a New York University history professor and director of the school's Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies.

That neoconservatives are getting away with this hijacking of the academy is quite frightening and simply outrageous. Congressional oversight of how an academic field of study should do its work? A litmus test of patriotism? What?

      >> 11:44 PM

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Ha ha ha. The Onion. Mom Finds Out About Blog. Will it be the most linked Onion article?

      >> 5:28 PM

Monday, November 10, 2003

[Melancholy Songs, but Life Seems Swell]:

I was put out there as a spokesperson for the new feminist revolution," Ms. McLachlan said. "It was very difficult because I was either too feminist or not feminist enough depending on who you spoke to."

I am, of course, a McLachlan fan. Moody, etheral vocals. Cryptic lyrics. What else does one need in pop music? I have always been interested, too, in female singers who appear on the scene as "feminists" -- whether self-proclaimed or not. I like that McLachlan is a self-proclaimed feminist, even if her feminism veers towards a potentially problematic kind of cultural feminism (celebrating the "culture" of women in a way that reinforces differences at a political level). At some point, I'd like to sit down and write down some of my thoughts about pop singers and feminism, the ways that women have to claim their position in the discourses of feminism, not-feminism ("I'm not a feminist"), girl power, female empowerment, etc. I'd like to think about the place of singers like McLachlan in contrast to the place of singers like Christina Aguilera and Lil' Kim whose sex-positive, female-empowerment stances seem to flesh out different aspects of feminist critique. (I'm not suggesting here that McLachlan is anti-sex... as far as I can tell she has a very positive -- meaning non-limiting -- approach to sexuality as well and identifies as "bisexual.")

      >> 9:55 AM

Sunday, November 09, 2003

This weekend I went to the beach.

      >> 6:22 PM

Friday, November 07, 2003

I need to get me some [Shrinky Dinks]. (Yes, I have been watching I Love the 80s Strikes Back on [VH1].... Why do you ask?) I really love little plastic toy things. I have drawers full of little figurines and stuff.

I haven't really been into all this spoken word scene. It does seem like an exciting place, though, at least for the practitioners and their fans -- a place where cultural changes and political changes might be pushed. One such spoken word duo is [Yellow Rage] (linked recently at [lightningfro]). Just briefly scanning their site and listening to excerpts of their work, it all brings up for me this sense that anger is the mode through which spoken word artists seek to convey their purpose (which is? simply refuting stereotypes?).... And that a particular kind of assertion of history will change the world for the better.... I really want to believe that this anger and this revelation can make the world somehow more egalitarian and less racist, but it doesn't seem to work. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't be angry or that we don't need to recover lost histories (of Asian American persecution as well as achievements, for example), but that this stuff needs somehow to be channeled differently. How differently is what I'm trying to puzzle out....

      >> 2:26 PM

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

[International Programs in Higher Education and Questions about Bias]. This link came over a campus listserv yesterday. I still have to look at it in more detail, but since I am teaching an international studies class this semester, I thought it appropriate to ask my class to consider the arguments made about Title VI funding for international studies programs and the extent to which the US government and its foreign policy should be taken into account or supported in them.

      >> 6:56 AM

[Gary Barlow, "Open Road," m4a file, 5.3K]

I know a lot of y'all aren't into the fluffy pop that I like. But I figured I might try to convert some of you with some Gary Barlow (from boy band Take That). Pop inspirational music is what I listen to when I'm stressed out and incoherent. Whether or not it helps me along emotionally or otherwise is up for debate.

      >> 6:48 AM

Sunday, November 02, 2003

[Framing the issues: UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics]:

The background for Rockridge is that conservatives, especially conservative think tanks, have framed virtually every issue from their perspective. They have put a huge amount of money into creating the language for their worldview and getting it out there. Progressives have done virtually nothing. Even the new Center for American Progress, the think tank that John Podesta [former chief of staff for the Clinton administration] is setting up, is not dedicated to this at all. I asked Podesta who was going to do the Center's framing. He got a blank look, thought for a second and then said, "You!" Which meant they haven't thought about it at all. And that's the problem. Liberals don't get it. They don't understand what it is they have to be doing.
Rockridge's job is to reframe public debate, to create balance from a progressive perspective. It's one thing to analyze language and thought, it's another thing to create it. That's what we're about. It's a matter of asking 'What are the central ideas of progressive thought from a moral perspective?'

This makes so much sense, but it certainly doesn't point to a very positive view of the social world. I'm definitely glad to hear of the Rockridge Institute and its work. I wonder how much it will be able to redefine what is moral, though, beyond reframing the issues at hand. Is there a common understanding of what is moral for conservatives and progressives (in this formulation)? Or are the "strict father" and "nuturant parent" frameworks indications of unreconcilable moral bases?

      >> 7:54 PM

Saturday, November 01, 2003

I find it interesting that The NY Times doesn't seem to have covered news from Taiwan about proposed legislation to legalize gay marriage.... But here are some links, kindly passed on to me by my professor, to related news stories at other news sites: [Taiwan Becomes First Asian Country To Legalize Gay Marriage] (despite the title's claim, legal gay marriage has only been proposed by the government as a bill to be drafted in the next month or so), [Gay Rights March in Taiwan], and [Taiwan Holds Its First Gay Parade]. I wish I had more to say at this point, but my thoughts are not playing nice. Maybe I'm just suspicious, but I do wonder why the government seems to be taking this initiative. (I have no idea how much gay rights groups might have been lobbying the government for gay marriage.) So, reading this news brings up a whole set of questions. What are the rights that marriage confers in Taiwan? What do Taiwanese citizens feel towards the institution of marriage? What is the government's motive in introducing such legislation? (The President, especially -- perhaps a campaign promise? [Taiwan's Leader Campaigns] -- though of course then that still raises the question of why he feels his constituents would support gay marriage.)

Some of these I'm refracting through what I've read about Taiwan and gay movements. There has been some academic debate about how US gay liberation politics and queer theory (seen as at odds with each other by some) have influenced other countries' movements for gay rights. One of Cindy Patton's arguments in "Stealth Bombers of Desire," for example, hinges on the Taiwanese government's adoption of a don't ask-don't tell type policy regarding gays in its military. She argues that the emerging democracy in Taiwan is in an uneven temporal register from the US and Western democracies -- and hence a different relation to modernity -- prompting the government to adopt more "progressive" social policies in order to distance itself from a more "backwards" communist China. I don't know if I believe that, but it is one way to think about why the government would introduce gay marriage legislation. What would it mean if the people of Taiwan were themselves "ready" for gay marriage?

      >> 11:36 PM

Argh. We might as well call my apartment the House of Sickness. Both Rob and I have colds now. This is the second one for me in the last month. Grrr.

      >> 2:46 PM