Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fate is just Destiny with heartburn.

I'm not one to panic. I could draw up a long list of problems that I have in dealing with pressure, but freaking out is not one of them. This isn't a skill I ever acquired, it's a twist of luck and I'm thankful to the gods for blessing me with it.

For the past nine months I've been preparing for my qualification exams, which will take place starting tomorrow. All this time I've imagined that today would be hectic. I thought I'd be over-caffeinated, tearing my hair out, trying to get one last book in, reviewing and regretting every life decision that led me to this particular node on the historical continuum.

As it turns out, I'm either really good at facing down the inevitable or completely naïve about what I'm walking into. Right now I feel like a seventh grader who's agreed to a fight after school--it's going to happen, so fuck it. Let's get this over with.

If one can get into a certain mindset, inevitability can be comforting. Its restriction can be liberating. I can't do a whole lot now that will make me any smarter than I was twenty-four hours ago, and knowing that made today the most serene, contented day I've had in close to a year.

I'll tear out my hair tomorrow. Friday I'll over-caffeinate. Next Wednesday I'll try reminding myself of some theoretical detail that will add flavor to a conversation with my advisers.

But today I played racquetball and sat on a park bench watching a Labrador run in circles for an hour.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

...and then Just Do It.

I don't mean to endorse Nike, but this commercial (directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu) definitely succeeds in touching a nerve. I'll be in Portugal during the latter stages of the tournament, so the shots of flag-waving crowds while Ronaldo sets up for a free kick...

Q: How pumped am I about the World Cup? (scroll down for answer)

A: Pretty damn pumped.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Enjoy Coca-Cola.

OK, so let's grant that geometry teacher Gregory Harrison is not actually a threat to national security and that he doesn't really condone assassination (no matter how perfect an angle one is presented with). Might we not assume that his job description implicitly requires him to not be an idiot? I think this violates that rule. But then, what do I know?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time tell, but epistemology won't: update.

As mentioned in previous posts, I attended and presented at UCI's Time Will Tell, But Epistemology Won't conference last Friday, which was a really unique event. As a combined tribute to Richard Rorty, celebration of his archives, and assessment of his legacy, the conference provided the opportunity for interdisciplinary discussions between people in fields that you don't usually see together at academic conferences: librarians, technology and information studies experts, philosophers, literary scholars, and students in all these areas. It was one of those intimate all day conferences in which almost everybody attends almost every talk, which personally I like, though there's always the risk that it will get tedious. Fortunately, this one was not tedious, loaded as it was with excellent talks.

Our panel was titled "21st Century Scholarship," which ended up being a little ironic in light of the fact that ours was probably the presentation most focused on materials found in the paper--rather than the born digital--archives. Not content with our inadvertent portrayal of the 21st Century Scholar as a Luddite, audience-members pressed us to contrast our experiences with the paper and digital archives, resulting in a conversation about the writing and revision process, searchable content, and the future of the humanities. It was (dare I say it?) fun.

Highlights for me included meeting Mary Varney Rorty--Rorty's widow and literary executor--as well as talks by Christine Borgman, Ian Bogost, and Michael Bérubé. For those interested, Prof. Liz Losh's blog has several posts detailing the talks given at the conference, while both Bérubé and Bogost have posted blogs about their experiences at (and before) the conference. As an added bonus, Losh's blog includes a link to Bogost's paper, which I highly recommend.

I'd love to say more, but I've got about an hour to come up with something interesting to tell my class about Heart of Darkness and write a letter that will convince the Algerian government that I can be trusted to take a train across their fine nation.

Oh, and my qualification exams are one week away.

There's no place like home...there's no place like home...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"God is a distant - stately Lover - "


God is a distant—stately Lover—
Woos, as He states us—by His Son—
Verily, a Vicarious Courtship—
"Miles", and "Priscilla", were such an One—

But, lest the Soul—like fair "Priscilla"
Choose the Envoy—and spurn the Groom—
Vouches, with hyperbolic archness—
"Miles", and "John Alden" were Synonym—

Emily Dickinson

"Dolly Dingle Paper Dolls," by Grace G. Drayton, courtesy of

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Lithedale Bromance

"He expands and deepens down, the more I contemplate him; and further, and further, shoots his strong New-England roots into the hot soil of my Southern soul."
Herman Melville,
"Hawthorne and His Mosses"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Conference on May 14 at UCI: Time will tell, but epistemology won't

Click on image for more information, or scroll down for the schedule.

A Celebration of Richard Rorty's Archive  
May 14, 2010
Irvine, California 
Rorty’s Legacy 9:00 - 9:30 AM
Elizabeth Losh, UC Irvine: Welcome
David Theo Goldberg, UC Irvine: Opening Remarks
Mary Rorty, Stanford:  Memory, Ethics, and Literary Custodianship in the Era of Computational Media
Michelle Light, UC Irvine: “Designing the Born-Digital Archive” 9:30-10:00 AM

Cultural Politics and the Born Digital, Michelle Light, Chair 10:00-11:00 AM
Dawn Schmitz, UC Irvine: “The Born-Digital Manuscript as Cultural Form and Intellectual Record
Mark Poster, UC Irvine: “Digital and Analogue Archives
Erin Obodiac, UC Irvine: “Digital Immunity
Tom Hyry, UCLA, Respondent
Break: 11:00 - 11:15 AM

Christine Borgman, UCLA: “The Digital Archive: The Data Deluge Arrives in the Humanities” 11:15-11:45 AM

Rorty, Philosophy, and The Question Concerning Technology, David W. Smith, Chair  11:45 AM - 1:15 PM
Iain Thomson, University of New Mexico: “Rorty, Heidegger, and the Danger and Promise of the Technological Archive.”
Mark Wrathall, UC Riverside: “Responding to Rorty: Heidegger's ‘Academic Parochialism’ and the Technological Age

Margaret Gilbert, UC Irvine: "Rorty and Human Rights" 2:15-2:40 PM
Rorty as a Public Intellectual, Jonathan Alexander, Chair 2:40 - 4:45
Ian Bogost, Georgia Tech: “We Think in Public

Steven Mailloux, Loyola Marymount University: “Rhetorical Pragmatism and Histories of New Media: Rorty on Dreyfus on Kierkegaard

21st Century Scholarship from Ali M. Meghdadi, Brian Garcia, Tae-Kyung Timothy Elijah Sung, UC Irvine: "Content Confronts Context"
Break:  4:45-5:00
Closing Speaker: Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University: “Reading Rorty Rhetorically” 5:00-6:30
Reception: 6:30-7:00

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yes, but did the press corps LOL?

From an article in the New York Times about new plans for oil drilling oversight:
"The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, announced the changes Tuesday morning over Twitter."

Friday, May 7, 2010

That's pretty grave.

"This is the third of my novels, and it depends on two very uncertain contingencies, whether it will not be the last;--the one being the public opinion, and the other mine own humour. The first book was written, because I was told that I could not write a grave tale; so, to prove that the world did not know me, I wrote one that was so grave nobody would read it; wherein I think that I had much the best of the argument."

James Fenimore Cooper,
Preface to The Pioneers (1823)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bigots and brains.

Last week, Iowa psychiatrist and Republican Congressional candidate Pat Bertroche advocated tagging illegal immigrants with microchips.

This week psychologist and Christian crusader against the disease of homosexuality, George Rekers, got caught with a male prostitute. It's like clockwork with these family values guys.

In his own defense, Mr. Rekers told the popular gay blog Joe. My. God. that he was--like Jesus--hanging out with a sinner so as to convince him of the error of his ways and nurse him back to spiritual health. That doesn't exactly match the original story that the good doctor didn't know "Lucien" was even gay, that the young man was hired as a "travel assistant" to carry luggage, but I guess Rekers could have come to the realization of what had happened and then clicked into salvation mode.  I suppose that he might have initially missed the fact that is a website for finding "rentboys." And hey, maybe he thinks it's normal for a luggage carrier to advertise that he has a "perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut)."

I'm sure this is just a big misunderstanding.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Notes on the State of Arizona.

Surprising no one by openly expanding its crusade to attack legal as well as illegal immigrants, Arizona will apparently be giving the boot to teachers with heavy accents and bad grammar. I look forward to seeing how Arizona decides which accents are heavy enough to qualify for job termination, which colloquialisms are "ungrammatical" enough, and how to enforce this without making it too obvious that they're just rounding up brown people.

On the other hand, the Phoenix Suns, or Los Suns de Phoenix, get an enthusiastic "hell yes" from this inconsequential peanut gallery inhabitant. Thank you, Robert Sarver. As much as I hate the use of Cinco de Mayo as an excuse for anything, any time your team wears these jerseys, I'm rooting for "Los Suns" against the bigotry of their own home state.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The terrorists don't win this time.

I'm not sure if we can necessarily consider this a triumph for the Obama administration, but it's probably the best result of the war in Afghanistan thus far (plus it makes a strong case against Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"If you wanna live here, learn it!"

If Tim James (see below) had been the governor of California in the mid-eighties to early nineties, I would never have had a ride home from school. So, from personal experience, I can think of at least one problem Alabama's fixin' to take on if it adopts measures that don't consider how and why people immigrate but instead punish those (legal as well as illegal) who are already here.

And then there's Iowa Congressional candidate Pat Bertroche, with this genius idea, which I'm pretty sure betrays a misunderstanding of how pet microchips work, but certainly betrays a lack of basic human decency:
I think we should catch 'em, we should document 'em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going. I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can't I microchip an illegal?
Oh, America. We just don't learn anything ever, do we?

all illustrations lifted from