Monday, April 28, 2008

So Cal is Where My Mind States, But It's Not My State of Mind

Man, California in April is vastly different from Madison in April.

In Cali, it was 80 degrees. There were flowers. And palm trees. And an ocean. And a patio at the hotel, where we sat in the shade under a ring of flowers and drank overpriced drinks.

In Madison, it snowed today.

So this weekend, as I mentioned in my last post, I went to Long Beach for a conference. This was my first time in California, and my first major conference, as well as the first time I presented part of my dissertation to people who weren't already my friends and thus obliged to tell me it was worthwhile. All in all, things went very very well. My paper was well received, and if I didn't get a ton of useful feedback, I got some good questions that I felt I was able to answer adequately, as well as some sense of validation that my ideas are in fact worthwhile.

The seminar I was a part of was stupidly good, with the 11 papers involved connecting in very interesting ways, which is odd when you consider our topics ranged from Dickens to the Vietnam War, from Dead Like Me to The Big Money, from artworks about genocide to a discussion of the zombie as emblem of the post-human Other. All of our papers were related, in some way, to death and narrative, but beyond that they wove together along lines none of us really expected. Given that the majority of panels I've ever been on have had nothing whatsoever in common, this was really refreshing. Also refreshing was when the very pleasant Irish scholar took the time to revise her paper the night before she gave it specifically to reference my paper from the day before.

Only actually went to two other panels at the conference, which isn't quite so bad when you consider that I had to attend three of my own seminar, so all in all I attended ten hours of conference panels over the course of the weekend. Anyway, it was freakin' California, and damned if I planned to spend the entire time inside the hotel.

Though I did spend a fair amount of time just outside the hotel, on that patio, under the ring of flowers, drinking.

Yeah, that was nice.

So, things I noted about the weekend, in no particular order:

-Jet Blue is really the way to travel. They have a tv on the back of each seat, with a DirectTV feed and all the basic cable channels. Even the flight back, which had multiple screaming babies, was enjoyable, due to the pleasures of drowning out said babies with The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man 2.

-Sitting on the aisle is a mistake. I'm a window seat man, and I need to embrace that.

-Long Beach Airport is ghetto. It may as well be a series of tin shacks. Seeing that there were multiple places you had to walk outside just to get to the baggage claim, we Wisconsinites wondered what they did in bad weather. Then we remembered we were in California.

-California is fuckin' expensive. Sure, I expect to get gouged by the hotel bar, but we were hard pressed to find anyplace we could eat for less than $15, even for lunch. God bless you, income tax return!

-Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor there. Yeah, I already knew that, but it's still surreal to see him on tv as the actual governor of the state you're in. Hilarious.

-A man got eaten by a shark, while training for a triathalon. Apparently his wetsuit made him look like a seal. TGD and I got quite a few laughs out of this while reading the paper poolside.

-It's a good thing I don't have a continental breakfast provided for me every morning.

-Zombies are funny. They are also apparently the working class of the horror industry.

-The desert is big.

-So is the ocean.

-Other parts of the country have mountains in them. Who knew?

-I can actually see fairly well with only one contact lens in, provided it is in my right eye.

-Brownsox somehow called me from the future. As he still has yet to call me back in response to my return call, I can only assume he has somehow managed to find a tricked out DeLorean and has an important message of future peril for me.

-There's something very liberating about being entirely out of internet contact for a weekend.

-TGD is a Navigation Hero.

I'm sure there are other things I'm forgetting, but it's late. Since we got in today at about 1:00am, I took the entire day off until my writing center shift this evening. Slept till 10, watched all the tv I missed this weekend (Lost and BSG = Awesome, Supernatural = Cool, Smallville = Lame Beyond Belief), answered a few e-mails, and generally rested.

Needed to recuperate after my vacation, after all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Purposeless Update

My life is boring. There, ya happy? I'm not blogging because nothing of note is going on. So here's a blog post about all the uninteresting things that I'm doing.

Exception: Watching the start of Season Four of Battlestar Galactica is awesome, exciting, and just cool. Particularly great was the season premiere, when the Disserator and I went to a social gathering specifically because they had a tv with cable there. We left our friends after 45 minutes, went into the basement, watched the show, and came back up. All the while enduring the catcalls from our friends upstairs, who kept asking things like "Are the aliens attacking yet?", which just shows how little/nothing they know about the awesomeness of BSG.

Ok, so priority one in my life right now is editing down a dissertation chapter into a conference paper. Dissertation chapter: 56 pages. Conference paper: 8-10 pages. This is like trying to pour a birthday cake into a funnel. You end up with a big mess, you lose all the structure, and while it may still have some decent taste to it, there's no style or overall sense left. You just end up with a pile of frosting and cake all mushed together, and probably very dirty hands. That's how I feel about that.

In essence, I've cut out the main two argumentative points of the chapter. I barely talk about the book at all now. Much of my theory has gone by the wayside. And I can't tell if the sections all add up to something, or if I've just got a collection of random stuff. And I'm still two pages over the limit. Luckily, I'll be presenting this paper in Long Beach, CA, so even if it isn't any good (and I have to endure scorn from the Yalie grad student on my panel), I'll still be someplace pleasant and warm.

Priority Two: Still been dissertating. Second chapter progressing slowly, but not nearly as rapidly or coherently as my last chapter. This is a problem that arises when you use up all your good ideas in the first chapter.

Priority Three: Grading papers. I plan to do this at some point, despite the fact that the bulk of them are probably very bad papers about Emily Dickinson.

Priority Four: Halo 3. I've been playing a lot of this recently, largely because the catharsis of killing people helps bleed off the tension of all the work I should be doing and am constantly thinking about. And yet, despite this constant thought, I don't actually seem to spend all that much time working. Not sure what else I'm doing with that time, except...

Priority Five: Rome. Ok, this isn't a bad priority. Rome is a phenomenal show that I'm going through on dvd (blessed Netflix!). It's a badass retelling of the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire, centered around the lives of two Roman soldiers. It was originally on HBO, so it has no problem with violence, sex, gore, language, etc., which was made abundantly clear in the penultimate episode of season one, where Vorenus (one of the soldiers) kills a man with a spiked mace. Of course, he doesn't use the spikes or the giant metal ball on top. No, he drives the mace's handle through the man's neck so it looks like he has two heads. Just because he was pissed off. I've learned a lot of cool things about the Roman civilization. People were apparently sleeping around a lot. Togas look much cooler than one might anticipate. And apparently every domestic/social function involved a lot of lying around on couches. Seriously. I could get behind a civilization that let me lie on a couch while at a party. Though I might pass out from drunkenness much more quickly.

But still, Rome is awesome. Check it out.

Yeah, so that's about all that's going on right now. Hopefully I'll have something slightly more amusing to post about soon. Or at least some more colorful metaphors about cake. Which I kinda want now. Mmmm.....cake.