Tuesday, November 30, 2004

My apartment complex finally got a sign sporting its new name. When ownership of the complex changed hands a couple months ago, the new management decided to rename the place to link it to Southpoint Mall down the street, the new center of commercial life in Durham. This new mall is an example of one of these mega-development projects that is meant to revitalize the city by drawing in people from around the state and beyond. Beyond economic development concerns, though, I think one of the driving forces behind the new mall was the perception that the other malls in Durham -- Northgate and South Square -- were overrun by black folk. South Square Mall in particular was also a site of gang violence and even murders. And South Square was the mall from which all the major department stores and other stores fled to Southpoint when it opened.

Well, last night, someone was shot at the new mall. ["Man dies after being shot in face."] Scary stuff. According to the evening news tonight, one suspect is in custody, and the police think the shooting was drug related.

* * *

It's a yellow pylduck shirt!

      >> 8:01 PM

Monday, November 29, 2004

We didn't make it to Graceland. But I did ride in the car a lot. Some pictures from the short trip.

No parking this side.

Stuff in rear.

The view outside our hotel room.


Gas station reflection.

Pretty lights.

Stuck in traffic at night.

Pretty car lights.

      >> 4:52 PM

In case you were wondering, it is so not worth it to drive from Durham to Memphis and back within three days.

      >> 12:01 AM

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

My new Plankton watch. I bet you're jealous.

      >> 8:15 PM

Vang's account was included in court documents that were used to persuade a judge that there was probable cause to hold him on suspicion of murder.
According to Vang's story, he got lost while hunting on public land and ended up in the vacant tree stand a raised platform used by hunters to see deer and shoot down at them. Vang told investigators he did not realize he was on private property.
Landowner Terry Willers approached, asking why Vang was there and pointed out he was on private property. Vang said he told Willers he had not seen any "no trespassing" signs, climbed down from the stand and started to walk away.
Vang said he heard Willers call on a walkie-talkie, and five or six men on all-terrain vehicles approached a few moments later. Vang said the group surrounded him, and some used racial slurs.
He said that he was told to get off the property, and as he started walking away, he turned back and saw Willers point a gun at him from about 100 feet away. He told investigators he immediately dropped to a crouch, and Willers shot at him, the bullet hitting the ground 30 to 40 feet behind Vang.
Vang said he removed the scope from his rifle and began firing, continuing to shoot as the group scattered. He said one of the victims, Joey Crotteau, tried to run away, but Vang chased him, got within 20 feet and shot him in the back. Crotteau, 20, was killed. Willers was wounded and was listed in fair condition Tuesday.
Vang said as he began to run, an ATV with two people drove past and he fired three or four times, causing both people to fall off the machine. He said that he looked up the trail, saw that one of the men was standing, yelled, "You're not dead yet?" and fired one more shot in the man's direction. He said he did not know if he hit the man or not.
Vang said he then ran away.
Authorities have said there was only one gun among the eight hunters.

      >> 12:51 PM

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

[Sixth hunter shot in deer stand disupte dies]:

Vang came to the United States from Laos in 1980 and became a U.S. citizen. The married father of six is a truck driver in St. Paul, CNN's Keith Oppenheim reported.
Vang's criminal record in the United States was clean except for a domestic incident three years ago in which he allegedly waved a handgun at his wife, who later declined to press charges against him.

This'll be an interesting (tragic) story to follow. Look for coverage on Vang's "cultural background" and the fact that he came from Laos. I first heard about the news from someone in my apartment complex (a white woman) who said that some Southeast Asian man had shot some hunters in Wisconsin as a result of a language barrier (supposedly he thought he was being insulted in his "language"). I think it would be really really interesting if it came out that Vang was just totally flipped out about crazy white people.

. . .

[Shooting suspect's family expresses shock]:

Some Hmong leaders questioned whether racial differences may have figured in the shootings; authorities have not determined a motive.
Sang Vang said his family was devastated, and that his brother has lived in the United States for more than 20 years and is a U.S. Army veteran.
Vang's mother, who does not speak English, declined comment through an interpreter Monday night.
"This is an incredible tragedy, one in which a great family tradition like a deer hunt has turned into such a great loss," Gov. Jim Doyle said. There have been previous clashes between Southeast Asian and white hunters in the region.
In Minnesota, a fistfight once broke out after Hmong hunters crossed onto private land, said Ilean Her, director of the St. Paul-based Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.
Vang's arrest left some Hmong citizens in his hometown fearful of a backlash, and a group of Hmong leaders in St. Paul condemned the shootings Tuesday and offered condolences to victims' families.
"What happened in Wisconsin is in no way representative of the Hmong people and what they stand for," said Cha Vang, who said he was representing "the greater law-abiding Hmong community." He is no relation to Chai Vang.

Oh dear. This earlier article already shows that the usual responses are bubbling up -- the distancing of a community from this person because he is racially different and might bring the wrath of others on them ("the greater law-abiding Hmong community"), the claiming of all-Americanness ("U.S. Army veteran"), and the assertion of cultural differences that might underlie the killings (Hmong hunters disregarding boundaries of private property). Elsewhere Hmong community leaders noted the daily racism that Hmong Americans face as well as wondered what might have triggered the killings.

      >> 12:08 PM

Friday, November 19, 2004

1. I'm scrambling at the last minute to put together an application for a dissertation fellowship next year. This summer, when there wasn't any information available yet, I was all about looking for dissertation fellowships for next school year so that I won't have to teach five classes to support myself. And then I promptly forgot to look. Now I'm scrambling to look for opportunities. The worst part is that of course I'm not the only one who has to scramble because of my stupidity -- my adviser and other faculty people have to write me letters and stuff. In any case, I will be spending this weekend writing four or five essays explaining my research (past, present, and future), my commitment to diversity in teaching, what sources I am using in my research, and what my plans are for completing the dissertation next year on fellowship. Fun.

2. [SpongeBob movie.]

3. [Brown v. Board of Education], [Kenneth Clark's dolls testimony], and [The Bluest Eye].

4. [Screw you, America] and [Southern Ms.]. (Both reminding how crucial it is within Asian American Studies to push discussions about the American South.....)

5. Worrying about finances, I sent off letters to two local schools -- a community college and an HBCU -- asking if I can teach (Asian) American literature classes as an adjunct next semester or next school year.

      >> 2:22 PM

Thursday, November 18, 2004

[Derrida was a dog!]:

A telling (if apocryphal) Kansas appearance: An audience member stood up and recounted the scene from The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and her friends finally meet the wizard, who is powerful and overwhelming until Toto pulls away the curtain to reveal a very small man. "Professor Derrida, are you like that?" the audience member asked. Derrida paused before replying, "You mean like the dog?"
Appearances notwithstanding, this was no joke—or at least not merely one. The image of Derrida that readers often had was that of a wizard—wonderful or not—booming from behind an imposing curtain of works and words. But to himself, he was far more like the dog. The philosophical vocation that he adopted and advocated was a classical one—that of tugging at the loose ends of accepted truths, of taking hold of the curtains of metaphysical, linguistic, and political certainty, and pulling.

      >> 12:34 PM

What is the speed of smell? According to my dog Giles, the speed of smell is apparently a hell of a lot faster than the speed of my walk.

      >> 12:18 PM

[Boy, 11, charged in sex assault]:

The suspect was charged as a juvenile with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Disturbing. Not sure what that phrase "involuntary deviate sexual intercourse" means....

      >> 12:16 PM

Sunday, November 14, 2004

JACKSON (formerly Randy) is a 4-5 month old Doberman/Shepherd mix puppy. He was a little shy at the shelter and also when he first went to foster care. However he's gaining confidence very quickly and has already decided he's brave enough to walk around the neighborhood on his leash, and to fetch a toy and to meet and play well with other dogs. You can almost see how proud he is of himself! He loves attention and is happiest when you sit on the floor and let him lie on your lap or play with him.
He's smart and eager to please--he is quiet in his crate, is quickly learning sit and shake, and he is trying very hard to be housebroken!
Jackson is a wonderful puppy and will be an adoring, loyal, family pet in a home with older children.
Jackson lives in Foster care.
For more information email doginfo@apsofdurham.org

Oh dear. We visited Jackson today at the local Petsmart during a gathering of foster dogs. We are considering adopting him.

      >> 7:42 PM


      >> 10:40 AM

Friday, November 12, 2004

[Look!] There's a German Lai family!

      >> 2:37 PM

[Exhausted author]:

"People came to her with their stories of suffering, and she tried to help them and tried to do something with their stories," Wolf added. "There had to be an effect."

Not to dwell on Iris's suicide too much, but this is all quite odd. Is it possible that her depression was a result of her intensive contact with survivors of traumatic war crimes?

      >> 2:28 PM

[Fuck the South.] Holy anger, Batman! This was the kind of stuff my co-instructor and I expected our summer students to rail against, being students at a Southern university and all. But instead, we had not a single self-identified Southerner. Hmmm. Where are these so-called Southerners?

      >> 12:53 PM

There's been quite a bit of talk about how we need more dialogue on politics. In most circles, the assumption is that liberals have spent too much time criticizing Bush and the conservative agenda, not listening and responding so much to their stance on issues. (This was Jon Stewart's criticism of/on CrossFire.) While I agree that partisan bickering is stupid and unproductive, I am really quite disturbed by this assumption that liberals are the ones to blame for not being open to conversation and dialogue. This seems to be something that conservative critics like to throw at liberals, though their real meaning is that liberals would think like them if only they listened.

I remember in college at a rally for a larger, permanent space for the Asian American and Native American Students Centers, I talked at length with a fellow classmate. She was a very conservative Asian American ROTC* student who was very much against any kind of identity politics. What was interesting about our conversation wasn't that we came to any conclusion, managed to sway each other's views on the importance of an institutional space for multiculturalism, or that we were able to come to some sort of greater understanding of each other's perspectives. What was interesting to me is that at the end of our conversation, she signed the petition I was helping circulate because she was impressed that I was willing to talk to her about the issue. At the time, I didn't think much of her comment. But now, I see that she was already steeped in this conservative understanding that liberals just rail against conservatives without really talking substantively about things. This all is very odd, considering that rallies and other campaigns by liberals tend to be exactly about raising issues, giving voice to people unheard, or starting conversations about covert policies.

I agree with people today that there does need to be greater dialogue across partisan lines about issues. People do need to talk in a way that doesn't just entrench viewpoints, codify party ideology, or push discussion into an inevitable stalemate. But what would this dialogue look like if the understanding on both sides is that if the other would only listen, he would realize the error of his ways and agree with you?

* Though Yale did not officially have the ROTC program on campus, some students were still part of the program, taking a bus to a nearby college.

      >> 8:52 AM

[Iris Chang, 36, dead from self-inflicted gunshot]:

Chang suffered a breakdown and was hospitalized during a recent trip researching her fourth book about U.S. soldiers who fought the Japanese in the Philippines during World War II, according to her former editor and agent Susan Rabiner.

Holy shit. Note to self, don't kill self over research. But seriously, wow, I just saw Chang give a reading from her book The Chinese in America last year. Now she's dead. :(

      >> 7:17 AM

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Am pretty much in zombie mode now, having stayed up far too late last night redesigning this site and otherwise procrastinating. I just put in the Farrelly Brothers' [Stuck on You], a movie I rented for "research" (for that paper on the cultural work of contemporary representations of conjoined twins that I will never write).

I'm just getting back in from a walk out with the dog. He's a poor, deprived puppy. He hasn't played with another dog in quite a number of days now -- not since last week when he got a cut under his eye playing with a vicious little puppy.

And before that, I was at a screening of [Shanghai Express] (1932). Anna May Wong is my new idol. My favorite scene from the film was when Wong's character pulls out a dagger from her bag and Marlene Dietrich's character comes up behind her, wraps her arms around Wong, and tells her not to do anything foolish. It is such a wonderful shot. Wong's character kicked ass in general. The movie otherwise was not that exciting. A rather odd piecing together of character sketches and mystification of China as a country in revolutionary turmoil.

And before that, I revealed to Rob my plan to draw Giles in a comic book. The title will be The Secret Adventures of the Amazing GILES-BOT-9000. It will be the dream adventures of Giles as a superhero dog with a jet pack and goggles (kind of like [the Rocketeer], but cuter).

      >> 10:02 PM

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

1. Pictures

2. Ashcroft

[Ashcroft resigns]:

The departure of Mr. Ashcroft was not a big surprise since the attorney general, who is 62, had a severe gallstone ailment earlier this year and has had a sometimes bumpy relationship with the White House.

From what I've been hearing, many people predicted Ashcroft's resignation. I guess I haven't really been paying attention, though, because I have no idea what "the White House" and Ashcroft "bumped" about. When I first heard that people expected Ashcroft to resign after Bush's re-election, I thought it was because Bush would just want to jettison all the criticism that Ashcroft has received, not necessarily because he disagrees with what Ashy has done, but just because it is politically expedient at this moment to change cabinet members. And of course the mention in this article of Larry Thompson as a likely successor and first black attorney general only reinforces how much the Bush administration has played "the race card" to its conservative advantage. This is something that sorely needs addressing -- the emergence (seemingly overnight) of "minority" people in the upper echelons of political power during Bush's reign. (There's also much talk about Bush's possible nomination of a conservative latino judge to the Supreme Court in the next few years.) It isn't simply that Bush is appointing blacks to highly visible positions and that there are very conservative black people, but that the very effectiveness of these political maneuverings deserve consideration. Why are we so unnerved by these kinds of appointments while at the same time the visibility of these people of color in positions of power draws the applause of so many Americans?

3. Those darned evangelicals

[Assuming wrong]:

Though racial, gender, and economic tensions and fears are driving forces behind white male devotion to Bush, it was wrongly assumed they are the prime reason for their devotion to him. Since Barry Goldwater's landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Republicans have branded government as a destructive, bloated, inefficient white elephant, weighting down the backs of middle-class Americans. That argument resonates with many workers because taxes are too high, and government is too big, distant and removed. Though Bush's tax cuts are blatant sops to the rich and corporations, many small business owners and middle-class taxpayers also benefited from them.

This column does a good job, I think, talking about many things that aren't discussed very carefully by people trying to understand what happened last Tuesday. This excerpt talks about the moment when Republicans cemented the idea of taxes as being detrimental to American life (and mostly a burden on middle-class Americans, the class that while not necessarily the representative class of all Americans, is the one that most people seem to identify with). I still think that there was a heck of a lot of (Democratic) voter suppression and voter fraud going on, but it is also undeniable that large numbers of Americans did go out and vote for Bush. The real question is why. And what we need to ask is also how to re-map the issues that define the two-party system today in a way that will swing people towards a government that will actively create and protect social justice.

      >> 8:14 PM

[Gay Marriage, GOP Secret Weapon]:

So I’m proposing a story for some brave journalist, or novelist, or scholar, or filmmaker. Tell us why so many of us build our understandings of the world around opposition to homosexuality. We’ll want to know about the various theologies. We’ll need to know about psychology, biology, sociology. But what I’m really waiting for is a full account of the faith that underlies this opposition. It’s neither simple nor shallow. My travels -- and this election -- suggest to me that it is deep, profound, and made up of many meanings, spiritual, physiological, political, metaphorical.

Any takers? I think this is something incredibly important to work through as the basis for political affiliation. Why is it so useful for politicians to state their opposition to homosexuality? Of all things, why gay sex? (Link via [pmuse].)

      >> 5:44 PM

I just came across these two web projects that look at literary studies/literacy/humanities and new information technologies: [transcriptions] and [vos]. Both are projects of [Alan Liu]. Must look into these more.

      >> 2:01 PM

Monday, November 08, 2004

The week has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start -- not nearly prepared enough for my classes. But at least we're reading material I really like and have studied in depth before. In the Women's Studies class, we're working through the special issue of Journal of Asian American Studies on "comfort women" still. In the Major American Authors class, we're reading James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room (which has one of the most [beautiful passage] in literature about sexual awakening). I've spent a lot of time today playing with the puppy. We were just out in the cold playing catch and tug-o-war with his frisbee.

Before that, I was at a free screening of the 1929 silent film [Piccadilly] starring [Anna May Wong]. She played a Chinese dishwasher in a London restaurant/club. Discovered dancing in the scullery by the owner, she is initially fired but later rehired as a dancer. From there, the story only gets more melodramatic as the owner falls in love with her, spurning his other dancer/lover.

Though I didn't get much done this weekend in terms of class prep (and dissertation writing -- but that was foregone conclusion), I did have some great conversations with friends. After the disappointing department pig pickin', I stopped by my office on campus to leave a letter of recommendation for a student outside my door. I called up a friend in her office and actually reached her there late on a Saturday afternoon. We ended up going over to Franklin Street for coffee and then wandered over to my car where we sat on the hood and chatted for a bit. My friend was very active with the local Democratic Party people registering voters and canvassing neighborhoods before the elections. I knew that she was especially depressed by the election results. We spent about an hour just talking about all the things that might happen now, trying to figure out what we can contribute to a change in political climate. We talked about George Lakoff's work on framing issues, ways to address the uneven homophobia of large swaths of America, and re-introducing a sense of social responsibility and participation. What especially irks me is how W immediately stated that he was going to "reform" [social security] by gutting its revenue. The sad this is that I wonder if he even needs to talk about "reform" -- wouldn't speaking in the language of abolishing social security carry a lot of weight with self-interested, money-grubbing, libertarian-minded people anyways? What W and his cronies really want is to do away with social security as a government-based safety net at all. Private investments are all that are necessary for people who can afford to put away large sums of money in retirement funds. How did we get to this point when people, in thinking of social security, only see the "taxes" part of it? How did people get to the point of thinking that paying into a social security system obviously meant a greater burden on them over other people? Sure, there are problems with the program as it stands, but why do people no longer feel that the government can and should provide this service? There's just a paucity in general discussion of what good our taxes do. The rhetoric is simply of whether or not a particular political party is going to take away more of our hard-earned money (tax raisers = evil money suckers). When did people become so pig-headed about understanding all the things the government does to take care of people collectively?

      >> 10:30 PM

Sunday, November 07, 2004

      >> 5:54 PM

!! It is possible! Rob just got a paper cut on his tongue licking an envelope to seal. :(

      >> 2:36 PM

Gettin' ready to go over to [MaMa Wok] for lunch with the new Asian Americanist at Duke. Really just a laid back lunch rather than a working get-together about the state of Asian American Studies in the area (which is pretty much non-existent after all).

Yesterday was the department pig pickin', though without any actual pig pickin' (the BBQ was bought ready-to-eat). Also, I knew very few people there. I've reached that point in my graduate career where I look around confusedly, not recognizing any of the first through third-year classes. And very few ABD students went to the gathering this year. I hadn't planned on going until yesterday morning when I realized what a beautifully sunny day it was and how great it would be outside. I did have an okay time talking to the handful of people I know. (And no, the thought never crossed my mind to say hello to people I don't know.)

It's Sunday already; time to spring back into action and to prepare for classes this week. We're working on the unit studying the study of [comfort women] in my Women's Studies class. Discussion has been pretty good, I think. We're taking up all the different implications for the academic "hotness" or "sexiness" of studying comfort women, especially in Asian American Studies as a field. Last week we read an essay by the inimitable Kandice Chuh about "discomforting knowledge." She argues quite usefully, I think, that in the study of comfort women, especially through literary representations, we as academics need to pay close attention to our claims of activist work. She wants Asian Americanist academics to understand their knowledge production not as automatically resistant knowledge, but as knowledge that necessarily traffics in academic currency. We make our names as scholars, for example, through the material we study. We can become known as the feminist Asian Americanists who study comfort women and thereby profit far more from our work than the comfort women themselves (who always figure as the beneficiaries of this kind of work). Chuh isn't being totally pessimistic, though, in arguing that academics are intellectuals who profit from knowledge production, but rather is interested in getting academics to pay attention to what their work actually does. She argues ultimately for this kind of "discomfort" or critical distance from the work that we do instead of simply assuming that as Asian Americanists/feminists we are automatically resisting something in the university.

      >> 12:07 PM

Saturday, November 06, 2004

I bought this book Enslaved by Ducks from the bargain bin at the local bookstore today. How could I not? And it's a book published by a local press, Algonquin Books. It's about how animals take over the author's household. Looks like he had a whole menagerie, though. Of course they would take over.

      >> 12:53 PM

Friday, November 05, 2004

Working on cleaning up the apartment after a few weeks of neglect. Also trying to put away things from the move a few months ago. I just flipped through a couple crates of files. I came across a short story I wrote in 1999 for a writing workshop. It was called "The Funeral." I also came across a handful of illustrations I did for a political analysis magazine in college. And I also had a file of photos of artwork I did in high school. Maybe I'll procrastinate more and scan some of the pictures to post here. In a bag and a box, I found a watch I have had since high school (it's missing a wrist strap but otherwise is in working condition). I also found a report card from my sophomore year in high school. In another box I found the many letters my mom wrote me when I came out to her and my dad in college. These letters are nestled in a slew of gay and lesbian related material that were my sustenance during those months. There are fliers for college gay and lesbian events, informational material from major national organizations like Lambda Legal and HRC, publications from the NGLTF research institute, and a selection of (very tame) homoerotic images. Of course, the largest bulk of the papers is made up of traces of many abandoned research projects in the form of photocopied articles, notes, and paper drafts. Some day, I will get these things organized and maybe carry through with some of the projects.

      >> 9:10 PM

[I touch my elf.]

      >> 10:39 AM

[Read Books, Get Brain]:

But kids say "get brain" does not mean smarts. It's slang for oral sex. And the company behind the ads told the Daily News the slogan choice was no mistake.

Ha ha. So funny. While this ad campaign is surely a moment to reflect on the continuing degradation of women as sex objects in contrast to men, I think its playfulness is still wonderful. Flying the coded meaning of "get brain" under the radar of people is great. It's more than just using sex to sell something like clothing or literacy -- it's an acknowledgement of the disjunctive layers of meaning and understanding that characterize our use of language.

In other news, I signed up at [NaNoWriMo] this morning. Such a joke. I haven't written even one word of my dissertation in these last six weeks or so. How am I going to write a 50,000-word novel in a month?

In other other news, Giles got injured "playing" with another dog last night. Giles is a bully when it comes to dog-play. He's always biting and wrestling roughly with dogs. Yesterday a new dog came into the tennis courts to play. We'd met the dog once before and Giles had mauled the poor puppy. Since then, the dog has gotten bigger. And after a long while of Giles biting the puppy, he finally fought back and drew blood. Serves Giles right, though, because the puppy was really not happy with all the biting. He yelped constantly, hid under our legs, and ran away from Giles's biting. Still, Giles would not take a hint (he never does). I feel sorry for him and want to take care of him, but I don't feel at all angry at the other dog for lashing back at Giles.

In other other other news, we ordered a new bed that should be delivered today though traffic on the interstate has been horrendous due to an accident.

In other other other other news, I decided I will teach my composition courses next semester with the theme of dogs. Yup. I am that obsessed. Now I just have to figure out what kind of writing assignments I can give that will help students understand the study of dogs in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

      >> 9:00 AM

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The ideal life.

Here's a picture from this afternoon when for a brief half hour I imagined myself in a happy moment, eating chocolate cheesecake with a cup of coffee while grading papers.

Academic talk glutton that I am, I went to hear [Pericles Lewis] talk today. I didn't realize that the talk was geared towards undergraduate students as part of a cluster of courses focusing on nineteenth and twentieth century novels. In any case, Lewis's talk was not nearly as interesting to me as Pheng Cheah's was a couple days ago. Lewis is working on this argument that the Modernist novel has an important religious dimension that has been dismissed by the prevalent "secularist hypothesis." This hypothesis claims that the Modernist novel is characterized in part by a move away from religion to a secular, everyday life of modernity. It would've been great to hear more about the context for critical consensus on this hypothesis. Lewis's argument, in contrast, is that there are in fact many scenes of churches as well as the explicit renunciation of religion (atheism) in these novels that demonstrates instead an important turning to "religious experience" rather than organized religion. I wanted to hear whether or not there was an emphasis on this secularist hypothesis by American critics since the mid-twentieth century because of an interest in the role of religion and state in the American imaginary. And then I wanted to hear why his re-insertion of the religious into critical discourse on Modernist novels is important now. Does it have anything to do with the rise of fundamentalist religions? Lewis's authors are mostly British though he also considers non-Britisth thinkers such as William James, Max Weber, and Sigmund Freud. I also would've liked to hear how American Modernist writers like Stein and Faulkner fit into his arguments about religion and secularism. But I didn't ask any questions and instead left the Q&A before it ended because I wanted to get home to Giles.

My dog doesn't seem to like me much. He always wants to play with other people (and dogs) much more. I can never get his attention when other people and dogs are around. If I were to disappear from his life, I think he could hardly care less.

      >> 6:35 PM

"This man is walking toward equality and fair treatment of gay and lesbian people all over the world ... Please pass him on so that he can reach his destination. Consider all the people around the world who are treated as second class citizens, who suffer imprisonment, torture and death merely because of their biologically determined sexuality. Remember that this is not an issue relegated to the developing world, and if you are lucky enough to enjoy being able to go about your daily life free of such discrimination remember those elsewhere who are not so fortunate. And keep him walking."

I got this image and message via e-mail today. There are a lot of things I don't agree with in the message, but the sentiment is right.

      >> 10:33 AM

Many of you appalled by the red-and-blue map of the US denoting Republican and Democratic states might have seen this interesting [purple map] already. This kind of map emphasizes more strongly the polarization of supporters of the party across the country. It might give hope to those of us in states like North Carolina to realize that the state isn't entirely red, right, though strongly red. Some of my students were saying that it was disappointing for them to realize that under the electoral college system, their vote effectively did not count in the final tally. I wonder what might have happened had Kerry won the popular vote but not the electoral college vote rather losing both.

      >> 7:57 AM

It's a brand new day today. Or at least I hope it is. Yesterday was one of those horrible, depressing, stress-ridden days. I began early with an appointment at the dentist for fillings -- over an hour of numbing, drilling sounds, the smell of burnished teeth, clamps, and fist-clenching discomfort. The major thing, of course, was the awfulness of "four more years" of Bush. There was just this pervading pallor of depression all over town. The radio stations kept trying to understand and explain why Bush managed to win a majority of the popular vote. But none of it really made any sense, and all I could feel was frustration at the meanness (not stupidity since underestimating their power is one of the most dangerous things to do) of "Bush Country."

I then had to wade my way through two classes for which I was mostly unprepared. I decided to raise the issue of electoral politics in one class in order to make a tenuous connection between literature (reading, thinking, framing ideas and experiences) and politics. It was mostly unsuccessful, I guess. It was heartening to hear from students that they voted for Kerry rather than Bush, though I would guess that the other half of the class that didn't speak might have favored Bush strongly even though I tried to encourage open and non-combative discussion about experiences of and feelings towards voting in the Presidential elections for the first time. Most of my students expressed discontent with the "power" of their vote and efforts to register friends and get them to the polls. Some noted that they had voted in the home towns and were actually surprised by how vociferous and all-pervasive Bush supporters were in those areas under an hour's drive from Chapel Hill.

What put me over the edge when I got home last night was problems with my Internet connection. I spent over two hours on the phone and on the live help chat program with the "customer service" people but failed to resolve the problem at all. Instead, I was condescended to by the various people I dealt with, told to do things that I had already tried (and they wouldn't let me go on with them until I had done it again), and then ultimately was told that it must be a problem with my router/wireless base station.

In the meanwhile, my dog was getting increasingly upset that I was not paying him any attention. He would scratch himself vigorously (tags clanging loudly) or make his toy duck quack loudly right next to my ear. This was all made worse by the fact that I had to sit on the ground to connect my computer via hardwire to the cable modem. Giles kept walking under me and sticking his head in my line of vision. He wanted attention. He barked at me when I told him to leave the study. I finally picked him up and put him in the bedroom with Rob, closing the door. Later in the evening, while I was on the phone, he peeed on the bed in an act of disobedience. I, of course, did not discover this pee until I was going to bed shortly after midnight. It was such a fittingly awful end to my day.


Although it all smacks a bit too much of American exceptionalism, there is something to be said at the end of the elections that we are going to have a "peaceful" continuation of power. Tom Brokaw on tv made this comment in the morning yesterday as he was leaving the camera -- that despite all the controversy and the difficulties with ballots, counting, and so on, our electoral system still by-and-large seems to work itself out without violence (though not without abuses of power). This is all just something to hold on to, even if the outcome of the election is disappointing beyond comprehension. (In contrast, I was reading this article, [Taiwan court to rule on election]. There is still a challenge about the spring elections, assassination attempt, and other craziness in Taiwan.)

I was left wondering yesterday afternoon where Bush's re-election leaves us as a country. With electoral politics having divided the American public so cleanly in half, what does the future hold for social change and civil rights? Would it be useful and necessary for progressives to mount [disruptive protests]? How can we work to re-articulate divisive issues in ways that allow conservatives to differ from the evangelical right to side with social progressives? On the one hand, we clearly need to think about what it means to form coalitions of voters and people who will support a candidate for/in spite of differences. On the other, it seems nearly impossible to reach those Bush supporters who understand him to stand as a moral defender of American family values. There clearly is much that needs to be done. What that work will look like is much harder to figure out...

      >> 7:17 AM

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I haven't touched anything on my to do list today except vote. But that was the most important task for the day, I guess. I was the 901st person to stick my ballot into the machine.

Walking around town with my "I Voted" sticker and Donald Duck t-shirt.

Other than voting, I went to my weekly engagement of prostituting my labor (for free) at [Duke University Press]. The good thing about being there, of course, is seeing in advance what they are publishing. Many names and projects I would love to keep track of, though of course now my only contact with any of the actual work of book publishing is in the nitty gritty details of entering manuscript and contact information into databases, sending out form letters, and filing correspondence.

After "work," I went to a talk by [Pheng Cheah]. He is an incredibly smart scholar, and I think his work is interesting but also somewhat disappointing. His talk offered a rethinking of "the inhuman" as the conditions of possibility for humanity effects in order to think beyond the field of instrumentality that limits human rights work and discourse. He did this rethinking by way of Gayatri Spivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?" essay, Foucault's concept of biopower, and the international division of (reproductive) labor, especially in the context of foreign domestic workers in Singapore. All of this was great, and as a sort of philosophical-theoretical discussion, I think it was invaluable for "updating" some important work by figures such as Kant, Foucault, Habermas, and Spivak. But this is where my question how this kind of rethinking might be ultimately useful for the nitty-gritty world of human rights, NGOs, and so on. I recognize that to make instrumental all knowledge-production is dangerous (this is something Wahneema Lubiano beat into me by always dismissing this line of questioning in classroom discussion when I would bring it up), but if you are saying that what you offer in your work is an important rethinking of the limits of liberalism and govermnetality in human rights claims, what are the new possibilities that your work offers? I would argue that rather than offering new possibilities, he is claiming new fields of recognition for political and activist work. And yet, even that suggests that what we are after is new ways of understanding progressive politics and activist work's impact on the state.

      >> 5:48 PM

Monday, November 01, 2004

If I write about positive things in my classroom, it's not that I want to boast or think of myself as some wonderful teacher. Rather, I really do feel like a lousy teacher who doesn't know how to begin teaching a novel let alone spend four or five class sessions on one.

Nevertheless, this experience teaching literature for the first time (at least as the primary focus of the class rather than as an entryway to a particular issue, historical event, or theoretical concern) has made me realize that I did in fact choose to enter the academy via an English department for a very particular reason. As much as I am interested in cultural studies, disciplinary critique, the politics of knowledge, radical pedagogy, and so on, I am also fundamental interested in exploring how we can use literature as a springboard for all kinds of discussions.

I am teaching William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury now. It is not an easy novel by any means. I can't even say that I "get" it in any thorough way myself. But I am excited that there are some students really grappling with the difficulty of the novel. I have one older student who has talked to me both days so far after class discussion on the novel, noting how he still has no sense of what is going on or why Faulkner might be considered a great novelist. He has talked with other students in the class about why they might find it the best novel we have read so far. He is intrigued. He doesn't really understand what we are saying in class, but he is insistent on sticking to the novel, re-reading and thinking in order to figure out what is going on. He has never encountered a book that has given him such pause, been so opaque to his understanding. If nothing else, I am glad that I seem to be accomplishing one of my goals for the class -- to provide students with a broad range of great American literature as a way to get them to ask questions about the criteria by which we judge that greatness. And rather than telling them why particular works might be considered great, I am interested in having them focus on the writing itself, to extrapolate from the text what might be so captivating for scholars and intellectuals.

I am happy to be teaching literature.

      >> 5:33 PM