31 October 2005

happy halloween

herewith the halloween picture. this is, in fact, the first picture in my iPhoto library and dates from halloween 1999, when Greg and Rick visited us in Fredericksburg. weird how long ago that is.

boy how jack-o-lantern fashion has changed, no? wow I would never carve my pumpkin like that now. of course. goes without saying, really.

30 October 2005

Things You Should be Reading

  • Bono Interview Podcast
    It's still as good as we said it was, but now you can listen to it.

  • Emery's Blog
    You are reading it, aren't you? Much smarter than anything you get here.

  • Anything by Richard Powers
    How many times does Rebecca have to blog about it?

  • Veronica Mars
    Because we can't, and because Joss said: 'BEST. SHOW. EVER.'
    What more do you want?
    And, yes. Yes, you can read TV.

riding the second wave

so moving every year, buying two houses (and an embarrassing number of cars), being partnered and then, due to the outrageous expense of our principles, married, and having job and then not having job: these experiences have made something abundantly clear to me recently, something that is coming to whack dear friends in the face. We live in an utterly sexist world. still. perhaps this will inspire me to actually write the book I've been threatening to write for a couple of years (Wife! if you must know...) and just get this all out there. But, as my friend getting face-whacked wrote me:
have been feeling like i have just been being a women's studies teaching feminist freak, but now i realize, no, i am totally totally right. stupid capitalist patriarchy.

This is also how I've been feeling recently. Some questions to flesh this out a bit:
  • why must they always put the man's name first on every bill, from phone to city tax? even, I might add, in supposedly progressive southern California? (not that Virginia should get away with this treatment simply because they are supposedly "red state," mind you)
  • why do I need to provide proof of my degree in order to get my title changed from "Miss" to "Dr" when my partner does not?
  • why can't both names of partnered or married couples go onto a lease or mortgage? Why must it be the man's? Even when the woman has done all of the communicating to find said property, such that the estate agents don't even know the man's name and must ask for it???
  • why do they ask me for the "groom's name" when I go in to ask for a copy of my marriage certificate?
and of course this is more complex than just these simple questions, which individually can be dismissed by post-feminists (those that think, erroneously, that we're over this whole inequality thing) as "no big deal" but together become this mass of "why are you treating me this way? is it the boobs? what?"
the complexity stems from the systematic secondary status of women over time. so that women get paid less and are seen as secondary in the whole arrangement of who's bringing home the bacon, such that even though I was in fact getting paid substantially more than Sam for the year we were in Redlands, we had to fight to get my name first on the mortgage, sending the papers back for correction several times.
All of this is convincing me that while the tactics of the second wave don't continue to be helpful, and thus I find third wave feminism much more convincing, the questions and issues of second wave feminism are by no means resolved and in fact we have slid quite a bit backwards.
I suppose the bottom line is this: folks need to stop telling me these little things are no big deal. Certainly, if one assumes that one's relationship will last forever in MB (marital bliss—shout out to José) then it's no big deal that only one person technically leases your place or owns your home. And one assumes that in my friend's case and my case, that will be the case. But it doesn't make it right or okay that we live in this world that privileges a certain group of people because they can grow facial hair, fail (usually) to grow bumps on their chests, and have something between their legs. And it is a big deal.

27 October 2005

Paul Started It (sort of)

I thought I could get away with linking to the images and be done with it. Because as someone who is not a 'believer' in the traditional sense, I find nothing more annoying that proselytizing (also in the traditional sense). And, beyond that, people do seem to get quickly annoyed with me when I talk about u2. But it's precisely as someone who was raised a heathen and has never been attracted to what we call 'organized religion' that I feel the urge to share my u2 experience. Paul's post gives me occasion to share just a tiny bit more. I pretty much buy what he's talking about there, but it's essential to add: this isn't something Bono (or anyone else) can do by himself. A u2 concert with a lousy crowd might still be a decent concert, but it is not a religious experience. Bono only refers to the auditorium as 'church' on those occassions when the crowd makes that possible.

And thus - and this will come as a shock to preciselly no one - let me heartily second Rebecca's recommendation of the new Rolling Stones mammoth interview with Bono. Folks who tend to be skeptical of (or just plain hate) u2 because of a) their religiosity, or b) Bono's megalomania, or c) the way in which they have supposedly 'sold out' may be surprised by what they find here. I particularly enjoy Bono as critic, 'reviewing' all the u2 albums. He finds the lyrics on most of the either weak or crap, and he's particuarly critical of all the early work. They may also be surprised to hear him give SO MUCH credit to the Edge, even saying at the end of the interview that he couldn't get along without the band, but the Edge would lead them just fine without Bono. (Bono is right about this, by the way; folks who see u2 religiously tend much more toward worship of the Edge than of Bono. And you'll note that the photos I took were from the far left side of the crowd, giving closer access to stage right.)

Finally, a quote, one that resonates with Paul's post, in answer to a question about what they try to accomplish in relation to the audience:
To lose my own sense of self, self-consciousness - and theirs. It's an amazing thing. We're not really a rock band...[W]hat we actually do is something completely different. Our set list is designed in a kind of three-act structure, to get people out of themselves and to get ourselves out of ourselves. And to get to that place where everything feels possible and you want to call your mother, leave your wife, start a revolution or crack open the piggy bank and go on holiday for a year.

26 October 2005

the professional photo

so the tour company that employs me to chat about Indian art in front of the monuments in India to paying tourists, a wonderful gig and one that allows me to stay in five-star hotels, meet interesting people, and teach the art to people who want to learn, has asked me for a picture of myself for their website. If you go there, you'll note that other scholars have their pictures up, usually in front of some sort of ruin or jungly landscape, and they are all distinguished. The distinguished quality comes from, in large part, age, although having not met them I imagine they are indeed distinguished. I have no such photos. It's not particularly that I find myself unphotogenic (which I don't think my blogging friend is either), but it's that photos of me tend to be taken in fairly casual circumstances (I suppose this is true for everyone) in which I tend to look a bit too ridiculous and certainly not in any way distinguished. Here are my choices:

There's quite a nice photo of me in faux-feather boa and blinking magnetic earrings from Christmas several years ago. I of course have not showered and thus the hair is questionable. But I look quite good, all things considered. Probably not the one to submit.

There's the photo on my birthday from some years back in which I am wearing a Barry Manilow tour baseball cap. I look fab, but frankly the hat does detract from my professorial persona.

There's the one where I'm in the kitchen at Thanksgiving making faces at the camera in my kitchen...

There's the one from Japan that a colleague took, so great on exotic locale (although wrong exotic locale, as it turns out) but not so great on me, as it's hot as hades (Japan in July, very fun) and I'm clearly exhausted.

There's the one from Seattle when we visited back in 2001, where I'm pretending to be intense urban hipster in coffee shop. I no longer wear glasses, so that element is no longer accurate, and it's more intense/scary than distinguished/impressive. Seattle also not so exotic.

I have drawn several conclusions from this survey of my iPhoto library:
  • I am invariably either (a) unshowered or (b) in a reclining position or sometimes both
  • I am rarely photographed on my own, whether it's with dog, human, or vehicle
  • My silly-face quotient is high in photos in which I am on my own
  • and perhaps the most telling observation: I look younger now than I did 5 years ago.
The last one I can thank my genes for (specifically Mom—thanks Mom!) and also my current laid-back lifestyle, certainly less stress than the St. Mary's years. Plus there's the lack of glasses, demoting me from "potentially distinguished" to "silly girl, trix are for kids!" So I'm left with a dilemma on the whole distinguished photo front.

I think some photoshop-ing is in order. Perhaps I can cut and paste my older, distinguished self onto an exotic background. We'll see.

25 October 2005

The Closest I Come to Religion

Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
Many of you out there will find this post yet another occassion to laugh at me. Just check out the pictures. But before you do, just let me say in all honesty that this may have been the best show in terms of the quality of the music and the intensity of the crowd (folks in the top row of the upper deck, completely behind the stage, NEVER sat down) that I've yet seen. And yes, I've seen 15 shows.

back in Wales

still half an inch off.

I should correct myself. it was half an inch to the right, not the left. must have been the non-existent jet lag typing.

I read Bono's lengthy interview in Rolling Stone whilst traveling over 7000 miles from San Diego to here yesterday/today/tomorrow/whenever it was. It was quite fascinating, and I highly recommend it. also recommend using whilst more.

more blogging once my soul has caught up, platonic or not....

21 October 2005

travel and soul lag

in William Gibson's recent novel Pattern Recognition one of his characters, the main one, actually, is constantly on the move from one continent to another—today it's Japan, tomorrow, London, the next day, Moscow. And unlike other books or especially TV shows (can you say Alias?) that seem to move folks around the globe as if this was no big deal and only takes a commercial break, Gibson actually discusses the problem of world travel, and encapsulates it in a single phrase: soul lag. It's not that you're tired, or that there's some mysterious thing associated with jet travel known as "jet lag" (which, much like allergies, I find is something difficult to believe in. "allergies" is for another post...). instead, he acknowledges that one feels, well, not quite all there when one gets to another place, as if your soul, unlike your body, cannot travel as fast as an airplane and therefore takes a little while to catch up with you. I find this a brilliant insight, one I am experiencing right now. it's like you're existing about half an inch to the left of your actual body, and you can't seem to reconnect with it. my soul is likely somewhere over Ontario right now, wondering where the hell we're going and why I decided to fly halfway around the world for a conference. sometimes, in extreme circumstances, your soul never catches up. I think this is in part what happens in Lost in Translation. and has happened to all of us in one international place or another.

at least it's beautiful in San Diego, at least it's beautiful half an inch to the left of myself...

17 October 2005

on being nice

each place we've lived we've weighed the various versions of "nice people" we've encountered. this started, i think, in Minnesota, where it is widely known and said that the people there are "nice." this is true, but they aren't usually truly, deeply nice—it's more of an obligatory nice that's on the surface, the kind of nice that takes 4 years to crack past into an invite to a "little lunch." the kind of nice that leads people to stop—and I mean fully stop—in the middle of the major freeway in order to let someone on the on-ramp in. it's very nice to live in Minnesota as a result, but you never quite know how deep the "nice" goes.

in Virginia, people on our block were nice in a more southern way: open, chattin' across two porches, "I made sure your wife was safe while you were away" nice. chivalrous, in a good way. again, tough as a (clearly, unmistakably) northern Yankee to crack the surface. people in the service industries were plain rude. having done retail work I get it, but it was psychologically damaging to enter into a retail environment in Fredericksburg, unless you went to one of the quaint antiquey shops downtown, which, let's face it, you can't buy basics like tortillas or soy milk in.

in California, people were nice, but distant. Californians don't seem to have problems with folks from elsewhere, it's just that they tend to like their space, and so we missed a bit of the porch thing. retail-wise, we were back to nice, and we were convinced that it wasn't so much genuine as that there was a drug in the water that everyone was taking in order to make them that happy. particularly at Trader Joe's and Starbucks, it seems they spike the water with Prozac.

so in Wales, people are nice. and it seems on first glance that they are truly nice. they remember us from day to day (we're the only americans on the block, so it's easy) they ask us how we liked the lamb burgers we bought last time, whether we're interested in the history of the miners of the area, would we like to try some Welsh cheese along with the Gtost we've just bought, if we know how complicated translating US prescriptions to UK ones is, and isn't it funny.

so when my bus was stuck in traffic for over an hour this morning on the way to my interview at Open University in Cardiff (went well, I think!) the bus driver kept telling us what was going on, and apologized individually to each of us as we got off the bus, even though it was completely not his fault that there were two major accidents on the M4. and when I called the OU to tell them that despite my anal-retentive planning to get there over an hour before my interview, I was still going to be late, they said: why not just come by when you get here, no worries. and then, when I apologized once I showed up, and mentioned that I should have taken the train, the woman interviewing me said: oh, yes, but then there would have been leaves on the track or some such. why are they so nice?!? I'm sure we'll have a more elaborate metric for nice-measurement in Wales in a few months. but now I continue to be surprised, happily, that the norm is: not to worry, it's fine, can I do something for you? bizarre and strange. perhaps I should be testing the water here too.

16 October 2005

High Fidelity

Just finished Nick Hornby's first book, High Fidelity - a witty, wonderful, and swift read. (I was going to go with 'whirlwind' for the perfect alliteration, but that's not really accurate to the book, and 'swift' does just as good a job on the poetic front, I think.) I came to the book in a rather roundabout way. First, I saw the John Cusack movie from 2000, not even knowing it was based on a book. Next, I read About a Boy, Hornby's second book (loved it). Then I saw the Hugh Grant movie from 2002 (liked it). Finally, I read Hornby's first book.

The John Cusack movie is about an American who owns a record store in Chicago. The book is about a Brit who who owns a record shop in Camden. The move folks evidently saw it as no problem at all to change the setting, and the movie was fairly successful as far as I recall so perhaps they were right. And yet, the book is nothing like the movie, and the difference is really all to do with the setting. Both movie and book are about two things: music, and relationships (to family, to friends, to lovers). Despite the fact that the story tries to tap into certain commonalities in the human condition concerning music and relationships, those variables change dramatically when one switches countries. Our protaganist's relation to his parents is thoroughly English in the book; his central relationship is refracted through his one-night stand with an American singer-songwriter and it's crucial that she's American; all of the norms of couples are distinctly different in the British context, with marriage playing much less of a role; all of the commentary on class, status, fashion, trends, etc. play out through the demographics of London neighborhoods; and the humour is, obviously, unique as well. In short, the book tells a completely different story than the one in the movie.

Or, to put it differently, there's a significant amount of cultural translation going on when one makes the move from 'pubs' to "bars," from 'mates' to "friends," from 'snoggging' to "making out." (None of this is to mention 'shagging', a term for which I can't think of even a good rough translation - "sex" seems too clean and clinical and "fucking" too crude to get at it.)

Of course, it's obvious why this all fascinates me. Just as Hollywood assumes the simple translation from UK to US context (and back again), so do most Americans (and probably a majority of Brits as well). And yet, in the lived experience the sameness is all so very different. And if that doesn't make any sense, then rent the DVD and read the book (in whatever order you please) and I think you'll see what I'm getting at/living.

slow food

there's a scene in 28 Days Later, a film that haunts me for some reason, in which the family on the run from a fatal infectious pandemic (I hope I'm just kidding with that link there) finds a grocery store, abandoned since the initial infection 28 days earlier. they run around throwing food into their baskets—soda, bags of chips, boxes of whatever, cans, and then we see the father running into the produce section which is, as one might imagine, a pile of mold. except for one section of apples or similar fruit, which looks perfect. he shouts with irony: thank god for irradiation and genetic engineering! [all quotes and summaries of this film are from my foggy memory of seeing it years ago, so don't hold me to this...]

the film is set in England and with its strident anti-GMO stance the moment is particularly striking. It makes you wonder if the entire produce section in the US would be, well, just fine after 28 days. probably not. But likely more than just one kind of apple would have survived.

which brings me to food and slow food. OddsareOne's tales of debaucherous eating and cooking and living over the course of one afternoon also struck a chord. not only of missing friends far away, as one might expect, but also of celebrating a life-shift toward cooking and away from preparing/zapping/grabbing food. It's been several years since Sam and I seriously attempted to formulate strategies for eating non-takeaway, non-processed food, and it meant a decent amount of change to our lives, including not going into the middle of the grocery store, purchasing more fresh veggies and meats, and cooking almost every meal, including breakfast and lunch. this is extremely difficult, not least because in the US, aside from the major urban areas and coasts where most of our peergroup lives, it's very difficult to purchase fresh veggies and non-processed food. the "instant grits" selection at our Food Lion in Fredericksburg was enough to make you want to give up entirely.

Liz gave me a cookbook last Xmas on sustainable cooking which was fascinating. not so much because of the recipes, but because it was written by a team of chefs in Oregon who tailored the recipes to what they could get locally. they were big proponents of the "local food" movement, supporting local farmers, stopping the pollution of the environment by eliminating the plane flights through which most of us get our foods, eating seasonally. as a result, sad to say, the recipes didn't so much work in the middle of PA, where we had a lovely grocery store but not the particular kind of mushroom, onion, fish, or whatever called for in the recipe. but it was an interesting and illuminating read because it revealed the limitations of this "slow food" "local food" movement in the US: it's fine for those (wealthy folks) in the big cities with access to exotics like "olive oil" but for those in rural areas, or even just outside of those big cities (as Fredericksburg is), finding the local, the clean, the fresh is a huge chore and sometimes impossible. This of course links back to OaO's blog about finding enlightenment: sure, if you're not worrying about money or where you're going to sleep that night, it's easier to devote yourself to things like slow food or meditation. But even if you want desperately to eat locally and avoid processed foods, and you live outside of an urban area, you must make what I consider to be a superhuman effort to find the organic farm that perhaps delivers veggies to your door once every two weeks, or travel to the farmer's market (that's open only 6 months out of the year) to get your food, or drive an hour each way to the nearest whole food-type store, or spend several weeks canning and preserving, as many people do, but again, few have time for this.

and the UK is not immune to this class-division in what goes into the body. we went into this store called "Iceland" yesterday to see what it was: it's a store entirely made up of packaged frozen food. poor folks and pensioners shopped there. we fled back to our farmer's market, french festival, best-butcher-in-wales lives, but it was haunting as well. how do we stop this madness?

15 October 2005

merry-go-round psychoanalysis

it's the most gorgeous day ever today. literally. high 60s, clear, blue sky, slight breeze...Sam and I went down to the city centre to get Sam a haircut and have some lunch, wander around. it's our new-found Saturday thing, sometimes called a "weekend." very exciting.

and there's a French fair downtown--that's right, haricots verts, fromage, pain au chocolat, the whole thing. so we had a toulouse sausage (avec moutarde, s'il vous plait, natch) and sat by the merry-go-round watching kids go in circles. it was a small little thing, probably 8 vehicles on it--a double-decker bus, a fire truck, a mermaid ship, a motorcycle (from Australia with Florida plates--very confusing). and we mused on the reasons for its attractiveness to kids of a certain age. it's fascinating.

They all drive or pretend to drive, so there's something about independence there, and control, heightened by the fact that it's a bit confusing so there's a danger (not a real one, but nonetheless the scent of danger) of losing one's parent who's paid a quid to watch you go around in circles for 3 minutes.
And because of the spinning perhaps, they get to be alone, in charge of their lives and bodies, for that 3 minute span. and mom's approved of it. some kids would look for their mom each time around, others wouldn't respond when she'd yell at them to smile for the camera. they were in their own little world--truly on the motorbike or the top of the double-decker.
and then there were the ones who recognized that they were the object of jealousy. they would sit up straight, big smiles, knowingly lording it over the kids waiting for the next go-round.

once you're old enough to have more independence in your daily life, say once you start going to school at 5, I imagine these things become less exciting. less of a novelty. but it was fun to watch the ones for whom this was the best part of their day. sometimes I wish I could be as easily entertained. instead I demand well-written dialogue driving intelligent narrative and accompanied by brilliant directing. perhaps if I just tried the mermaid ship, everything would change....

14 October 2005

earthquake relief

with the death toll at 25,000 and the relief efforts patchy at best (and the governments involved coming under strident criticism—good to know the US isn't the only one....), it's tough to know how to help out the survivors in Pakistan, India, and Kashmir. A recent post to the H-Asia discussion list (link above) gives an annotated list of relief agencies that need money and will actually purchase what people need, as opposed to giving them wet, oversized clothes when they really need shelter from the current cold and the oncoming winter.

as discussed earlier, some of these regions and cities are in constant crisis mode, but this particular situation is of course way over the top, and while we tend to think of India as a hot, humid country, that is a legacy of our colonial, orientalist past: India's climate ranges quite a bit, and the areas hit are some of the coldest in the country come winter.

13 October 2005

define "mass"

cool mod building
Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
the most non-touristy picture ever.

two questions:

  • what is it about concrete that's so sexy?

  • and
  • why is it that one can never purchase enough hangers when one moves into a new place?

11 October 2005


Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
We have successfully completed our first 'mini-break'. I'm a fan.

Edinburgh is beautiful. Truly a city and yet rather small and utterly manageable. Highly recommended.

p.s. Thanks to all for suffering my Serenity propaganda, and for going to see it. It's certainly not going to be a financial hit, but it might make a buck or two.

serenity and the big city

Sam and I just got back from a lovely visit of our friends Steve and Kim and their son Teo in Edinburgh. Hence the delay in posting and the gap in our bloggedness.

We of course, along with walking many if not all of the streets of the city (this according to my feet/legs/hips, by the way) also saw Serenity again at the big-city movie theatre in town. very fun, and the second viewing revealed a few more elements of the film that were interesting, predominantly the directing. the near "one-er" from the title through the next, oh, 5 minutes, in which we are introduced to everyone and the ship in one long, uncut shot (except for a bit of fudging as they go from upstairs to downstairs), was amazing. the way Joss framed individuals from steep angles above and below was quite effective, I thought, to heighten the mood/make you feel trapped/whatever he was going for at that time.

I'd like to comment on a few things noted elsewhere. Yes, the uber-state theme is seen in other SciFi contexts, from Star Wars to Star Trek (on next generation it seems that the heroes are in fact part of said uberstate as well), and all of the distopic scifi contexts you can name. Unlike many of those, and Star Wars in particular, the driving thrust of this film is not the overthrow of the Alliance, (that battle is lost prior to the film's timeline) but the negotiation of the Alliance—a much more Foucaultian understanding of power and the state, in which Mal's crew is able to retain freedom, liberty, whatever "value" you'd like to call it by following the path of the Western: being outlaws when the law is, well, not so hot. or not so hot for you and yours. And, like the Klingons (my heroes and a blog for another time) the crew has a code, not ultra codified, but one that Joss articulates in brief, clear moments, whether the early encounter between Zoe (fab fab fab. we love her) and Mal over the man he sentenced to death in an earlier scene, or the protestations of Jayne regarding his ostensible distance from the approach of the Reevers to killing people.

We talked after the film about how Joss was trying to do so many things: the genre of the western, with its cameradierie, outlaw culture, and internal code; the humor sometimes found in those westerns, but often not, set up not with one-liners or slapstick but by characters colliding and situations allowing it to come forth; the message about governmental fiddling with societies and the problematic outcomes of most if not all of these fiddlings over history; the action-movie requirements of the studio that led him to spend a bit too much time on fights and action and not quite enough on character development/relationships.

All this to say that my earlier assessment still stands: Joss is a serial type guy, and this film is awesome. But it's not Firefly. What to do?

it looks like it did alright in the US on the first two weekends, so let's hope for one of two outcomes: either Universal grants Joss the 3-pic deal to continue its fabulousness, or perhaps (and one can only hope) Joss decides that a return to the serial format is where it's at, HBO gives him unlimited funding, and we all live happily ever after.

07 October 2005

Seriously Folks

I'm feeling rather hurt. Emery is watching Battlestar Galactica - a very legitimate choice, but not to be chosen first. Greg went to see Flightplan - unconscionable!

Trust me, just go see Serenity, if not for me, then simply because you will be glad you did afterwards.

Then, please come back here and make your apologies.

05 October 2005

blue sky

Cardiff: Civic Centre
Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
in addition to the blue sky of Cardiff last weekend (I've uploaded a few more for you, taken with a "real" camera) the sky is blue today as well, which is lovely, as they say here.

the folks at stonesthrow and at odds are one are much better at epistilary writing than I—heck, Greg wrote his dissertation on it, for god's sake. but I do have to say that I enjoy this sort of "open letter" format. it's very different from what the late 20th century considered letterwriting, and it bucks the trend toward some sort of overweening need to protect "privacy" as if we had that in the first place. (just because you're paranoid, right?) however, it does foreclose the possibility of direct responses, one-to-one. and so:

Greg: you're not a slacker. you're just happy. most of the time. not Sound of Music, twirl on the hilltops happy necessarily, but pleasantly happy. and yes, very passionate about things. standards. brunches. singing. gameshows. friends. Rick. this is fabulous and why we love you.

Paul and I will continue the general freak out for the rest of us. you may now return to your regularly scheduled rerun of the Pyramid. Maybe you'll catch the one with that guy from PA...

Show Me

For the last couple of years I've been carrying around this quote from Wendy Brown and posting it on my door. It's rather long, but it ends as follows:

theory is never ‘accurate’ or ‘wrong’; it is only more or less illuminating, more or less provocative, more or less of an incitement to thought, imagination, desire, possibilities for renewal.

I spent yesterday reading al these texts that are tangentially about Butler. They were very disappointing, as they wasted all their time talking about a dozen different theorists and how each one was wrong or limited in just these ways, and then bouncing on to someone else in order to say the same thing. The argument ended up being that we 'needed' theorist A mixed with theorist B, but in just this one sort of way.

Reading this crap made me realize why I love Brown's description of theory. I want theory (or anything else I read, really) to show me something. It strikes me that there are three ways that theory can show:

  1. A truly great theory or theorist (there are very few of either) shows me the world in a way I hadn't seen before. It puts things together, reveals connections or ruptures, remaps bodies and matter in a way that had simply never occurred to me. Thus, after reading a great theory one simply sees differently. And yes, that's why the Greek word theoria means seeing and showing.

  2. Thus, it is appropriate for writers, sometimes, to spend their time and energy simply talking about another theorist. In trying to figure out what they are saying/showing, this secondary work shows us something as well.

  3. But theory need not be about only itself. Often theory can be best used to show us somethig about the world, to take the theory as already written and then put it to work to reveal or illuminate concrete events or cases in the world.

What theory should not be, however, is about moving around theories and theorists as if they were pieces on a chessboard. The approach to theory that treats 'theories' as monolithic entities that are somehow valuable in their own right – and then spends all their time doing 'math' (i.e. adding and subtracting) with these theories – does not show anyone anything at all. This is the work that always trots out 'standard critiques' as if they are givens. To criticize a theory can prove very important, if the criticism itself shows something. But hearing things like, 'Foucault can't account for agency', 'Butler is determinist' over and over again, can quickly lead one to that ridiculous conclusion that theory proves onanistic.

This cannot be described as a problem with theory, however. It's a problem of bad writing, of poor argumentation (over here they'd call it a bad narrative, and I wouldn't disagree) in which theory gets used as the crutch. In other words, if they weren't babbling about theorists, the authors I read yesterday would have had nothing whatsoever to say, because they had nothing to show me at all.

04 October 2005

Rugby in Cardiff

Originally uploaded by doppio macchiato.
We only watched the match for about 5 minutes, but that's all it took to understand completely why the Brits make fun of American football. The play you see above is a set 'throw in' play. I don't know the real, technical term, but I do know that the guy being held up in the air (and the guy holding him up) are both designated to do so - was told a lovely story of a 2 hour train argument between Welsh folks about who should play these roles.

In Wales, by the way, Rugby is the sport of the people and is taken very seriously. In England, by contrast, football (i.e. real football, what Americans call 'soccer') is the working class sport and Rugby is seen as a bit of an upper class game. In Wales that's reversed. It's funny: from the States, 'UK', 'Great Britain', and 'England' all seem to be roughly the same place 'over there'. It took about a week here to grasp the fact that wales is not England; they are utterly different nations (literally).

As a side note, if you check out this photo group on Flickr you'll see why I'm now convinced that the convergence between mobile phones and digital cameras makes sense.

03 October 2005

on weekends

the lack of blogging over the weekend can be blamed on our newfound conviction that one should, indeed, celebrate the weekend with its traditional rituals: reading, walking, watching movies, shopping, hanging out with friends, eating meals at restaurants, and exploring the countryside.

the shocking thing is, that's precisely what we did on Saturday and Sunday. that's right—two full days of weekend.

for those who don't know us well, this is revolutionary because it perhaps marks one of the first times we've done such a thing, other than in conjunction with plane travel, since I can remember. seriously. I'm trying to think about graduate school and whether I ever took a weekend off but I can't think of anything.

at St. Mary's and Redlands we had to plan ahead (sometimes weeks) to take a full, single day off—to just be with each other, watch the latest Joss Whedon show (did ya see Serenity yet?), eat at our comfort-food Mexican or Salvadoran restaurant, walk the dog, drink coffee, whatever. and of course that sacrosanct day was preceded and followed by panicked 18-hour days, in which e-mails were checked up until the midnight deadline, student papers frantically graded, and endless meetings stretched before us.

so it has been a strange thing to take two days off, in a row. we went to Cardiff on Saturday, explored the town, wandered through its huge park, ate some of the local food (sandwiches—they are obsessed with them here), wandered through the used bookstore underneath the victorian arcade. we returned to Swansea for a dinner out with many people from the university, which began at 8 pm (horrors! people eat this late?) and continued until midnight, at which point we walked (no one drove, very refreshing) to Sam's colleague's house where we drank peach schnapps and beer (not both, some of us drank the schnapps, some the beer) and talked until 2 am. I haven't been out that late since college, sad to say.

we got up late on Sunday (of course) and finished our books (harry potter for Sam and American Gods for me—thoughts on that to come), ate some food, watched Motorcycle Diaries and some british TV. drank tea. very relaxing.

keep posted. we may try this weekend thing again.