Wednesday, April 27, 2005

[By Cheese Possessed]:

"It's not normal," she said of her cheese obsession.
. . .
Hard-core enthusiasts may seek out formaggio di fossa, an Italian sheep's milk cheese that is aged in the ground, but few would go as far as Cielo Peralta, a worker at Murray's since 1995 who has had one buried in his backyard in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for a year. He lovingly slathers pumpkinseed oil on its mottled surface every few months.

Mmmm. Cheese. I could use some delicious cheese now....

      >> 11:11 PM

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

      >> 9:29 PM

Woe is sick me. This allergy-induced sinus infection thing is generating general body fatigue. I was pretty much immobilized yesterday evening as soon as I got home around 4:30 pm. And then I crawled to bed at 11 pm, snoozing until 7:30 (an hour and a half after my alarm went off). Health, oh how I miss you.

On the happier side of things, I have just finished compiling grades for my two composition classes. NO MORE TEACHING WORK! I AM DONE! We'll see if any of the stinkers want to challenge their grades, though of course the only thing they can technically do is point out any calculation error in adding up their final scores. You wouldn't believe how many students have come in to my office at the end of the semester to say that I should just raise their grades a bit because it would oh-so-help their GPAs and it might not matter to me so much the difference between a B- and a B but it does to them and all this other sort of crap.

Now I can buckle down and do some work on my dissertation and this [Beyond Autoethnography] conference presentation I'm giving on Saturday in Canada. I'm not sure I think the way the conference frames a question around ethnic literatures is the most useful, but it is certainly a contentious one that I will find plenty to discuss. I would definitely consider how important publishers, marketing people, reviewers, and scholars are to the take-up of literature by ethnic writers as autoethnographers, more than just placing this kind of approach solely on the shoulders of creative writers.

      >> 3:18 PM

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Have just taken hot bath and am getting ready for bed.

Long week at the conference in LA. Was sick the whole time. My allergies transmuted into a sinus infection Wednesday, leaving me tired and pained (stabbing pain in throat) for a couple of days. Still, I managed to make it to a number of panels to hear what people are saying in Asian American Studies. Always instructive if not always scintillating. Also managed to catch up with some friends and conference acquaintances, though didn't really meet new people this time around.

I must say, I was greatly unimpressed by LA as a city. I guess I didn't have anyone to show me any parts that weren't wholly tourist-ized or suburban-ized (stretches of the usual retail stores and eateries). And can I say how difficult it is to be a vegetarian while traveling?

I am very glad to be back. I have a few days to wrap up my classes, post final grades, get over this sinus infection, write another presentation, and generally recharge before jetting off to a conference outside Toronto. I do like the fact that this profession allows (requires) such traveling. If only I had more money, though.... and could take Rob and the dog with me all the time.

      >> 9:20 PM

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

So now that I'm dosed up on three different allergy drugs -- I'm such a pill popper -- I'm finally feeling some relief. No more sniffling and sneezing! This is such a great feeling. Of course, now I'm down $45 MORE (in co-pays) as well as this stinky $50 parking ticket I got for not bothering to pick up the Student Health parking permit. I'll try to petition for them to waive the ticket, but they are very un-accommodating at the parking office.....

I finally heard yesterday from the last dissertation fellowship I applied for -- and I did not get that one, either. So now I have to decide in the next few days if I should teach more in my department or find some other sort of employment for next year.

I am now trying to see if I can take a formal leave of absence in the fall (therefore no need to pay over a thousand dollars in tuition) while still going on the job market.

      >> 12:25 PM

Monday, April 18, 2005

Arrrgh. Stupid allergies and non-stop sneezing. Even the Benadryl is no longer helping. (Now I'm discombobulated and sneezy.) I just spoke to the doctor on phone. She's going to phone in prescriptions for three other allergy medicines. Of course, it's too late now for me to pick them up at the pharmacy. By the time I get there, they will be closed. If only the doctor had returned my call earlier. (It took her over three-and-a-half hours to respond!!!)

      >> 3:51 PM

Dentist this morning. I can't help but feel that there is a causal relationship between my developing gingivitis and starting going to regular cleanings/checkups at the dentist. Sigh.

Am now about to go into a talk by George Sanchez. There's, like, no one here, though.

      >> 10:55 AM

Buffy: You want credit for not feeding on disaster victims?
Spike: Well, yeah.
Buffy: You're disgusting.

Still sniffly despite the Allegra. I might have to go back for alternate medication. Flipping through the channels earlier, caught a snippet of Get Shorty. Gene Hackman's character turns around, startled, and curses when John Travolta's character turns off the tv set while sitting in the dark. Apparently, it is okay for someone to exclaim, "Judas Priest!" but not "Jesus Christ!" on television because they dubbed over the latter with the former.

      >> 6:47 AM

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I just opened a fortune cookie. It said, "Give a kiss to the person who sits next to you." So I did.

      >> 7:20 PM

Giles is very unhappy when we become scary cyborgs. He barks at us as if we are intruders. The first time I noticed this was when Daylight Saving Time kicked in and I was standing on the chair to change the clock. Giles ran up and barked at me, a strange amalgam of the chair, the clock, and my body. Just now, he barked at Rob holding a curling bar and weights.

      >> 5:52 PM

[Library cited as gay 'cruising' area]:

"It casts a negative light," Huget said. "We'll do everything in our power to make sure that we keep a close eye on things. There is nothing going on (at the library) that would endanger people who come in.

I really just do not understand how public sex endangers anybody, unless they are talking about the possibilities of STD transmission. This would be an interesting statistic -- are men who participate in public sex more prone to violent encounters in public bathrooms than others (not simply if they are the ones who beat up other people)? Frankly, I'd gone years without even noticing cruisy bathrooms until I came out and heard about such things from chatty friends who love telling salacious stories. Libraries, at least academic ones, are totally a hot-bed for public sex, though. It's funny how the librarians in this article act like public sex and libraries are so mutually exclusive.

      >> 10:09 AM

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Was at [School of Criticism and Theory conference] all day. Did not really talk to anyone new.

Best moment was in the third panel, at the end of the q&a, when Robyn noted forcefully and importantly how the conversation had turned towards a particular kind of citational practice of white male philosophers that effaced the theoretical work under discussion (feminist and queer theory). Also really liked papers by Michael Warner and Robyn, though Warner's skepticism about the institutionalization of sexuality studies is something I don't quite agree with. Am mostly thinking that while I agree with the impetus for being skeptical about institutionalization and institutional recognition, also think that it is important to leave an institutional mark or trace with these kinds of radical projects that are meant to challenge the way knowledge is organized in the academy.

Am tired now. According to Rob, am also bright red (from the wine).

      >> 7:03 PM

Friday, April 15, 2005

I am the terror that quacks in the night....

      >> 10:25 AM

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Well, I didn't pass the German language reading proficiency exam. :( Sadness. Guess I'll be studying up and taking it again in the fall.

My allergies are hovering at the edges of sneezes. The last two days were rainy, which I think helped keep the sneezing away. But today was dry and the pollen and stuff has been blowing quite a bit. I've been indoors mostly, but trekked across campus a few times going from place to place. Tomorrow morning I'm going to the doctor to get me some prescription-strength allergy meds!

For now, it's another Benadryl pill. Let's hope I can get through my taxes before I get mentally immobilized.

      >> 4:08 PM

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

[Japan's high-tech carers]:

Robot therapy
Paro, based on a baby harp seal, has taken 12 years and £5m ($9.5m) to create.
Based on the well-known properties of animal therapy, Paro has been designed to provide relaxation, entertainment and companionship through physical interaction.
Covered in soft white antibacterial fur, Paro's artificial intelligence means it can mimic animal behaviour and over time, even develop its own character.
Sensors beneath its fur and whiskers trigger the seal to move and respond to petting. It's eyes open and close, and its flippers can move too.
Other in-built sensors mean Paro can respond to sight, sound, temperature and even posture. Although not able to talk, the latest Paro models can recognise seven different languages.
In clinical trials, Paro has been shown to reduce stress, depression and anxiety in elderly people, by offering them the chance to demonstrate affection... and receive a little back.

I want a robot animal to take care of me!

      >> 11:58 PM

I didn't care much for Closer. Found it too contrived, obsessed with the difficulties of desire and intimacy in a way that seemed forced rather than plausible. Both Grande école and Closer were apparently first stage plays. It's actually quite evident in the film versions. And frankly, I can't get into the rhythms, diction, and tenor of theatrical dialogue and action. Just doesn't really seem to work for me.

      >> 8:43 PM

In addition to Animal Precinct and other shows about rescuing maltreated pets, I love this show [The Dog Whisperer], starring Cesar Millan. We need Cesar to come work his magic on Giles.

      >> 5:58 PM

Everything is currently covered in a yellow-ish dust, the pollen of some sort of plant in the region. (I've been told that this stuff isn't what causes people's seasonal allergies since it's "too big" in terms of irritants to cause allergies. Still, if one can be allergic to dust, this stuff is much the size of dust. In any case, it at least signals the rampant production of pollen, perhaps emerging at the same time as other stuff that does cause allergies.) After a wonderful morning spent outside walking the dog yesterday, I ended up sneezing non-stop for the rest of the afternoon before the massive dose of Benadryl I took finally kicked in and put me to sleep early in the evening.

Today, I'm still taking Benadryl, and I've definitely got the bodily fatigue and sleepiness that are the usual side-effects of the drug for me. I'll probably have to check out what prescription allergy medicine might work better for me, since the OTC Alavert seems to absolutely nothing in fending off my allergies.

Yesterday, we watched [Grande école], which, not to be too reductionist or to stereotype, was such a French film. It even had these weird dream sequences with stylistic poses and "deep" symbolism. It tried to do too much, in my opinion, exploring the "circulation of desire" (director's words from the commentary, I think, unless that's part of my Benadryl-induced memories) against a back-drop of class tensions/pretensions, globalization, and xenophobia against French Arabs. As with many films that are supposedly about desire and sex not as restricted to gay or straight, it tended to show more scenes of het love than homo love (disappointing to me). There were plenty of male nudity scenes, though. ;) The film was worth watching if for no other reason than to see in narrative form some philosophical preoccupations about desire's place in social systems.

Now I'm going to curl up in bed and watch [Closer].

      >> 1:21 PM

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why the long face, partner?

      >> 12:55 PM

[Sunaina Maira], "Trance-Formations: Orientalism and Cosmopolitanism in Youth Culture," in East Main Street:

The thoughtfulness of the young people I spoke to forced me to think more carefully about the interpretive models and theoretical assumptions I was bringing to the research, to really listen to what it was they were saying, though of course there are moments when it is important to move between listening to "native ethnographers" and analyze critically what is not being said or brought into focus. This dialogic approach underscores the value of using ethnographic methods in cultural studies that go beyond the study of media as cultural texts and speaks to the larger debate about the strengths and shortcomings of youth culture studies in the United States, where a focus on youth culture abstracted from the lived experience of youth themselves has sometimes seemed to be the dominant approach, and also to the value of developing trutly interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary methodologies in Asian American studies. My ethnographic subjects forced me to think about how my questions were embedded in our relationship and to consider difficult ethical and political questions about representation. I was concerned not only about representations of India but also about how my subjects' investments and opinions would be described for a largely academic audience that would, it is safe to say, not be composed primarily of ravers. For those immersed in critical enthography it is a cliché to say that research is coproduced, within limits, and that it is contingent and conjunctural. But we are still grappling with the shape of the new knowledges produced through reflexive ethnography and their implications: substantive, epistemological, and political.

I really like Maira's work, and I definitely like the reflexive ethnography, but sometimes, when I'm reading her stuff, I do feel like she's overlaying a lot of meaning on her subjects' words and giving them a lot of credit for thinking about a wide range of things that don't seem evident in their words. She is incredibly smart and seems to wrest the most interesting conclusions from her subjects' words. In part, I guess that's what troubles me -- is this kind of ethnography ultimately more engaged with the "everyday" or the "lived experience" of people (both terms flashpoints in cultural studies) than the study of other material like published literature, media objects, and so on through various means of gauging reception? I suppose the answer doesn't have to be a resounding yes, but that what's important is an on-going evaluation, within cultural studies work, of the different methodologies researchers employ to make claims about cultures. It does seem like this particular moment in cultural studies is particularly engaged with cultural anthropology and ethnography as the disciplinary locus for research, as a corrective against what Maira notes as the problems of an abstracted understanding of culture that probably misunderstands subjects' own "investments and opinions." But why is the interview or oral testimony more reliable for engaging these "investments and opinions" than, say, more mediated venues like written journals (blogs?), essays, and other media through which subjects might be trying to make statements about their lives? Part of this issue seems to be a sense that the off-the-cuff quality of interviews is maybe closer to how people see themselves than writing as a highly-mediated endeavor (through genres, writing expectations, technologies of writing, etc.).

      >> 7:07 AM

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Another day, another hour at the dog park.

      >> 1:51 PM

Woke up to Mr. Barky this morning.

I read Symptomatic last night. The first part, with the failed love story, was exquisite. Senna has an amazing way of describing intimate moments, the ways a couple fits together, even moments tinged with the knowledge of an end.

Have you ever seen the end of a story before it even begins? Not like a psychic. But like somebody who keeps making the same mistake, because it feels good for a while, and even when it starts to feel bad it's a familiar kind of bad. A problem you can call your own.

Of course, the lines that stuck out to me were ones that resonate with my scholarly interests in how individuals negotiate social identities.

My father's subject: the relationship between history and the individual. He believes everybody is an "excretion" of his or her environment. That's the word he uses. Excretion.

I remember reading about Senna's Caucasia in various places, but I haven't read it myself.

They both believed in ruptures and amnesia and had tried to instill in my brother and me a sense of freedom from all tradition.

This is what gets me about people who are so down on so-called "identity" studies. My feeling is that our understanding of the world is crucially and inextricably linked to our sense of ourselves and our place in the world, even if what we insist on is a total removal from context in our theorizations of how things work. I'm not saying that we should all be doing "race studies" or some sort of auto-ethnographic/-biographical work, but that we should all be aware of what we know and how we know as being a function of who we are. (I suppose this is one version of feminist standpoint theory.)

My father tells me that the further you get away from an experience, the deeper it roots itself inside of you. Don't fool yourself, baby, he said. Time does not heal and history is not progressive.

The great thing about fiction is that the characters can espouse various views, and what is more interesting than the mere statement of one's orientation towards the world is how those differeing worldviews interact with and impact those of other characters.

"It's called the denning instinct," the woman told me flatly, staring into her own dog's kennel, where it lay sleeping so peacefully it looked dead to me. "They prefer rules and order over chaos," the psychologist insisted.
"It's a mistake to think the happiest dogs are country dogs, roaming the woods all day," she said. "The happiest dogs live in cages for most of their lives and are allowed outside only at regular intervals, to pee and defecate and exercise in fenced-in spaces."

This little passage in which the narrator, as a journalist, covers a fad amongst certain New Yorkers for keeping large dogs in their small apartments, was a fun little interlude.

      >> 7:59 AM

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I did not just buy Mark Strand's The Weather of Words, Jiro Adachi's The Island of Bicycle Dancers, Danzy Senna's Symptomatic, and the edited collection of essays East Main Street: Asian American Popular Culture because the one book I was looking for was not in either of two local bookstores I checked.....

The plan is to start reading some contemporary fiction again. I do feel like my ability to think wanes when I try to avoid reading outside of my research project.

      >> 4:38 PM

Noon already! Ack!

The German exam was hard. I have neck pain from being hunched over my dictionary for three hours. We had to read two of three articles. I chose the one about a professor who did research on the gender differences in how students present themselves in office hour conversations (confidently, etc.) and the one about a film about Sophie Scholl, a member of a resistance group in Nazi Germany. In hindsight, I should've chosen the article on the Japanese space race in the place of the one on gender differences because it was by far the shortest of the three. I am only confident about my answers to 10 of the 20 questions. I need at least 14 questions right to pass. And I left two of them blank.

Time to get the day started....

      >> 11:01 AM

Friday, April 08, 2005

Öffen Sie das buch!

OMG. One-and-a-half hours until my German language reading proficiency exam. I only got through three chapters of the textbook. Am I going to fail or what?

      >> 1:01 PM

Thursday, April 07, 2005

      >> 8:10 AM

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

OMG. Only about half my students showed up to classes this morning. Apparently, there was some big game on last night or something. Everyone seems to think that classes should all be cancelled today to celebrate. Hmmm....

It's hot out.

My computer is on the fritz again. :(


      >> 1:05 PM

Monday, April 04, 2005

An amazing, sunny day outside today.

The boombox sings, "We all live in a yellow submarine." This whole weekend and today I've felt mostly inert. It's been difficult getting myself going. Almost 3 pm now and I'm still at home, though I did run off to campus at 10 am to meet with a student who never showed up.

I read Chuang Hua's Crossing in bed last night while Rob slept. We've both been feeling a bit out of sorts, possibly due to poor eating habits (we eat just once or twice a day).

Now I'm getting ready to take Giles out to visit with friends.

      >> 1:35 PM

Sunday, April 03, 2005

[Inspector Gadget theme music.] I loved this show! I so wanted (and still want) Penny's cool book/computer. They should totally make a laptop computer that looks like a book. I would buy it.

      >> 6:40 PM

De-muddifying the dog after an hour at the park.

      >> 4:36 PM

Saturday, April 02, 2005

[A Student of Students: Professor Erika Lindemann traces student legacy of writers]:

The university seemed perpetually caught up in sectional controversies and battles over who would be in charge. The Rev. David Ker was the first presiding professor.  He lasted 18 months.
It was customary in those early days for students to torment their professors, and an occasional riot was not unheard of.

This project sounds fun. I wish I had known about the lecture she gave this past Wednesday. Erika taught the class I had to take on compostional and rhetorical theory in order to teach in the Writing Program. She is a bit intimidating but really an incredible person.

      >> 2:28 PM

      >> 11:04 AM

Friday, April 01, 2005

      >> 7:49 PM

[Say Hello to Bloggy1]:

Bloggy can keep track of all your favorite sites and share the content with you on your chai breaks.

I'm taking a chai break right now! Where's my Bloggy??!!!

      >> 10:29 AM

[UC folklorist Dundes dies while teaching]:

His students found significance in the way he died, said Ryan Sayre, a master's candidate in folklore who was studying with Dundes.
"The fact that he died while he was teaching, while he was in mid- sentence, was very meaningful for us students in that he was doing something that he loves to do, and that's to share folklore with people," Sayre said.

Creepy. And depressing. I hope I don't die in mid-sentence while teaching. And talk about traumatic graduate school experience -- what if your advisor had a heart attack in front of you and then subsequently died on the way to the hospital? Eek.

      >> 10:24 AM

[An Illegal, Immoral Order]:

When did you first have second thoughts about your role in the Army?
It started at about week five of basic training. In the beginning I was really gung-ho and I ate it all up, and I was still loving it until the day I left. It's kind of this compulsive-addictive thing, feeling a part of something bigger; it's almost religious. But, on the same token, at about week five, I kind of had my Road to Damascus moment. We were marching to the chow hall, yelling "Trained to kill! Kill we will!" over and over again, which we had done every day, and it was kind of a mantra. But on that occasion, our drill sergeants decided our rendition of it wasn't enthusiastic enough and they were threatening us with push-ups ... So everybody just got crazy! And they were red in the face, going hoarse, and it was just out of some sort of dystopian novel. "Trained to kill, kill we will," and it escalated and escalated and, I looked around me and I just said, "What am I doing?" But on the same token, I had enlisted, and it's not like you can put in your two weeks’ notice, right?

Freaky. Kill, kill, kill. It's even in the language of the Administration's statements. All about finding those terrorists and killing them. Finding the extremists and killing them. MUST KILL!!!!

      >> 10:05 AM

[A Shameful Little Secret.] Holy crap. Even though I'm against kids generally, this stuff on forced sterilization is awful. Apparently, it's still on the books for the state government to force sterilization on certain people as a eugenics program. Creepy.

      >> 9:49 AM

Happy Birthday to GILES!!!!!

      >> 6:29 AM