The following online journal entries are from October 2004.
THURSDAY. 11:01 AM. Congratulations to Cate and Skinner on the birth of their baby daughter, Antigone Jane Maynard. She is a blessing to all who know her and who will know her.
SUNDAY. 11:01 AM. Happy birthday to my friend, Tracy S.!
MONDAY. 7:23 PM. So much time has transpired. The last few weeks have been like flipping through the pages of a book. Everything is a jumble. It almost seems like more than just a couple of weeks have passed. The end of September seems like it's months away. Last week is already a blurry memory. I really need to get a grip on things before they slip totally into the River Lethe.
I've really just been busy, busy, busy. School, work, teaching, writing, reading, grading, sleeping, waking, and just trying to keep up with it all has got me in its thrall. I can't say that I'm not enjoying it all. For the most part, I am doing fine -- swept off my feet, at times, or even a little swept under the rug, too -- but a-okay.
I don't even think I have enough of the recent past in my head to piece together a decent highlights reel. Sad, isn't it? I will do my best, though.
Life has really pretty much been consumed by school. My work schedule has been working long Mondays and Wednesdays. Classes have me busy Tuesdays and Thursdays. And though I have Fridays off, I'm pretty much beat down tired by the weekend and only want to vegetate.
The end of September and the beginning of October have been a steady ramp up to a couple of high points: mid-terms, my first conference, and applications for PhD programs.
Teaching has been all right. My students are discovering that English 101 is harder than it sounds, harder than the syllabus looks, and definitely harder with me in front of the chalkboard. But, there is a certain amount of admirable loyalty they have to the class and to me. I suppose they figure that a guy with a mohawk is a lot more fun and interesting than not, and that a class taught by a guy with a mohawk will be more fun and interesting, also. So far everyone's still hanging in. Usually, I have a couple that end up dropping for this or that reason. They've gotten two formal papers back from me and are figuring out that, amiable Ed aside, I really mean business. (I must say as an aside that I am pretty much done with teaching this class. I've said it the semester past and the semester before that. I love being in front of the classroom, but the grading grind and the subject matter has lost all flavor and texture for me.)
Work has kicked in. I now have a regular flow of students coming into see me during the week. On my long days, I have up to as many as ten students come in for appointments. They're all getting through their midterms and midsemester blahs. Soon they'll be thinking about registering for classes for the spring. Soon I'll have students trying to hunt me down because they waited till the last minute to get things done. But I'm still having a good time. I still find it rewarding. It's just exhausting sometimes.
Teaching UNIV100 has been going well, too. I only a have a handful more weeks with my students. The class is only 12-weeks long rather than the full semester. They're slowly adjusting to life at university. I think most of them will do well and find their niche at school. Now I just have to get them to do their work, stop taking everything so literally or superficially, and find a little curiosity about their world.
My own classes are keeping me neck-deep. If I'm not working, I'm reading. If I'm not teaching, I'm reading. And if I'm not grading, I'm reading. I have to start my big paper for my Modern British Drama class. Everyone in the class has to pick a playwright and a play not being covered by the course and write a 15-page paper about it. Dr. Olmert recommended I take a look at Nicholas Wright's Cressida, which has some queer issues in it. I just got it ordered and hopefully will find a good nugget to write about. My Arthurian class is getting better and more difficult as we go. I'm still lagging behind on getting secondary reading done on the different texts we're reading. I also need to start thinking about my seminar paper for the class, too. Ostensibly, I'm going to write about the figure of Mordred and perhaps linking his presence to Gollum in the Lord of the Rings. I have no idea if I have enough to formulate a good paper yet. And, finally, my independent study on Tolkien is completely stalled. I may just have to work on it over winter break.
Though I am thinking I might have to scrap the independent study altogether. As much as I'd like to work with Dr. Flieger on Tolkien, I just can't seem to get my act together enough to do the work. Plus, the main reason I wanted to do a independent project was to avoid having to take two classes next semester. I could take just one and then work on my final writing project. But there are two classes I want to take in the spring. If I take them both, then I will not need the independent study. Who knows what I'll end up doing? I could do the IS and then take one of the classes pass/fail or some such. A lot of my time the past few weeks has really been spent trying to sort out things in preparation for my first academic conference. This past weekend, my friend and fellow English grad Jess and I drove down to Durham, North Carolina to the very nice but slightly too beige Durham Marriott at the Civic Center for the Society for Literature and Science annual conference. The trip started on Friday morning. I picked Jess up outside the English building at school just after 6 AM. We headed from campus up Route 1, stopped in at Dunkin Donuts (an interesting early morning crowd was already assembled) for coffee and holes, and then hit I-95 south. The drive was pretty simple. We didn't have to stop once. Maryland, Virginia, and then North Carolina. A little after noon, we made it to the hotel. Everyone was very nice and surprised to see us (mainly because of her blue and purple hair and my newly dyed green mohawk). We parked. We had buffet lunch at the hotel's Bull Pen restaurant. Then we dove into the afternoon's panels.
First up: Session 5D, "Nineteenth Century Science: Darwin's Contemporaries." I sort of got the first and second papers. But without a deep sense and knowledge of the subject matter, all I could really do was listen and try to piece together what was being presented. It's like trying to watch a movie or tv serial starting in the middle. You can sort of put together what's happening, but you'll never really get the whole plot or all of the characters. The third paper was pretty unintelligible to me. It's like watching a movie or tv show from the middle in a different language. You can see the characters doing things but you have no idea why, what they're saying, and what is going on.
Then: Session 6C, "Mathematics and Imagination II: Modern." We went to this panel because Jess's undergraduate advisor was presenting. It was a panel about math, the humanities, philosophy, and literature combined. The first two presentations were pretty cool and mostly intelligible. The third paper was really theoretical, really technical, and really over my head. Hence, me coining the phenomena of panel presentations called the "good, good, whoa!?" pattern: a good paper, a good paper, and then a "whoa, what the heck is going on?" paper.
After the afternoon sessions were over, we went to Friday's guest scholar session. Barbara Herrnstein Smith spoke. She gave a very interesting, very well-reasoned paper. But I really didn't have any idea of what she was talking about in a deep way. It was a paper about Modernism and Post-Modernism and Relativism. That's about all I got. Alas, I could only doodle in my conference booklet and write about how presentations really need to be both about good papers and good performances. The format of simply reading a paper can be woefully dull and torpid.
The day's agenda closed with a reception. There was some free food, a little bit of mingling. For the most part, I found the conference to be a little cold. People didn't really talk much to one another unless they already belonged to a clique or they were looking for a networking connection. I likened the experience to a meat market. People would walk up, look at my badge, not recognize my name or care about my school, and then walk away. There were no words exchanged, no friendly plesantries, no remorse for just abandoning a possible social moment. I guess my academic "boobs" or "bulges" weren't up to par. On the other hand, if there was someone there with the right intellectual meat, they would be followed, praised, and sought out. The meat market worked in the other direction, too. People would try to get into the intellectual pants of someone with the right credentials. Jess and I were one of the "youngest" people at the conference. Eventually, though, we would break through.
After the reception, we managed to wrangle up a few people to go out. Downtown Durham is pretty quiet during the day and almost ghostly at night. We tried to head to a club called the Ringside, but it was having a special performance with too high of a cover. We ended up at a nearby bar/pub/eatery called Joe and Jo's. It's local, it's where the cool Dukies hang out, and it's queer friendly. Jess and I along with some conference buddies -- Karin, Tony, Don, and a guy whose name escapes me -- had a few drinks. The two bartenders at Joe and Jo's were really cute: one very hip, very pretty woman named Jessica, and one very cute, shavy headed, lanky boy named Chris (I think). Alas, Jessica was queer and more than happy to pass on to boy-bartender that I thought he was cute. Alas, he was straight. Eventually the first wave of conference folks left. We stayed and miraculously ran into a couple of women from nearby Duke's anthropology program. They happened to be in a conversation about Donna Haraway, who was at the conference and who I based part of my paper on . I asked them if they were part of the SLS conference. They were not. It was simply serendipity meeting Susan and Carolyn. They were lovely. A little while later a group of other conferencees showed up. We all sat together, talked, and drank. Cheers to Jamie, Trace, and Ben. Jamie and Karin and a few others would turn out to be our little SLS family for the weekend. It was a good night, afterall.
Of course, Jess and I didn't get enough sleep for our 8:30 AM panel in the morning. We headed back to the hotel just after midnight. We ended up staying up chatting, each in our beds, and singing showtunes till like 2 AM. Eventually, sleep came. Then morning came too soon. We got up, had continental breakfast, and went to give our papers.
Saturday morning. Session 7C, "[Under]e-presentations: Negotiating Marginalized Cyberidentities." (Though the conference organizers spelled it "Cyber Identities" to our chagrin.) There were seven people in the audience. Most of them were people we met the night before at the reception or the bar. I introduced the panel. Jess gave her paper first, nearly flawlessly. I hadn't read it before, but it made sense and was well-conceived and written. Then I got up to read my "Birth of the Cyberqueer Manifesto." I had worked on it most of the week prior. I even had help from my professor and grad advisor to cut it down. I managed to chop down a 23-page paper to 13-pages. Then, after seeing a few panels, I cut it further to 11-pages. And, somehow, it was still too long. I ended up going past my 20-minutes. I skipped whole paragraphs. But made it through gracefully. (For a while before our panel, I was terrified that Donna Haraway was going to show up and make fun of my use of her writing. But she attended a different panel and asked someone else hard questions.)
Our audience members said both papers sounded fine and seamless. We got some praise. We got a few questions. And we got some critique. But, overall, it was a successful first time out of the chute. We presented at a major conference. Big league and all that. And we came through fine. Thanks to our conference "family" for waking up early and coming to hear us talk. A University of Maryland professor was in our audience. Katie King of Women's Studies. She introduced herself. She had some commentary for both Jess and I. She was friendly and tried to be supportive. Though she did challenge me on my apprehension of Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto." She didn't think I really understood what the manifesto or the figure of the cyborg was really about. She chalked it up to generational differences. I took to heart what she said. And I will investigate some of her suggested leads.
Next came Session 8B, "Sciences of Affect." This was definitely a panel way over my head. I had no idea what the heck was going on. I just sat and tried to keep from keeling over with tiredness. It was a "whoa!? whoa!? okay" session. Then we had lunch. We hung out with Heidi S., who is from UM English, too, and who was down visiting friends in NC as well as hanging out at the conference. Then came Session 9A, "Reading Visual Images of Animal Bodies." I went to this one on my own. It was a good panel. I understood most of what was going on. I figured since Alenda's MA project was on visual rhetoric and nature films, I thought I'd go and see what I could see. The scariest part of the panel was when Donna Haraway sat down right next to me! She circled the room, could've taken any seat, but chose to sit right next to me. There were seats all along my row and she still sat next to me. I figured she wanted to be able to see the projection screen, which is why I sat where I sat. But I think the universe was telling me that I had to face the very person I wrote about. After the panel, Katie King came up and introduced me to Donna Haraway. She was very nice, polite, and a little distracted. But we didn't get a chance to talk much because we had to get out of the room.
Jess and I skipped the fourth session of the day. We just didn't have it in us to sit through another presentation. We ended up going up to our room and vegetating for a couple of hours. We needed the catnap time. We did head down for the second guest scholar session featuring Donna Haraway and Barbara Smuts called "Animal Conversations: Braiding Natures and Cultures." Donna Harway came up to me before the talk and we chatted a little bit. I ended up introducing her to our group of conference friends. Her presence did startle a few people. She was gracious and revealed to us that sometimes she would turn her nametag around or not wear it because she didn't want to be noticed. Must be hard to be a superstar. Like I said earlier--academic meat market. The second guest scholar session was fun and interesting; it was about dogs and humans, and humans and dogs, and the need to study different kinds of love and connections and social behavior and social needs and desires.
After the session, we and a group of conferencees went to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner. Then Jess, Jamie, and I stopped in at Joe and Jo's for some "front loading" (or as Jamie calls it, "pre-gaming"). We had three rounds of drinks and then headed back to the hotel for the SLS "dance party." It was very odd to see people who had been giving very serious papers on very serious topics dancing and flailing and grooving and moving. Surreal. At times absurd. But fun. The DJ was pretty good (and kind of cute in the tall, shavy headed, lanky sort of way). He spun on vinyl, which I vastly approved of. Unfortunately, not too many scholars were also dancers. The dance party was pretty quiet. Though it was punctuated by the arrival of a yard tall ice sculpture of a dog sitting up and holding a bouquet of real flowers. At first, we thought the ice sculpture was an homage to Donna Haraway and Barabara Smuts's lecture. But it turns out that the SLS folk are hoodlums and stole it from the wedding party at a ballroom down the hall. The wedding party had cleared out and left it. So, a group of scholars and scientists (and now thieves) took it. I cry shenanigans! Too funny.
When the dance party broke up at midnight, we headed back to Joe and Jo's. In fact, we ended up bringing whomever was still up and awake with us. There were a lot of SLS bigwigs having a few drinks. I really didn't know who they were. But it was fun, nonetheless. It was a good night to end the conference.
Sunday morning came a little too early. Though, Jess and I did sleep in a little. We went down for breakfast. We hung out for a little while to see people and to say goodbye. Then we packed up, checked out, ran into Donna Haraway one last time, and left for home. The ride home took a little longer and was a little harder than the ride down. I was so tired. We both were. But we made it to Maryland, to UM, to home just fine. I dropped Jess off at her car at school and then dragged myself home. I was so happy to be home. The cat was so happy to see me. I promptly did very little that night and slept very soundly.
I am still processing the whole conference experience. I'm not sure I really like the whole intellectual sparring that goes on at conferences. I like talking. I like discussing. I like conversation. But I don't like sparring. I don't like arguing. I don't like oneupsmanship. But I'm glad I went. I'm glad it was a success overall. And I'm glad to have met the people I met. Shout out to Jamie, Karin, Heidi, Don, Tony, Ben, Katherina, Sarah, and everyone else we met, shook hands with, shared drinks with, and thought big thoughts with.
Now, in the last couple of weeks of October, I have to think about my applications for PhD programs. I'm not even sure I want to go on for my doctorate. But I have to get things done and in the mail before too long. Come November, I'll be in National Novel Writing Month hell...
TUESDAY. 7:17 AM. Best of thoughts, wishes, prayers, love, luck, energies, chi, hopes, and confidence to my friend Shawn, who was in a pretty nasty car accident yesterday morning. I found out that he had been medivac'ed to hospital from Skinner, who had gotten a random call from Shawn's mobile phone by a cop, who had found the phone on the helipad and dialed the first number that came up. I don't have too many details: Shawn was headed to work, was crossing an intersection, supposedly a truck ran the red coming from his left, and struck him on the driver's side. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to have broken anything nor bruised much (though Christine, his wife, said it is still early). He was suffering internal bleeding and a ruptured spleen. He went into surgery yesterday. They saved the spleen (a very odd thing to say in any context). He's recovering and should be out of the hospital by week's end or so. Best to him and his loved ones.
FRIDAY. 9:55 AM. It's too bad that I am guilty of five out of the ten geekiest or dorkiest of pasttimes:
Comic books? Check (though not in any obsessive way). Role-playing games? Check. Have you seen Tellings? Star Wars? Check (I have never dressed up though). Everquest? Check. Star Trek? Check (Again, no dressing up.) Live action role-playing? Check.
Though, I wonder if the numbers are skewed even more for being a queer geek?
SUNDAY. 11:02 PM. I'm a little bedraggled today. Well, it's actually nighttime now. The time change -- though we get our lost hour back -- has probably screwed with my circadian cycles. Plus, not getting much regular sleep in the last few days hasn't helped. Life is a little stressful at the moment. I've got a ton on my mind. And I've got a ton on my plate. The 'to do' box is quite full.
This past Thursday and Friday, I spent working on my PhD applications. I wanted to get them done before the start of November. Partially, I want them out of the way so I can concentrate on the remainder of the semester without worry. Partially, I want them out of the way so I don't have one more thing to do. To date, I have successfully applied to seven schools. For a doctorate in English: UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, University of Washington (in Seattle), University of Southern California. For a doctorate in American Studies: New York University, University of Texas at Austin, (which is kind of my weird, way out school). And finally, UC Santa Cruz for their History of Consciousness program. I don't think I'm going to apply to any other schools. I'm thinking about applying to Maryland. I probably will not, thought. It depends. I've shelled out a ton of money for application fees this past week. It's crazy. I've also spent $130 to take the GRE Subject Test in English in November. Most of my applications are out, done online, and out of my hands. I have a couple that need me to send everything in one packet, so I have to wait for letters of recommendation to come back to me. But, for all intents and purposes, my applications are out the door. Now I have to wait a million years to hear back from the schools.
This weekend has been pretty full and distracto for me. I've just got a lot on my mind. The election is really, really freaking me out. I am concerned in the number of people I've met that have said they are not voting or undecided. I'm not sure if they're saying that just because they don't want to offend me because they're secretly planning to vote Bush. But it's a little worrisome. I have no idea what the outcome next week will be, but I just hope it's by a large enough margin and in my favor.
On Friday, I worked on applications. Then I went to campus for a little while to drop off letter of recommendation forms. Then I drove up to Shawn's house to pick him up so we could go to lunch. He's doing much better after his accident, his surgery, and his stay in the hospital -- though still in pain, still weak. But he's got color back in his face and is more lucid. We had lunch in College Park at Plato's. Then we hung out for a little while. He needs to get out of the house while he recovers. (To add to my election woes, it turns out Shawn would normally have voted Republican or for Bush if Bush wasn't turning out to be such a weenie. Shawn doesn't really care for Kerry either. He may just vote independent. I didn't press it. I really don't think getting into a political scuffle with a friend I see regularly is going to be conducive to the friendship. I am interested though in his position and may investigate after the election is over. I did say that I have to vote Kerry because Bush represents things that I simply cannot agree with, abide by, desire, or want in my President, in my country, and in my world view.)
Shawn helped me shave off my mohawk. I also shaved off my goattee. I look like I'm twelve again. It was time for a change, and I wanted to start over. I really liked the mohawk. But I was tired of maintaining it. I will probably go back to my normal spikey hair on top. For now, I like the simplicity of a shavy head. Plus, I thought it would be a pretty drastic change for Halloween.
Friday night, I took the metro into the city to go to the DC area National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) kick-off gathering. It was held at the food court of Union Station, which is one of my favorite neo-classical buildings in DC. The food court was a little bit of an odd choice of venue, but it was metro-accessible, large, and had food. There were a couple dozen people there, mostly women, and I didn't really known anyone except for Rise, the organizer, our municipal liason. But I met some neat people. I stayed and chatted for a while. It seems there's a whole flock of teenaged and college aged writers this year -- more power to them! Everyone seemed pretty nice. After the gathering, I took the metro (riding it with one of the Nanos named Milla) to Dupont. I was to meet my Friendster friend Andrew at Kramerbooks for a few drinks. He was late. Really late. But I waited and he eventually showed up. We had a few beers and chatted about life, politics, the election, boys, and random stuff. Afterward, we decided to head to the DC Eagle, which I had never been to. It was pretty quiet still when we got there. It's a big place (much bigger than the SF Eagle) and full of big, burly guys. It was relaxed. Very dark upstairs. Cruisy. And chill. We didn't stay very long. Andrew decided he was done for the night and wanted to head to his boyfriend's house. So, we hopped back on the metro. He went his way, and I went home.
Saturday day, I worked on a couple of last minute things for my applications. I ran a few errands. I hung out and tried to relax and clean up my office. I can almost see my desk. Saturday night, I went to some grad school friends' house in College Park for a Halloween party. My costume was in two phases. Phase one: I dressed as a stereotypical frat boy complete with University of Maryland baseball cap, sweatshirt, jeans, white socks, and tennis shoes. I also had a St. Patrick's Day sticker on my chest and a bottle of Jagermeister in hand. Because of my newly shaved head and face, I really did look like a regular joe. Those people that knew me, worked with me, and seen me around school were pretty darn surprised. I walked around and shouted and grunted and offered people shots of Jager (which I personally think is gross). The party was small, relaxed, but enjoyable. People hung out and talked and drank. It was nice to be with Rob, Heidi, Karen, Emily, Joanna, Joanne, Margaret, Liz, Kris, and Jody (and friends of friends whom I don't really remember); Jess and her friend Zack showed up later. Phase two of my costume: I got totally all gothed up with my fishnets and Utilikilt and makeup. Phase two got a pretty good response, too. I didn't stay too terribly long. I was really tired. I didn't drink, either. I ended up heading out around 1 AM. I did stop by the coffee house, where people were partying it up. All the staff and regulars were going hog wild. Then I went home and crashed. Pictures forthcoming..
Today, Sunday, I went to the coffee house after sleeping in some. I did some grading. I hung out and chatted with people. It was good to see Joe and Sara and Chrissy and Mitzy and Ellen and Brewer and Chris and Aaron and Eric. I even met a few new people. I didn't get as much work as I would've liked done. Then I came home, cleaned up the house a little, and got ready for gaming. Brian, Alenda's boyfriend, stopped in for a bit to drop some stuff off to be shipped to my sister. He seems to be doing well. We chatted. It was good to see him. I wish I could hang with him more but my schedule and his living two hours away puts a damper on things. Brian left and people showed up for Tellings. Gaming was all right. Again, I was tired and distracted. Cate came and hung out with us with the baby. It was cool. We're going to try to see if she can return to play and have the little one around.
Now is the time on the show when we sleep. I have a full day's advising tomorrow. I've got tons of work to do still. And NaNoWriMo starts in an hour. I don't think I have the energy to stay up to get my first few words in. I'll have to do it from work on the morrow.
Inspired by the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Voter Guide, www.indyvoter.org might be a useful site. Their voter guide by state is pretty darn nifty. While living in SF, I used to take the SFBG voting guide sheet with me to the polls as a guideline, particularly to help me with local ballot issues and questions. Use it. Endorse it. Pass it on.
© 2004 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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