Saturday, January 31, 2004

Microfiche is disturbing. A whole book on two tiny little pieces of plastic.

      >> 4:17 PM

FUCK! [alarming, yet rational]

      >> 1:46 PM

Friday, January 30, 2004

[Tempest in the Caribbean, Jonathan Goldberg]:

Shakespeare’s The Tempest has long been claimed by colonials and postcolonial thinkers alike as the dramatic work that most enables them to confront their entangled history, recognized as early modernity’s most extensive engagement with the vexing issues of colonialism—race, dispossession, language, European displacement and occupation, disregard for native culture.

Though I did take classes in Shakespeare's plays and poetry, my general take on his work is refracted through postcolonial theory. This book, then, might be a particularly interesting read. I remember one of the comments I received on my Master's Exam here in the English department was that my reading of The Tempest was "quirky." It wasn't really a very quirky reading, though, if you were familiar with this whole tradition of thought coming out of postcolonial writing.

Earlier today I had a rare experience. I went to the bookstore with the intention of picking up two or three books. But then I couldn't remember what I had meant to get. This is the rare part, though -- instead of buying two or three other books to make up for not remembering what I was originally going to get, I just walked out of the store empty-handed....

      >> 2:16 PM

[Novelist Uses Irreverence to Demystify Her Culture]:

For years, Keltner says, she searched bookstores for a Chinese American novel that would speak to her experience and make her laugh, but found instead that most of the stories emphasized hardship, discrimination and sadness. "Being Chinese American has its hilarious moments of culture clash as well as painful ones."

Noting that Chinese American novels tend to focus on hardship and discrimination is actually kind of the "hot" thing in Asian American Studies now. That is, the question is whether or not Asian American Studies is too much focused on injury, discrimination, pain, and suffering at the expense of examining the larger landscape of life in Asian America.

The title of this article seems odd to me.... Why does Keltner have to demystify her culture? (What is "her" culture? What is her "culture'?) What is mystified about it? Doesn't the review itself explain how Keltner/Lindsey experience their lives as resolutely American? Hmmm.... I guess I'm always coming across as being a reactionary Asian Americanist, always arguing for an Americanist focus on the study of discourses of Asian America. But it is incredibly odd to me that there is a continual push to mystify and foreignize Asian Americans.

      >> 2:07 AM

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

[Tough lesson: Indians prospect asks forgiveness for role in gay porn video]:

Tadano was one of Japan's top college pitchers and expected to be a high first-round pick in 2002. But after a Japanese tabloid published photos of him in the video a month before the draft, pro teams in Japan did not select him.

Weird.... I just don't know what to say about this news story. But hey, a baseball player who's been in a gay porno!

      >> 2:07 PM

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Finally made it out of the apartment today. Rob got home this morning, rolled me out of bed, and took me to his mom's for breakfast. Roads are still icy. My car is still buried in the parking lot. I doubt I'll be moving my car today or even tomorrow....

In one of those really annoying confluence of events, this snow-ice-freezing rain storm has hit at the same time as an [e-mail virus] on campus. As a result, the e-mail I sent out last night canceling my 11 am class has yet to be delivered. Campus is supposed to re-open, classes to resume, at 11 am today. So, while my first two classes were cancelled by the university, my third class is technically supposed to meet in half an hour. I decided last night to cancel the class anyways because the roads are really not going to be cleared adequately until at least later today. Unfortunately, the outgoing e-mail servers were taken off-line because of the e-mail virus program which has swamped the servers. I just checked my e-mail and had two messages from students wondering if class would be cancelled today.

      >> 9:29 AM

Monday, January 26, 2004

I was once an artist-wannabe. But I had little talent, and of course my parents encouraged me to do something more practical with my life. In high school, though, I was a favorite of the art teacher. She took pains to encourage me and to intervene with my parents by speaking to them about how important art is for, say, a medical career (hah). I really enjoyed drawing, though. It put me in a mental space different from what I got from reading or doing other schoolwork. It was a world apart.

I really liked Betty Edwards's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, whether or not its insights about the differences between the right (creative) and left (analytical) sides of the brain are still scientifically valid, they have definitely become part of our common sense of how the brain works. What I liked so much about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain were the exercises that made it possible to draw "realistically" (that is, being able to reproduce in a one-to-one fashion the lines and shapes one sees). The shift that she describes in how one "sees" as an artist is palpable through her exercises. I loved that feeling of seeing the bowl of fruit, for example, as a collection of lines, shades, colors, and abstract shapes rather than as a banana and an apple and a pear....

Last week I dreamt a few nights in a row about painting. I woke up with yearnings to create. I bought a watercolor set that I have set up in the living room now that I am snowbound. I've not really done watercolors much, but I thought it would be an interesting escape, experiment, experience....

      >> 6:33 AM

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Snow day! It's pretty out. It'll be a pain to get out, though. I guess I won't be running all those errands today.

So I bought a copy of Details yesterday with yummy Jude Law posing on the cover. There's also a short little article titled "Why Gay Men Definitely Shouldn't Get Married."

Full disclosure: I'm not gay. I'm married with kids. I have nothing but admiration for those who are fighting to do whatever they please with those they love, including marry them--if for no other reason than that it enrages, torments, and shoves it up the abundant fundaments of the vile cracker Christians who are trying to force their spittle-flecked morality on the rest of us.

It's, of course, what I expected from a "men's magazine." The author lays out what it's like to be married, all the ills of getting fat, being unappreciated, etc. etc. He continually claims, though, that he is all for gay people's right to be married. He just wants to say that it is not in their best interest because all marriage does is make people dysfunctional and degenerate. (Of course, in his "full disclosure," he notes that he is married to a woman and has kids.) What is truly wacky about the short article, though, isn't the reinforcement of gender traits and the narrative of marriage as trap (ball-and-chain! ball-and-chain!). Rather, it is the accompanying set of photos. One marriage photo seems to have taped a photocopy of the groom's face over the bride's so that the two faces in the picture are in fact the same person's. A second photo is of two middle-aged, balding men in a face-to-face kiss and embrace. It looks awkward as they stand dead center in a tackily deocrated living room between two chairs. The third is another wedding photo, again with the bride's face covered by a man's, except this time rather than the image being of the groom, it looks like a painting of some 18th century aristocrat, next to the smiling groom's face (with strange circles around his eyes).

      >> 11:45 AM

Friday, January 23, 2004

In the oriental kitsch department, I picked up a free "tranquility fountain" this morning at the supermarket for purchasing four greeting cards. Its soothing water flow sound is more like a tiny trickling sound. It'll be a great little torture device because Rob claims that the sound of running water always makes him have to pee. Also, Rob got a "rock garden" for Christmas. Now all we need is a "sand garden" to complete a collection of new age-y interior decorations.

Fridays are always so carefree for me. The anguish of preparing for classes doesn't hit until Sunday (perhaps if I worked on stuff earlier, there wouldn't be anguish at all). I feel like I can do anything....

      >> 2:54 PM

Thursday, January 22, 2004

[My home country is America, so I am not sure what you be on about and shit.]

Haven't quite gotten into the swing of things yet, three weeks into the semester. I'm still frantically preparing for class the morning of class (I start teaching at 8 am), usually sleeping four or less hours the night before. One of these days, I will make productive use of my weekends.

I went to a job talk by a candidate for the Asian Americanist position in the English department of a nearby school. It was in-fucking-credible. I want to be smart one day. It is really funny to see how much current Asian Americanist scholarship is so conscious of not being American-only focused, ready to take on transnational formations and questions of Asia as part of the American imaginary. Well, funny in a kind of sad way, since everyone seems to have to make that claim in order to seem non-retrograde. A weird question that came from a professor of the department was how this job candidate's work was important to Asian Americans. Not just to Asian American Studies as a field of intellectual inquiry, but actually to Asian American subjects, especially students. It's a weird question to me because my first instinct is to refuse to answer that kind of question -- it assumes the importance of Asian American Studies only to Asian American students (or at least most importantly). And while this is to some extent true, I think it's important to emphasize how the knowledge project, the ways of knowing produced by AAS, is meant as a larger Americanist critique, something that speaks to all people interested in understanding America as a nation, concept, historical entity, etc. I thought the job candidate was great at answering questions, though, and didn't let the very loaded assumptions of the questions trip her up. Instead, she deftly responded to the explicit questions while also addressing the implied questions without coming across as combative.

I blather on and on about AAS like anyone cares....

In other news, I found out today one of my students has a livejournal account and is seems to be quite Internet-savy. It's kind of funny. She missed class today and then sent me an e-mail saying if I wanted to know why, she had posted a long rant about all the things that went wrong this morning. I don't know if she's found my lj or this blog. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that....

Happy year of the monkey.

      >> 1:53 PM

Monday, January 19, 2004

      >> 4:52 PM

Sunday, January 18, 2004

In which I complain about teaching load....

I'm sitting here with the teaching fellowship application for reappointment. I'm not sure how much I want to teach next year. Truly, teaching five classes this year (and working part time at the Press) was a mistake, though I am in some sense "rolling in the dough" because of it. I'm hoping this will mean I have some savings to carry me through most of next year without having to teach so much. The only class I've agreed to teach so far is the Women's Studies course in the fall. I think I've been offered the opportunity to teach the International Studies class again, but I'm not sure I want to do it. (It pays the most of all the classes I have a chance to teach, though.) And then here I am with the English department application. I don't think it would be possible for me just to teach one literature section (for the first time). I think I have to teach at least one composition section in order to be "rewarded" with a lit section. How fucked up is that? But we'll see... Can't they just give me money to work on my dissertation? (I'm not "advanced" enough for a departmental dissertation fellowship next year....) At this rate of teaching, though, there's no way I'm going to even get my dissertation started let alone written.

      >> 11:11 AM

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Last night I went to an annual gathering hosted by the graduate students of my department. At this gathering, students perform skits that lament (in comic terms) our teaching, scholarly ambitions, and penury; send up professors in the department; and skewer our lame-ass students. It is rather odd to me that professors are invited to this gathering -- and more so, that the ones who are favorites for impersonations are asked especially to attend. But then in some ways it makes much more sense to expect professors to come -- even if only a small group of them, the ones already "in" with students. Otherwise, it would seem that what students mocked in professors was much more insidious.... Secrets and talking-behind-backs....

I haven't been to one of these things since my first year in graduate school. It's not that I don't find the skits funny -- they are in fact hilarious -- but that I don't really feel comfortable around comedy, especially humor that is explicitly about the people in my social world. I really still don't understand how humor works, what the line is between, say, impersonation-as-jovial-recognition and impersonation-as-mockery. But the other students in the department seem to have a much firmer grasp of that distinction. And in some ways, I think the context of that humor at this departmental gathering creates (actively produces) a different relation to the aspects of our professors that students send up. Even if -- in fact it seems especially if -- those aspects create particular burdens on students, they take on, through comedy, a sense of knowing camraderie. One statement these skits might make is, "These are things you professors do to us as graduate students; we might think them strange and troubling, but if we agree to acknowledge that these things are the way things are, we can move on." One professor, for example, is every year played on stage for her exceeding kindness as well as her constant refrain, "You'll never get a job as an Americanist specializing in the twentieth century." This is advice she gives every student who talks to her about wanting to focus on twentieth century American literature. It is as if by publicly announcing this very strange pronouncement, by showing her up for the strange situation she places students in who want to specialize in twentieth century literature and want to work with her, the students on stage somehow make innocuous her dire prediction.

And then there is the question of race in comedy. In an almost-all-white department, the bits of humor in the skits that draw on racial difference really come across as racist in the simplistic sense of being simply ignorant of what people of color deal with and interpreting our actions as misguided or a sort of reverse-racism (by pointing out the importance of race rather than living a "color-blind" life). And more pointedly for me, there was one skit that ended with a student in tears over the fact that she had been assigned to Asian American literature as her area of study. People laughed. I could not understand why it would be funny that she was horribly upset that she was told to specialize in Asian American literature. Was she upset because this is a dud field, a non-field? I got the sense that it was meant to be a joke because she was a white (and blond) woman, playing on this strange understanding of the essentialism of race-critical knowledge..... So the joke seemed to be that she was upset that she now was expected to "pass" as Asian American. While I can see some humor in this formulation, it is also profoundly disturbing that the understanding is that only Asian Americans do Asian American Studies, that this knowledge is a ghetto for Asian American scholars, something not properly the realm of real literary scholars, that the knowledge produced in Asian American Studies is only properly for Asian Americans rather than a far-ranging critique of social formations cut through in some way with the presence (or absence) of Asian Americans...

I don't know, though. Comedy is about reversing social hierarchies, upsetting the order of things. It is about producing discomfort and then somehow transforming it, perhaps through public, tacit acknowledgement of that discomfort, into something else.... I, for one, can't easily get past that discomfort. If I were impersonated on stage for some mannerisms, especially ones I do not like in myself, I would be eternally mortified. Ultimately, though, it does seem like this kind of comedy, in this kind of setting, is about creating a sense of shared understandings about the department. Like departmental gossip, this night both expects participants to be in the know and stipulates what it is you should know.

      >> 2:58 PM

Friday, January 16, 2004

[Queer Asian Pacific Legacy 2004.]

      >> 10:01 PM

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

... Or perhaps I will just go home, collapse on the couch, wake up briefly at 6 am to move to bed when Rob gets back from work, and then actually get out of bed at 9:30 am.

You know you've seen too many mystery movies when, putting a dry cleaning pickup ticket in your car, you think that you are leaving clues for detectives to solve the mystery of your sudden death.

I've just realized that I am a paper pusher as I sit here folding paper, stuffing things in envelopes, printing out pages, photocopying stuff.... All I do is move paper around.

I'm very aware, when I stand in front of a class, that I have to speak about thirty times louder than I usually speak. Over the years, I have consciously cultivated a speaking volume that will reach only one person's ears. I think it's the paranoia my parents bred in me of people overhearing what I'm saying and using it against me. (To my parents, soap opera worlds are the real stuff, what people are like everywhere.) Of course, this little voice hasn't served me too well since I left home. But I think I'm getting a little better. Talking at bars and parties still gets me, though. Sometimes, my voice runs out and people start asking me if I have something in my throat or laryngitis.

      >> 10:29 AM

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Tuesdays are my busy day. I'm on campus from about 7:30 am until 7 pm. It sucks.

The library got in a copy of [Hiromi Goto's Chorus of Mushrooms] so I might go home and curl up with the book.

Oh. And grad students should go to [Piled Higher and Deeper].

      >> 6:02 PM

Sunday, January 11, 2004

I finally made it back to the swimming pool today and did my slow laps with lengthy breaks for about half an hour. Go me.

I'm feeling pretty good about this semester. Of course, it's just started and I've only one taught day. Still, everything seems so fresh and possible. Last semester really beat me down and I was really unable to see where I was going. Now at least I've got a few ideas floating around, written down in snippets and pieces. We'll see how it all shapes up.

I'm busy writing and sending out conference paper proposals the next few days and weeks. If things go through, I might be doing some travelling March-June.

      >> 5:25 PM

Oops. I did it again.

      >> 12:54 PM

Friday, January 09, 2004

[decayunderway] writes:

Computers have largely been accepted as the equivalent of the television. If weblogs aren't how you prefer to waste your time, I'm sure you can find more enjoyable forms of amusement. S/he tries to give the early days of the Internet importance. It was just a big time waster like it is now, and I remember a ton of online journals in 1997. Free web hosting with Geoshities and Tripod and Angelfire were around already by that point. I remember the days when the local BBS reigned. They traded porn for extra time. They posted pointless messages and played chess with other geeks-- one move a week if you were lucky.
I like weblogs mostly because it offers a vast access to a variety of ideas and information. You aren't limited to what the commercial, packaged, homogenized media and network television is willing to offer you. Personally, I think the people who open and willing to use this medium of the Internet even with the expanse of useless crap available are actually becoming smarter and more informed.

I totally agree. Weblogs are great because they actually involve people presenting their understanding of things, engaging with what we are presented in the media but also making connections with other ways of knowing.

      >> 7:35 PM

Well, didn't turn out to be such a snow day. Local public schools were cancelled today, but the university was open and I had to go to work. At least it was a quiet day at work.

Good news received today is that I will be teaching a class on Asian American feminisms this next fall in Duke's Women's Studies. I freaked out over the application (mostly the preliminary syllabus) early this week and spent a lot of time working on it instead of the syllabi for the classes I'm teaching this semester. But I guess it paid off.

Yesterday was the first day of classes for me this semester. I teach Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 am until 12:15 pm. Three classes in a row. I might not survive this semester. I'm excited about the International Studies class I'm teaching this semester, though. It's a repeat of the class I taught last semester, but I've changed some of the readings and the overall structure of the course so that in addition to exploring three paradigms of social theory in international studies -- modernity and the emergence of the nation-state; colonialism and decolonization; and transnational cultures and globalization -- we'll be taking a closer look at the role of ethnic identifications in cultural conflicts as well as how democracy gets connected not just to ideals of progress and equality but also to genocides and violence.

I'm going to try hard this semester not to slack off Thursday night through Sunday night and then end up stressing out Monday through Thursday when I'm frantically trying to prepare for classes. I'm starting now with a lot of cleaning up in my apartment and office spaces. I'm still surrounded by piles and piles of papers and books, nothing in any particular order.

      >> 7:09 PM


I wonder if I have to go to work today....

      >> 7:09 AM

Monday, January 05, 2004

Is an apostrophe performative in the Austinian sense?

      >> 1:24 AM

Sunday, January 04, 2004

[Hollywood's Land of the Rising Cliché]:

Today, the political and economic dynamic between the two countries is less easily categorized. In the absence of any overriding conflict, the current spate of Japan-obsessed movies may simply represent the increasing popularity of Japanese culture in a rapidly globalizing world. Sushi bars are common in most major Western cities, and anime-inspired video games are rife. Japanese icons from Pokemon to Ichiro Suzuki have become familiar names.

I'm terribly fascinated by the uptake of Japanese (pop) culture and aesthetics in the US. Too bad I'm not really trained as an Asian Studies scholar to really take up the production and distribution of Japanese pop culture. But I can think about the reception side of things, how the influx of Japanese shows and things as well as the use of Japan as a setting in films, plays out in the cultural landscape of the US.

The article's author states, "Through the same sort of Hollywood kismet that produces concurrent movies about deadly asteroids and exploding volcanoes, the theaters are suddenly overrun with images of Japan." Kismet doesn't seem to be the right word. It seems like there are certain sets of cultural understandings that interlock at given historical moments to produce the seemingly coincidental appearance of themes in movies. I've been thinking, for example, about what I see as a subtle (as compared to the rise of Japan-centered movies) emergence of novels, movies, and news stories on conjoined twins. Representations of conjoined twins seem to point at a particular cultural moment that is anxious about the boundaries of the body, of individuality, of (medical) technology, and of sex. They seem to raise philosophical questions about how we define the self, but also seem linked to social questions about the ethics of defining humans as political subjects, as familial subjects, etc.

On another tangent, I find it really interesting (and exciting?) that this article relies quite heavily on blogging and website commentary for its journalistic research.

      >> 5:49 PM

I am such a graduate student. I was just at a used book store in town and bought the following:
  1. Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures
  2. SKY Lee, The Disappearing Moon Cafe
  3. Richard Brodhead, Cultures of Letters
  4. Hortense Spillers, Black, White, and in Color
And now I'm in a coffee shop with wireless access, blogging on my laptop. I am sitting here with two books: Laura Hyun Yi Kang's Compositional Subjects and Women's Studies on Its Own, edited by Robyn Wiegman. My goal in the next hour-and-a-half is to finish reading the introduction to Kang's book and to read the essay by Rachel Lee on "women of color" courses in Women's Studies core curricula. Puh-leeze. I am so over myself.

Oh yeah...

I'm having French silk pie and coffee. Bite me.

      >> 5:06 PM

Friday, January 02, 2004

"My Baby Just Cares For Me"

      >> 11:36 PM

I had a pleasant hour of coffee and reading at a quiet cafe this evening.

Blue Coffee Company on Ninth Street

      >> 8:45 PM

Almost time to leave this desolate place called work.

[Books as Art Objects (Reading Is Optional)]:

Janus Press has come up with an exceedingly clever solution to Denise Levertov's "Batterers," a poem whose author remained unresolved about the order of her stanzas and had previously published them in two forms: the book can be manipulated so the stanzas can be read 1-2-3 or 1-3-2, reflecting Ms. Levertov's indecision. Now this is form serving content in the best sense.

It would be super-shibby fun to make books in ways that engage with the material being presented. I wrote a poem in college called "The Box" (yes, you can imagine how horrible it is) about feeling confined in what my visible self was and what others expected of me. An art major and sort-of friend for a brief semester took it and made a bound book that reflected the themes of the poem. Leather straps were tied in knots around the hand-made book. The stanzas were printed up on the page surrounded by squares. It was kind of cool.

      >> 3:54 PM

[The Pampered Prisoner.] Errr. Ummm. Personals ads for gay male prisoners are not as exciting as they should be.

      >> 1:05 PM

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Night Scenes

      >> 10:08 PM

Mwah. Happy happy.

Apple martinis are the best. Not having to drive after a New Year's party is bester.

It always astounds me what moves crowds of people in lock-step and when. New Year's Eve afternoon is apparently when everyone goes to the grocery store. And after that, apparently everyone runs off to the liquor store. I made those two stops after work yesterday and was faced with the most crowded stores ever. At least people seemed jovial enough. There wasn't that creepy, last-minute shopping before Christmas kind of despair in the feel of the crowd.

I have two simple resolutions for this year. (Really I just made these up.) One, I will be more punctual to things that matter (such as class and work -- yes, I was on occasion late to the classes I taught this past semester). Two, I will learn and use more uncommon words in an attempt to expand the set of words I actually use. The number of words a person uses tends to be far less than the number of words she knows. ["How Many Words?"] questions the exact numbers I seem to remember of the ratio of active to passive vocabularies, but nonetheless it remains likely that most people only use a relatively small fraction of the number of words they know. Incidentally, this second resolution comes from an encounter with the word "recuse," used in a recent article on Ashcroft's stepping down from an investigation. My co-worker didn't know what it meant. We looked it up together in the Ninth Edition Webster's, but couldn't find it. I checked on-line at [m-w.com], though, and easily found the definition. She wondered why the newspaper would use a word that people might not know instead of more common words. I thought, since there is a word that means "excuse oneself from participation in an investigation or arbitration because of a possible conflict of interest," it makes a lot of sense to use it in place of the longer definitional phrase. It was odd that the word wasn't in the dictionary, though. Apparently, "recuse" is of recent coinage (1949 was the date listed on-line). This is where I would love to look in the [OED] to see if it lists examples of early uses of the word, if there was a particular case that spurred the coining of the term. Isn't it wonderful how language continually changes, expands, reconfigures itself according to the needs and whims of the cultures that speak them?

      >> 9:02 AM