Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Things I Secretly Miss About New York

Even though I politely declined, there is nothing like getting propositioned at the urinals at Therapy to boost your ego.

Ryan Does Rufus Does Judy

So, funny story - my mom felt really bad about missing my birthday and ordered a bunch of stuff from my Amazon list as a birthday present cum apology, and had a stack of CDs and books waiting when I got home in early December. And on the top of the pile was Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, which I've been wanting for approximately forever. I immediately listened to it and gushed about how it was the best album ever and how madly in love I am with Rufus Wainwright and how it was going to be my soundtrack at the lakes, where I cloistered myself in a room with a very, very old-school CD player. (Incidentally, Rufus Wainwright covering Judy Garland is - like wine and waffles for dinner - something that my grandparents and I totally enjoyed together. It's another reason I think I'm ready to retire.)

And at some point, my mom gingerly said, "you know, I don't think that was one of the CDs I ordered," and I was like, "I'm going to pretend like you remembered what you bought me for my birthday and focus on the fact that this is the best album ever."

And then it turns out that Doug ordered it from the sidebar on my blog, and it was not, in fact, my mother. Oops.

So, two things:
1) Thanks, Doug, because I have listened to this album approximately ten thousand times, and it is AWESOME.
2) Doug knows me better than my own mother.

Monday, 29 December 2008


Mom: "I love movies like that, where you leave and you just want to learn more because you don't know what's fact and what's fiction."
Ryan: "Was there a man named Adolf Hitler?"
Dad: "We may never know."
Mom: "I'm never going to a movie with you two again."

The Oscar Goes To...

So it was not a huge year for the economy, democracy, peace, the environment, or human rights, but at least it wasn't a total bust. It's been a helluva year for disasters.

I'm Pretty Sure Most of December Did Not Happen

Before I left, I was like "oh noes, three weeks in Fargo is so much time in Fargo and this is why you should not book airfare while reading anything by William Least Heat Moon." That is one percent true. Tomorrow is my last day in Fargo, and it kind of feels like I did absolutely none of the things I meant to do while I was back. If I'm going to look on the bright side, I saw a bunch of people when I met up with Brady and Megan and a smattering of people from Shanley at the HoDo for the past two consecutive nights. (At the bar yesterday, I ran into a girl who I sort of had a crush on in junior high, who is totally chill and finishing her PhD in math and just as great as I remembered. What can I say, my twelve year old self had excellent taste.) If I'm going to be critical, I wrote precisely zero words of my thesis. Oops.

I guess I did read about a dozen books and finished that article that's been on my desk since April (yay!), but now I've got about twenty-four hours before I have to frantically throw all of my stuff into a suitcase, which somehow caught me by surprise despite the fact that Marcel and I scheduled this trip in like mid-July. I'm hoping that this will be the opposite of Fargo, and that all sorts of crazy awesome stuff will fall into my lap if I just avoid making any plans whatsoever and just nomadically wander across the East Coast running into people for ten days. It's only sort of sad that my plans for the trip basically revolve around being in Boston early enough to get oatmeal with cherries and walnuts at Hi-Rise. And that I've given this more thought than finding a place to sleep in New York.

(I've given up on learning to cook anything except breakfast foods, so I'm secretly hoping to convince Holly to tell me how they make it so I can add it to my repertoire for those subzero mornings when the college decides to arbitrarily shut off my heat. And since I've only got like ten days before I get back to Oxford (yay!!), this is actually sort of urgent.)

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Beep Beep

Ryan: "I'm a genius! I make the best waffles ever!"
Dad: "And you're humble, too."
Ryan: "I'm the total package!"

This may say something about the qualities I look for in a partner.

Friday, 26 December 2008

The Nightmare Before Christmas

I had to sleep on the couch at the lakes, and this means two things:

1) My spine will not be comfortably realigned until at least late January, and 2) I had the trippiest dream EVER. I don't remember the master narrative that tied all of these together, but I do remember being arrested for cocaine possession, getting into a fight with one of my ex-boyfriends, and running into my childhood neighbors, Cathy and Eugene, in a hotel as they were planning to leave for Mexico to star in a film set aboard a cruise ship. I know this because in the dream, I IMDB'd them in my suite after bumping into Eugene in the elevator. I'm not sure who encouraged me to be a drug mule, but I remember feeling bad about throwing away perfectly good cocaine and being arrested because of my thriftiness. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Eugene. It may have been Lee. At least, that would explain why I was so pissed off, although that might also have been because I think in the dream I found out that he was married to someone else when we were dating.

The moral of the story is that I should probably not drink coffee right before bed.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas, Dirty Girl Scout

We're off to the lakes tomorrow for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that means two days of dial-up internet and shady cell phone reception and generalized wailing and gnashing of teeth. But! I finally submitted a paper on sexuality in international law that I've been working on for over a year and sent that off to a journal this afternoon, and I forgot what a pleasant person I can be when I haven't been agonizing over a paper for about eight months. (I've seen pregnancies that are shorter than this.)

But then we had our family's Christmas, which was kind of adorkable. We grilled chicken (for David and I) and porkchops (for the rest of the family) and camped out around the living room for a family dinner, then made coffee and unwrapped presents before diving into the madness of our extended family Christmases tomorrow and Thursday. My brother gave me this gorgeous watch that I kind of fell in love with at first sight, and my parents gave me slippers, a box painted with leftist slogans by this feminist artist in Chicago, and a semi-professional camera. (They know me too well.) I actually went through with the goat buying plan, which is maybe good because I tried to wrap the stuff I brought back from the Philippines and I've definitely gotten worse at wrapping since I was about twelve years old. It was pretty cute. And Kelly and Mike brought their significant others, and more importantly, their significant others brought gingerbread and it was crazy good.

Anyway, in our traditional family Christmas spirit, we all sort of sighed with contentment, and then David drove off to hang out with friends and my mom and I went to meet Brady for martinis. (I wanted something seasonal, so I ordered a Dirty Girl Scout with hazelnuts and mint. I was hoping it would taste like a Thin Mint, but it actually just tasted like minty booze. I would buy so many more Girl Scout cookies if they could patent this.)

And I got rid of the leftovers! I finally finished the last of the frozen stew, everyone divided up the rest of the mashed sweet potatoes, and I grabbed the other half of the grapefruit for a snack. I avoided the tofu because it turns out that it didn't agree with my sister and she spent most of yesterday night vomiting up the ginger marinated batch we made together. I was fine, so I refuse to take the blame for food poisoning her and have instead decided to blame my parents for not introducing her to soy products earlier in life. Meh, expanding your horizons hurts sometimes.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Amateur Night

My parents, David, and Mike all took off for dinner, leaving Kelly and me to our own devices. I had a bunch of leftover ingredients in the fridge, so we made ginger tofu and mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. The tofu was sweet and sour, but not in the striking a balance way so much as the garlic and grapefruit way. (We didn't have oranges, so I zested a grapefruit. I will never make that mistake again.) Luckily, the mashed sweet potatoes were amazing. And regardless, cooking with my little sister is a blast.
If nothing else, we get points for presentation?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Great (Plains) Escape

Maybe I was just cracked out from judging rounds 5 and 6 - and having to evaluate cyborg feminism, a critique of proliferation discourse, and the merits of seeding algae - but I thought that being stuck in Minneapolis actually wasn't that bad. I wasn't on the schedule for round 7, so I crossed the skyway from the tournament to our hotel and went downstairs to the hotel gym, which would not be newsworthy except that it was my first opportunity to run since I suspended my gym membership on December 1st. (The only tragedy was that I dropped my iPod during a sprint, and it sort of fired across the room and died. Luckily, nobody else did.) I also finished Kenji Yoshino's Covering when I was on the elliptical, which is so, so good. It may be the first time that I've ever read a book and simultaneously had a crush on the author and wanted to be him when I grow up. Psychoanalyze that.

And then I went upstairs to shower and found a voicemail from my brother, who (surprise!) was flying from New York to Fargo and was told that he'd be stuck in Minneapolis overnight. After a lot of interfamily conferencing, my dad suggested that we rent a car and drive back together since the storm had died down since the afternoon, but that was impossible, so David somehow convinced my dad to drive down and pick him up instead. (I refused, partly because I wanted to hang out with people that night, partly because I felt obligated to help Melissa get the team back to Shanley, and partially on principle.)

I didn't have to judge the double octos, which officially freed me from judging the rest of the elim rounds, so I met up with David at our hotel and caught up after not seeing each other since April. Then Melissa stopped by, and then all the kids arrived, and then Megan called and we decided to walk down to Panera to meet Megan and her roommates.

Funnily, Panera is NOWHERE NEAR our hotel in the labyrinth that is the downtown skyway system, which somehow led us through the convention center, two parking garages, and the Hilton, where we had to shove through a mob of people waiting for the Minnesota Vikings to arrive for the night. We finally just gave up and walked outside, where it was cold enough that they probably should have cancelled Holidazzle like they did tonight. Luckily, we totally watched the parade on Friday, and watched everyone prepping for it inside the Hyatt on Saturday. It was almost as fun as when Melissa and I went to the National Cowboy Museum in Norman, Oklahoma, or when we toured the USS Constitution in Boston. You could take Melissa to jury duty and she'd make it awesome. At the parade, we saw a terrifying wagon train of children dressed as animals that looked almost exactly like the scene where Danny DeVito kidnaps of all the children in Gotham City in Batman Returns, which became even funnier when the tiny cow and tiny giraffe started beating the shit out of each other in the middle of the parade. We almost hijacked the Twinkle Bus because we thought it would handle the blizzard better than our minivan, but decided that a bus covered in blinking lights and snowflake spinners might be a little too conspicuous for a stolen vehicle.

We eventually made it to Panera, and had approximately thirty minutes to catch up with Megan before the restaurant closed and everyone parted ways. David and I ran across the street to meet my dad, and then my aunt drove over from her place in Minneapolis and we caught up before David and my dad had to zip back to Fargo. Jean and I decided to stay and order another round, and eventually ended up closing down the restaurant. Yay! (This is what happens when your aunt is cooler than you are.)

Shanley requires that coaches take the kids to church on Sundays, so Melissa did that in the morning. I'm pretty sure that doesn't apply to judges that are chaperoning on the side, so I found a Caribou and got coffee and read updates on the recount before meeting everyone back at the hotel, loading up the van, and driving back to Fargo. I thought staying an extra night was actually kind of nice, but this might be because I didn't have to grip the steering wheel with white knuckles for five hours, tensing up every time we passed one of the two dozen cars that had slid into the ditch or hit the median. My job was to switch out the CDs and to skip any songs that might be considered inappropriate, and to occasionally pass Swedish Fish and Chex Mix to the kids in the back. Whatevs, I did it well.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


Ha, it's blizzarding all the way from Minneapolis to Fargo and we're stranded in the Twin Cities until at least tomorrow morning. Being held hostage by nature on a regular basis is one of the things I emphatically do not miss at Oxford. (That said, there are worse things than being stranded in downtown Minneapolis. I'm hijacking this wireless to set up mojitos with my aunt tonight.)

Friday, 19 December 2008

Recipe For Disaster

Wake up at 5am after getting five hours of sleep. Roadtrip to Minneapolis. Judge four debate rounds decided by the feasibility of binding consultation with Japan, solar powered satellites, Dostoyevsky, threat construction, weighing nuclear winter and mass suicide against the ontological effects of racism, the definition of the phrase "US federal government," Nietzsche, and the future of high-speed electric rail. Go out for dinner with your friend and her five students at the Somali place on Nicollet that is now Indonesian, but opt for the Indian place next door instead.

At the crack of dawn, repeat.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

In Which I Literally Colonize My Tastes on My Family

My stew was kind of a bust (it was delicious and I had leftovers for lunch, but nobody else has been willing to eat it), but I just made vegan peanut butter pancakes for dinner and they were an unqualified success. It's about the easiest recipe ever - I doubled the ingredients, added a tablespoon of vanilla, and used chunky peanut butter, and they turned out really well. And that's saying a lot, because I have a penchant for lighting pans on fire and almost food poisoning myself. My mom and Kelly were sports about it, but I waited to tell my dad that they were vegan until after he'd already eaten his pancake. I didn't want to wreck it.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Mentors, 2.0

You know what's great? Chatting with your influential coaches and teachers from high school and realizing that they're working on helping to implement the Millennium Development Goals, or that they've thought extensively about the ways that Foucault and Habermas theorized grassroots mobilization. I'm kind of retroactively mad at my seventeen year old self for wasting all my time with these people talking about counterplans and verb conjugations.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Liveblogging Dinner

6:44pm: I just spent $14 on vegetables for this vegan stew that I arbitrarily decided that I needed to make tonight. (Plus tofu and sweet potatoes, because you can never have too much tofu or sweet potatoes.) I miss Sainsbury's Basic.
6:46pm: My parents started drinking wine since the last time I was home. I don't think they'll miss a bottle.
6:49pm: Dear Scooby, I am so, so sorry I just dropped that piece of onion on the floor. Please do not call the ASPCA.
6:55pm: Liz Phair, you are pretty terrible as a vegan stew soundtrack. You're up, Kimya Dawson!
6:59pm: Are turnips supposed to be encased in wax? Will I survive this dinner? Stay tuned!
7:04pm: I'm so glad my parents got on the wine bandwagon.
7:08pm: I'm either the slowest person ever or this requires a freakish amount of dicing.
7:11pm: My turnips are also waxed. Now I'm embarrassed because maybe this is a thing.
7:17pm: I just reread the recipe for this stew, and everyone's like "it's bland, add all this random stuff." I just put peanut butter in my stew. This is going to be a $14 disaster.
7:18pm: Lucy just peed on the floor and I stepped in it. I wish she had eaten the onion instead of Scooby.
7:23pm: The riesling helps. (So did a lot of soap.)
7:25pm: I just put cinnamon and ginger in this stew. I'm going to get arrested by the food police. Also, I'm getting hungry, and I still have at least 30 minutes of cooking time left. I should have made peanut butter and jelly.
7:40pm: Does anyone remember what movie features the phrase "culinary abortion"?
7:44pm: I just tasted it, and a) adding crushed red pepper to the thai curry sauce I'm stewing it in was a mistake, and it burns, and b) it also burns when you're so startled at its spiciness that you spill it down the front of your shirt and jeans. The total cost of this dinner is now $14 and my fertility.

Whoa, this is actually not that bad. I'm going to take my stew and watch old episodes of Daria now.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ducking the Shoe

I said this earlier, but I hope "ducking the shoe" becomes slang in the same way that "Katherine Harris crazy" did. I'm not plugged in enough to keep up with actual slang, so peripherally popular political slang is about all I've got.

Like Brother, Like Sister

"I think I might be OCD. Or CDO. I like it better that way because it's alphabetical, the way it should be."
- Kelly, at dinner tonight

Friday, 12 December 2008

Tundra: 1, Ryan: 0

Well, it looks like my retreat is being cut short and I'm driving back in the morning to beat the blizzard that's sweeping western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota tomorrow night. I didn't really write anything, but I did read all of The Trouble With Normal, No Future, Global Sex, and Filipino Social Organization, so that's an accomplishment. (I also introduced my grandpa to couscous and helped my grandma decorate the Christmas tree for the first time in about eighteen years, which are accomplishments of a different kind. Like, they're awesomer.)

I was just about to type that it'll be nice to have wifi again, but then my grandpa walked into the office and plunked down a glass of Bailey's. So scratch that, I have zero desire to cut this short.

Adventures in Retirement

My grandparents had to go into Detroit Lakes to run errands yesterday, so I rode along to pick up groceries, prescriptions, and sunflower seeds for a pair of cardinals that are toughing out the winter in the tree outside the kitchen window. We also made a detour to the thrift store, where I picked up a copy of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat for my thesis, a hardcover copy of the Phantom Tollbooth for old times' sake, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Nadine Gordimer's July's People and the House Gun, which I've been meaning to read. Everything together cost $3.50, and I was really, really tempted to whip out the $20 in my wallet and buy up all three copies of one of Rush Limbaugh's books, one of Ann Coulter's older books, the lone copy of the Broken Hearth, and a bunch of stuff by William F. Buckley just to keep them from falling into the hands of swing voters. (It wouldn't have been wasteful; my grandparents mostly heat the cabin with a wood-burning fireplace.) Instead, I took my grandparents for coffee and cookies at the diner down the street.

The moral of the story is that yesterday, I realized that I'm basically ready to retire. I think I have like forty productive years left, though.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Why I Love My (Extended) Family

I'm staying with my grandparents for a few days to work on my thesis. Not only does my grandpa keep two full thermoses of decaf and regular coffee in the kitchen at all times, but yesterday, we had boxed red wine and waffles for dinner, and then talked about UFOs and the Bible and whether Condoleeza Rice is evil or tragic.

I think this explains a lot.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Why I Love My Family

"It's not just that you faked an email from me. It's that now everyone thinks I don't know how to spell 'migraine.'"

- Mom, chewing out my younger brother at the breakfast table this morning

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Back in the 701

- My mom is on a health food kick, which means that we have a fridge full of mangoes and soy milk. For someone who subsists entirely on the same grocery list of muesli, soup, and bulk vegetables for eight weeks at a time, this is amazing. I just ate so much Life with soy milk that I'm in pain and it feels awesome.
- We have a new labradoodle named Lucy, and I feel like I should dislike her because a) she's a designer dog, b) she replaced Elliott, my dog who I've had since the fourth grade, and c) I hate change. But I have to admit that she's kind of pretty fucking cute.
- I got my driver's license renewed. I don't look like a serial killer on my license anymore, but instead I look like I spent a night in a Holiday Inn in Queens without a razor, shaving cream, my contacts, or hair product. I figure that if I ever get pulled over for anything serious, I'll probably look about that terrible anyway.
- My sister somehow grew up over the past year. She's almost as tall as me, and it appears that she's better at algebra than I am.
- I just spent an hour dorking out in my library (by which I mean my closet, which contains zero clothes) over all the books I have to read over the next twenty days because they won't fit in my suitcases. Who's up for binge-reading Habermas? Nobody? Fine.
- I'm already out of things to do in Fargo without Brady, Natalia, Megan, David, or anyone else around. I think I'm going to hole up at my grandparent's cabin in rural Minnesota tomorrow afternoon and stay until Kelly's concert on Sunday, and will hopefully get a ton of work done in the absence of cell service and broadband internet. Just me, grandma, grandpa, and Habermas. It's like a postmodern Nativity!

Monday, 8 December 2008

This Episode Brought to You By British Airways, JFK, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Space-Time Continuum

The upside to bombastic end-of-term parties with friends and watching both seasons of Pushing Daisies and being all cute by cooking banana pancakes from scratch for dinner while listening to Jack Johnson's Banana Pancakes on a loop is that all of these things are categorically wonderful. The downside is sleep debt, especially when it catches up with you the morning of a transatlantic flight. I kind of overslept my alarm by two hours this morning. (It wouldn't have been so bad, but I had to write my letter of intent to request a funding extention for a doctorate and that's not something you want to do under extreme duress. In retrospect, I don't remember writing an address on the outside of the envelope before putting it in the mail. That worries me a little.)

So I raced to Heathrow and made my flight, which was pretty uneventful (with the possible exception of finally watching Mamma Mia, which is the oddest, trippiest film I've seen all year - and not really in a good way, but in a disturbing, what-was-everyone-involved-with-this-possibly-thinking kind of way. Coming from me, that's a very strong statement.) But then we arrived at JFK and sat. And sat. And sat. And I had already sort of figured that ninety minutes wasn't that much time to get through immigration and customs, take the train from Terminal 7 to Terminal 4, recheck my bags and get my boarding pass, go through security, and catch my flight to Minneapolis, but forty-five minutes definitely wasn't enough. You might remember that this happened at JFK last year, and I made a deal with the ticket agent and promised to sprint through the airport and I awesomely made my flight. This year, the ticket agent shook his head really sadly and sent me back to Terminal 7 with a boarding pass for tomorrow morning in my fist.

I'd have liked to stay in Oxford for another week or so, but if I'm going to leave, I'd much rather actually make it back to Fargo than be stuck in an airport Holiday Inn in Queens. I was exhausted and kind of cranky, but the two staffers at the British Airways counter were so friendly that I consciously decided to flash a megawatt smile and not take them down with me. (When I got there, one of them was like, "this'll just take a minute if you want to go outside and smoke or anything," and then the other chastised her for encouraging me to smoke. And it somehow ended with me promising not to start smoking because she was the kind of person you couldn't argue with.) They looked at my boarding pass and were like, "Fargo! New York is a long way from Minnesota," and I was like, ...that is both true and false? and then they talked about other cities they knew in Minnesota, and mentioned the Mall of America and Mary Tyler Moore and I almost asked if they wanted to have a sleepover at the hotel we were booking.

And I don't know if it was because I told them to have a nice night or what, but as I was leaving, Pamela was like, "hold up, Ryan, you get dinner!" and I got a dinner voucher for my hotel. And it was $38.

So after standing out in the freezing cold with my bags and catching a shuttle, I ended up at the Holiday Inn, which is like a mini-vacation to the early 1980s. I do get free wifi, though, so I abused that for a bit before racking up a $36 dinner bill courtesy of British Airways. (It sounds more impressive than it was, since my Cajun salmon salad was $17 and the sorbet that I convinced them to put in a styrofoam cup so I could eat it in bed while watching Lifetime was $9. Everything about this scenario is amazing, except the shuttle that I have to take at 5:30 for my flight to Minneapolis at 8. Ick.)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Ryan, Out!

"We all have ways of coping. I use sex and awesomeness."
- Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock

This week has been insanely busy - not so much in actual commitments, but in terms of pulling books from the library, writing up chapters and papers, and scheduling last-minute cups of coffee with people that I probably should have taken care of in, oh, the first seven weeks of the term. But it's suddenly done, which means that I'm just obsessing about all the books I can't carry back to the US and trying to find a vegetarian entree recipe that is both a) impressive and b) very difficult to fuck up for a potluck on Sunday. (Accidentally food poisoning somebody's entire house is not the best way to make a good impression, apparently.)

Also, I guess I'm flying back to Fargo in like T minus 48 hours? I'm in denial and trying to convince myself that this is not actually true, which is why I'll probably start packing at midnight on Sunday. (I plan to yell "Ryan, out!" as many times as possible until then.)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Best Day Ever, Worst Day Ever

Within five minutes of each other, I got two text messages:

- The Nouvelle Vague show on December 7th is postponed indefinitely.
- I don't have chlamydia.

I'm going to go ahead and say I come out ahead on this one.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Where Are They Now?

Just before I left for Oxford, I had dinner with Susan Rice, two scholars from her year from North and South Dakota (represent!), and a couple of the other scholars from my year. A little over a year later, she was just picked as Obama's ambassador to the United Nations, and I'm up in my freezing turret wrapped in two sweaters with my hair sticking up on one side of my head, running on four hours of sleep, six cups of coffee, and a looping Liz Phair playlist while trying to finish this chapter on transnational social movements. As much as I'm a catastrophe right now, I guess it's not every day that I scan the headlines in the New York Times after an all-nighter and see a story that's like, see? if you kick ass and take names, you can be like Susan Rice when you grow up.

(Or you can be like John Bolton and throw staplers at people and still be UN ambassador, I guess, but I'm trying to channel this productively. And I don't own a stapler.)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Let's Make This a Weekly Thing

After my Queer Bop debut, the bop season continues with the Fetish Bop tomorrow. The problem is that I don't own an extensive amount of leather, latex, fur, or anything else remotely kinky (unless someone really gets off on polycotton blends), so I'm going to have to go the dork route again. And this means I'm probably either going as religious fetishism, legal fetishism, or commodity fetishism. It still feels like I'm conceding defeat by wearing more clothes than I absolutely have to.

P.S. Never Google "fetishism." Pretty sure my IT department is going to have a word with me on Monday.

On Impeccable Timing

I was brushing my teeth yesterday and somebody knocked on my door, and because I figured it was probably Brian or Chase or Dan, I opened it thinking that I'd nod apologetically and go spit. But it turned out to be one of the maintenance crew, who blinked at me and then dumped a space heater in my arms. Apparently, all the heaters in my building have been shut off for no apparent reason, and they're sending someone to look at them on Monday. I wanted to ask why the heat was off and why it would take five days to have it looked at, except I couldn't, because my mouth was full of toothpaste and a toothbrush, and I couldn't remove that because my arms were full of space heater.

So it looks like I'm heatless until Monday, which is why I've set up my two space heaters directly across from each other to create an artificial weather pattern on the floor in the middle of my room. It's like twenty degrees colder when you leave that bubble, so I'm kind of worried I'll just be trapped in it all weekend. This is like some fucked up contemporary version of the Little Match Girl, where they'll find me frozen to death with like a half dozen space heaters piled up around me.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Ryan, You're Barely Alive

I'm not so stoked that the second chapter of my thesis is due on Monday, but I will be thrilled if I survive until then. Ever since I went to Queer Bop wearing nothing but jeans and ink, I've had that sneaking suspicion that I was getting sick and kept pretending like it wasn't happening, until I finally woke up this morning feeling like I'd contracted the plague. My timing is awesome.

Luckily, this is the weekend that I finally take my inner Organization Kid out behind the woodshed and unceremoniously shoot him. We elected a new president of LGBTSoc on Tuesday and I pass that off at our handover meeting this weekend, we have our last Queer Studies Circle of the term on Saturday, the president of our MCR gets back this weekend and I can go back to being the snarky, sarcastic secretary instead of politely and skillfully running meetings and dealing with administrators, which I'm terrible at. When all this is done, there's a very good chance that I'll just build a fort out of blankets again and spend a couple of days in pajamas watching really bad teen movies and reading literary theory. (And by "a couple of days," I probably mean "the month of December." I love winter break.)

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Queer Bop

...was a smashing success. I put photos up on Facebook, but this is maybe the first time that I've ever screened things out for being beyond the usual boundaries of sketchiness. (I make enough of a spectacle of myself when I'm shirtless on a dance floor with poles, but they also had a bucking mechanical phallus that we'll never speak of again. Except I should say that movies with drunk middle-aged women who hop on a mechanical bull and ride it sexily make it look much easier than it actually is. I hurt everywhere.)

The body as text was also a fantastic costume, and it only required a tiny shirt to start off the night and two Sharpies when things heated up. The downside was that when I looked in the mirror this morning, my body was covered in marker and had a lot of lewd commentary, plus "I am teh gayz," a little bit of German, a little bit of Spanish, the sentence "queer is an anti-identitarian term for sexuality," "problematic," "hegemonic," "identity" (in scare quotes), lots of arrows pointing into my pants, and the word "foetus" with a picture of a tiny fetus among many, many other things. Someone also poured a cup of cider down my arm and managed to spill half a bottle of Smirnoff Ice IN MY HAIR, so aside from the fact that I had to scrub off about four layers of skin and my body is now sort of bright pink and sort of post-Sharpie grey, it was about the most satisfying shower I've ever taken.

So basically, Queer Bop is magic. I'd imagine that this is what Cinderella's morning after would have felt like if she were queer enough to leave her dignity and keep the shoes.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

And This Is What Happens If You Don't Clap Your Hands

I accidentally cut my finger last night and thought I'd stopped the bleeding before going to sleep, but I was apparently wrong. It kind of looks like Tinkerbell was murdered in my bed.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Overstating Our Case

D: "That smells delicious, what are you making?"
R: "Penne with celery, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Want some?"
D: "God, no. Celery is the devil's vegetable."

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Fashion Emergency!

So Queer Bop is this Saturday, and I managed to snag a ticket (it's the sole perk of being entrusted to sell the last fifty tickets), but now I have to think of a costume that's a) scandalous and b) impossibly clever. Last year, I used up Winona Ryder, a power lesbian, Narcissus, and heroin chic, so those are all out of the question. I think scandalous should be easy, but I want something that's witty and racy instead of just straight-up racy.

I like the idea of going as some type of abstraction in feminist or queer theory, so with that in mind, I have a couple of options:

- the body as text and/or the marked category
- penis envy
- scopophilia
- Cartesian dualism
- the lavender menace

The bop's on Saturday, and I have to get shopping that afternoon. Go!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Shooting Puppies is Passe

I just saw that California's Supreme Court is entertaining the appeal to overturn Prop 8, but the best part of the article was easily the accompanying photo:

"Would This Make Ellen Sad?" might replace WWBDD ("What Would Beth Ditto Do?") as the bedrock of my moral code. On a wholly unrelated note, I love that our incoming president and vice president bring each other cupcakes.

Change I'm Not Entirely Sure I Believe In

You know you're close to your friends when you meet just before lunch to pick up free chlamydia testing kits (um, you can never be too careful, but they also had free cookies), you take turns in your bathroom chatting and getting your bodily fluids together, and you drop off your samples and get your complimentary socialized donuts, sponsored by the NHS and Krispy Kreme. (I'm not really sure why they were handing out cookies and donuts. It's not like I gave a pint of blood; they only asked for like 15 milligrams of pee, and that can't possibly contain that much blood sugar. I'm not complaining, though, because the donut was awesome.)

The strangest part is that it didn't occur to me at the time that it was at all weird to do this with someone as a fun pre-lunch activity, and I only realized this later in the day. And even then, I began to feel sorry for people who don't have that in their life. (By "that," I mean platonic intimacy, not the sexually transmitted infection.) I'm guessing this is what my grandma felt like when she realized that over half the country had somehow voted for Obama, who she suspected of being secretly Muslim. Surprise, you are not a representative sample.

Speaking of Obama, remember when the campaign emailed to say that you could get a text message to be the first to know when he'd picked a vice president? Apparently, the NHS will send you a text message to let you know whether or not you have chlamydia. I'm not entirely sure I like where this trend is going.

Monday, 17 November 2008

I'm a Stepfather, Once Removed!

Or something! How adorable is this? Lee just emailed me a photo of his new puppy, Tabitha, who is this cute:

I saw this and I was like, aww, my ex boyfriend basically has kids, and I kiiinda want to visit when I'm passing through Boston in January. When your ex gets a new boyfriend, you go clubbing and robotically hook up with a total stranger for the sake of proving something to yourself, but when your ex gets a puppy, it is entirely acceptable to bow out gracefully. Look at that face, I can't compete with that. Hell, I might buy her a Christmas present.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

In Which My Work is Socially Relevant, For Once

Look! Disney is all tangled up in fashion, the financial crisis and the social lives of Malia and Sasha Obama. Yesss. If I can get the cast of High School Musical to sing a song about whether or not Hillary Clinton should gun for Secretary of State, this analysis will be so insightful and relevant that I may actually have to abandon it entirely.

Friday, 14 November 2008


X: I told everyone about you nominating Martha Stewart for Secretary of the Interior.
Y: She would kick Gail Norton's ass.
X: Oh, fuck Gail Norton.
Y: Right? EXACTLY. That is what I have ALWAYS SAID.

And that is how you exit a dinner party.

Waugh Night

Yesterday was the debauched evening known as Waugh Night, where everybody dresses up in 1920s attire for a champagne toast, a four course meal, and excessive cocktails in honor of Evelyn Waugh, who is famous for writing Brideshead Revisited and hating being a student in our college. (No hard feelings, Evelyn.)

Appropriately, I woke up this morning in various parts of a tuxedo and was unable to get out of bed until noon, so I built a fort out of blankets and watched High School Musical II to take my mind off of the fact that I felt like I'd been run over repeatedly by a truck. It worked!

And while I still plan to be Mr. Ryan Efron someday, this redefines fabulous slash terrible. I was like, what? I'm simultaneously turned on by and embarrassed for you. That is not supposed to happen. It did distract me from throwing up, though.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Leftist Infighting Makes Me Sad

So I was just reading this (excellent and thought-provoking) op ed on Prop 8 in the LA Times, where Jasmyne Cannick gives a pretty damning indictment of the white bias in the No on 8 campaign.

I think it's one of the best op eds I've read about race and the vote in California, but then I spent all day reading about coalitional politics and kept coming across that Gloria Anzaldua quote about the queer somehow crossing racial and ethnic boundaries, and then I started thinking about what an actual progressive agenda founded on coalitional politics might look like. And I still have no idea (although I think I'm convinced that particular niche issues aren't as useful as a strategy that focuses on broader agenda items like equal opportunity programs, privacy legislation, and better funding for public services), but toying with the idea took up the better part of my afternoon. So maybe No on 8 didn't do a great or even passable job of reaching out to minority groups and building a coalition, and there are obvious reasons why marriage isn't a priority for everyone, but I do want to believe that it's possible to rally behind an issue when it's not at all relevant to your daily life, and that's where I think the tone of the op ed sat uneasily with me. I understand why people would care less, structurally, but the progressive agenda is doomed to fail unless people care about issues that have nothing to do with them but do have to do with justice, equality, and opportunity. And that includes making white, privileged people care about racial profiling and prison abolition just as much as it includes working with disenfranchised communities, because let's be honest, it probably makes sense to demand that the well-resourced, privileged groups do their part before they start asking marginalized groups to line up behind their agendas.

And this is why I transcribed one interview today. Frown.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Rhetorical Questions

X: "Oh, it seems we've put your money in Australian dollars."
R: "Yeah, that's what I thought."
X: "Why in the world would we have done that?"
R: "..."
X: "..."
R: "Wait, are you asking me?"

That was maybe the strangest 45 minutes I've ever spent inside a bank.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Bucket List

Nothing is quite as awesome as turning 24 surrounded by approximately 500 drag queens.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Comedy of Errors, Act II

Remember that botched wire transfer in the summer, when my bank in the UK inexplicably sent my money to Wachovia, who were unable to transfer it to my actual bank in the US so they sent it back minus about $150 and nobody could tell me why? We finally compromised and my bank here agreed to refund all their fees and charges, which were about $75, and encouraged me to try again with their deluxe service. So I did.

Without boring everyone to death, it would appear that $200 has disappeared over the course of this latest transfer because my bank decided to first convert the money into AUSTRALIAN DOLLARS before sending it off to the US, where I'm sure they had no fucking clue why they were being given thousands of dollars in a very random currency and flipped it back before putting it into my account. Given that I do not bank anywhere remotely near Australia, I plan to call my bank in the UK and absolutely flip shit on Monday. It's going to be awesome.

The White Witch

3:17 Ryan
the party yesterday was actually pretty awesome
they had a big markerboard where everyone could design their ideal obama cabinet
my favorite was sarah palin as ambassador to africa

3:20pm D.
maybe narnia would be better

3:20pm Ryan
i'm worried she'd shoot all the fauns from a helicopter

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Newsweek is Awesome

I'm tempted to subscribe to Newsweek solely to get this every four years. My favorite part:

"The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'.""

Barack Obama is my hero.

On Countries and Continents

Not to be mean and not to pick on Sarah Palin when she's down, but OH MY GOD. Fox News has been covering some of the foibles of the McCain camp that were off the record until after the election, and they are like early Christmas. Among the highlights: Sarah Palin didn't know that the countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement (hint: they're in NORTH AMERICA, and you can see two of them FROM YOUR HOUSE), and thought that Africa was a country and not a continent. I have no joke about that one, that's just incredibly depressing.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

E: "I can't believe they actually advertise this. Does anyone actually go to Starbucks because they've changed the color of the cups?"
R: "Okay, don't judge me, but I saw the sign advertising the red cups yesterday and made a mental note to go to Starbucks on November 5th."
E: "..."
R: "It's the start of the holiday season!"
E: "You have to be the only person in my life who I shouldn't have complained to about this."


This morning, I went to my friends' apartment for a celebratory yay-Obama, let's-not-think-about-the-map-we're-refreshing-of-Califonia breakfast. I looked (and felt) like hell, but the breakfast was amazing - orange cinnamon rolls, a roasted vegetable frittata, and homemade sourdough toast, with mimosas and freshly ground coffee.

And excellent company, obvs. And on the way back, I stopped into Starbucks and got a (red) cup of coffee, which means that winter has officially started AND I didn't pass out in a gutter on the walk. I was starting to weave a little and got nervous, but the caffeine got me home in time to pass out on my bed fully clothed for a couple of hours.


And tonight was Guy Fawkes and I kicked back with V for Vendetta, because a) it's cold and b) it's rainy and c) my nerves are so frayed after my all-nighter that I wouldn't be at all surprised if I blew off my hand or fell asleep in a bonfire. I figure staying indoors and watching the film is probably safer than actually celebrating, so long as I'm not indoors in Parliament.

Brought to You by the Number Eight

Yeah, I'm not sleeping until I get the results from Prop 8, and leave for the breakfast soiree at 8, at which point I'll have been glued to a TV or laptop obsessively monitoring returns for exactly 8 hours.

Something tells me that mimosas are going to be toxic at that point.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Barack and Roll

Yeah, I've just written off tomorrow entirely. I know I should probably go to bed to get three hours of sleep before a celebratory Barackfast in the morning, but after drinking four cups of coffee tonight, that's pretty unlikely. I meant to go to a party at a friend's place out on the Cowley Road and then stop by Univ, but then I stopped home after drinks ended around midnight and James and Mark were watching TV in the tearoom and I accidentally never left. Jamie and Dan showed up and lasted until about 2am, when Erika and Ellie rolled in, and now it's 4am and I just rocked upstairs to check out the ballot initiatives, House and Senate races, and local results from the US. And surprise! Unlike 2004, I'm not drinking watermelon vodka under a table.

I got antsy because the BBC was focused pretty exclusively on the presidential race and not much else, and I'm sort of obsessed with the ballot initiatives on abortion, marriage, affirmative action, the ConCon in Connecticut, the income tax in Massachusetts, and that whole personhood thing in Colorado. BUT I do have to say that the BBC was HILARIOUS, especially because John Bolton and Simon Schama were seated next to each other and almost got into a fistfight multiple times. And John Bolton got into an argument with a BBC reporter about whether Sarah Palin was a mistake, and then they kept cutting to a cocktail party of marginally iconic cultural figures (Eddie Izzard, Erica Jong, Ricky Gervais, Jesse Jackson) to get their largely irrelevant take on the democratic process. And they had all sorts of hilarious BBC folklore, like the time a computer broke in 1992 and suddenly projected the entirety of the East Coast for Ross Perot. I might just stream that next time I'm watching an election in the US.

Ooh, CNN just projected the country for Obama. Goodnight, and yesss.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Update Everyone's Been Waiting For: What Underwear I Plan to Wear for the Most Historic Election of My Lifetime

I just survived an MCR meeting that lasted two and a half hours, which means that I just made dinner at 11 and suddenly realized that I forgot to do laundry today. And it was kind of imperative, to the point where I'm totally going to have to wear my Superman briefs tomorrow. They're sporty, but they're not the most comfortable underwear for lounging around glued to a TV for hours upon hours of gazing at Tom Brokaw.

On the plus side, I guess it's good to steel my body for my all-nighter watching poll results, because the results from California aren't going to roll in until about 6 or 7 in the morning. (I'm so ready for this election to be over, it's not even funny. I just got an email from my grandma that basically paints Obama as the antichrist, and has charming bits about abortion, stem cells, and gay marriage. And I sent back a very terse, polite email telling her that I've been an absolute angel about not evangelizing to my family about any of the political work I'm involved with, and asking/telling her that I expect that to be reciprocated, especially where gay rights are concerned. And then I got a frantic, apologetic email back, and now I feel guilty, which is fairly fucked up. I can't wait until Wednesday, especially if it culminates in a celebratory Barackfast.)

Sunday, 2 November 2008

You Only Live Twice

I know this makes me a terrible feminist, but it's an open secret that I have a very, very soft spot for stylized, fast-paced, hypersexualized action films, especially when they're self-aware and a little campy. Obviously, this includes the entirety of the James Bond franchise. I remember being pissed two years ago when Casino Royale was released because I had to miss it to interview for the fellowship that I'm on, and then being almost manic in my insistence to see it as soon as I got back from the interview in Des Moines. (If you read the newspaper article that they did they day after, the reporter mentions that I planned to see Casino Royale with my dad and brother later that day. What they don't mention is that I'm not sure either my dad or my brother really wanted to see it, and that the reporter showed up literally an hour before the movie, so I sat through an interview barking out short, tense answers until the reporter and photographer left, and then I was like, "GET IN THE CAR, WE CAN STILL SALVAGE THIS AFTERNOON" and basically kidnapped my family and dragged them to West Acres 14. Or that two weeks later, my boyfriend's mom and sister were staying with us for Thanksgiving, and I very, very enthusiastically recommended that all of them go see Casino Royale. And they hated it, and then I backpedaled and spent the next couple of days trying to prove that I was a sensitive partner for their son and not a violent misogynist.)

I couldn't see Quantum of Solace on opening night because of the Google party in London, but I did go with R. Dave and Mark to the late-night showing at the Phoenix yesterday, and it is SO GOOD. It's not quite as fun and camp as the rest of the franchise - like, there aren't really any gadgets, and one critic complained that it suffered from Bourne Envy - but I thought it was still good in its own right. So much pathos! So much seething rage and angst! (And Olga Kurylenko was awesome.)

I forgot that it doesn't come out for like two weeks in the US, but at the risk of embarrassing myself again, I'm still telling everyone to go see it. And watch for the villain's ambiguously gay sidekick (who, in a barely noticeable moment, sets down a daiquiri at the party where everyone else is sipping martinis) and the comically ethnic fonts that they use to introduce each locale. (I kind of envy the guy who gets paid to pick the Frenchified font for Haiti and the stripped down, pseudosoviet font for Russia.) I wouldn't recommend hosting a Queer Studies Circle on anti-feminine bias beforehand, because I did feel residually dirty about picking apart the nuances of misogyny and then sneaking off to watch Bond. I guess it's about as gross as I felt when we talked about the commodification of sexuality and spent two hours deconstructing Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," and then I promptly went to a ball and dropped to the floor for "Get Low." Um, I promise that my politics look nothing like my consumption habits.

Saturday, 1 November 2008


"Seriously. We have all had sex with people we have met less than twice."

- A commenter on Wonkette, responding to criticism that John McCain didn't vet Sarah Palin throughly enough.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Okay, so I feel better after being a rockstar of a student today. I got up and made coffee and camped out at my desk for two hours reading essays, then went to the RAI and accidentally crashed a fellow's seminar on the post-Goodridge battle for marriage in Massachusetts. I didn't know it was a fellow's seminar, I just saw it on the schedule and thought it looked cool. And it turned out that David and I were the only randoms who showed up, which didn't at all stop us from grabbing sandwiches and fruit and staying for the seminar. Honestly, the paper wasn't that enlightening - if you were there protesting at the State House and regularly read the Globe, the play-by-play wasn't much of a revelation - but the dialogue afterwards was great. I should probably have expected that, seeing as they were all fellows, but there you go. (I got all excitable when one of them asked about the Hollow Hope and almost jumped into the discussion, which gives you some idea of the wonky streak that I keep bottled up inside myself.)

So that was my working lunch, and then I got back, read a couple of essays, and went to the gym, where I killed time on the elliptical by reading Amy Goodloe's "Lesbian Feminism and Queer Theory: Another 'Battle of the Sexes'?" and Sheila Jeffreys' "Queer Theory and Violence Against Women," then handily polished off today's NYT crossword before rowing until my arms stopped working properly. And then I jogged back and showered, made stir-fry, and watched a couple of episodes of Cory in the House over dinner, which felt productive even though it mostly revolved around watching an awful preteen sitcom for this project. I started reading the last two essays and couldn't do it, so I rocked downstairs for a break at Waugh Night and thought aloud about queer theory to friends of mine who did nothing to deserve this, and then came back upstairs recharged by ideas (and a little bourbon and port). And I finished off the last of the 300 pages, and now I feel sufficiently kick-ass again.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Missing Anything?

Yesterday night at LGBTSoc drinks, I was pouring some cocktails, tending some bar, and minding my own business when our outgoing president sidled up next to me and grabbed my arm.

"You are coming to PopTartz."

It was a question, except without a question mark on it.

"Um... yes?"

"Good. Because we need to do the handover ceremony. It's tradition."

I turned from the bar and wiped my hands on my pants. "And what's the tradition, exactly?"

He shrugged. "Mostly poledancing."

I put my foot down, because I'm classy that way. But on the upside, the fact that it was snowy and generally shitty outside meant that everybody (and I mean everybody, for better or for worse) ended up at PopTartz and then refused to leave. It was awesome. And because of that, my early bedtime was gradually pushed back to 2 in the morning. Ironically, the fact that I'm (temporarily) the (acting, interim) president of LGBTSoc means that I'll never be running for public office in my adult life, ever.

And I almost forgot about my early meeting today. Almost.

My alarm went off at 8 and I rocked down to a meeting with just about every important administrator in our college, where they asked me to take minutes and I couldn't very well say no, so I just stayed bent over my notebook, taking hits from my tiny cup of coffee as often as humanly possible. By the time it ended, I was ready for a nap. I collapsed in my room and, as if on cue, my phone lit up with a message from Dan and Dave, who were at OddBins and needed a letter from the MCR authorizing Dan to use the account. And I told them I'd be there ASAP, which is approximately how long it takes to design letterhead from scratch, write a formal sounding letter, run to the computer lab to print and sign it, track down a blank envelope, and run to OddBins to deliver it to our wine-buyers.

And by this point, it was lunchtime, so I met J. for pies at Pieminister (and tried the Wildshroom and Asparagus pie, which will probably not displace the Heidi pie as my all-time favorite, but was still really good). And when that ended, I realized that I had twenty minutes to get up to Banbury Road for a seminar, where I cracked open a can of Diet Coke and collapsed into my chair at the stroke of two. I had one almost insightful thing to say about Marc Bloch, which was actually pretty impressive when you consider that I read the book a week ago and hadn't had time to glance over it before class.

On the way back from the seminar, I got a text from Aaron asking if I was going to tea at Rhodes House and was like, meh, sure! and ended up staying longer than I probably should have. I got back, shucked off my clothes and changed for the gym, did an hour of cardio and a few minutes of rowing, and jogged back to shower. And when I got out, I rapidly got dressed and bounced out the door to meet a friend of mine from the Women's Studies MSt to go to the panel at the Union on positive discrimination, which was good. (I still have no idea what the difference between positive discrimination and affirmative action are, and don't really understand the nuances of the way that each party constructs its shortlists, but still, better than a nap.)

And then we walked to Sainsbury's and I picked up groceries and made dinner (because it was almost 10 at this point), and then I read two chapters of a collection of essays for my thesis because I TOTALLY NEGLECTED THEM for the past 24 hours. I read a whole book yesterday, so I don't feel that bad, but I'm still planning on a cloistered day tomorrow, which will either end with my diligently falling asleep on a pile of books or giving up and going to one of the two things I promised to attend tomorrow night. I figure I get one of these every month or two, and then it's back to things like reading feminist theory on the elliptical and editing journal articles while I eat breakfast.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Eyes Have It

This weekend, I finished watching all 55 episodes of Hannah Montana after two excruciating weeks and sat down to watch Big Fish, which is the first thing I've seen since Friends With Money that has absolutely nothing to do with princess ideology, the commodification and mass-marketing of female adolescence, or the Disney Channel.

If you haven't seen it, it's great. I was just sort of passively watching and enjoying it, and then all of a sudden, I did a double-take and could have sworn that the little girl in the group of kids hiking down to the swamp to steal the witch's glass eye was a very young Miley Cyrus. I tensed up and blinked a couple of times, but they didn't really show her again in the film and I couldn't tell if I was very perceptive or slowly going insane. And I didn't want to pipe up and ask if anyone else had just seen Hannah Montana hiding in the swamp, because that's a question that doesn't really have a good answer.

But I thought about this apropos of nothing this afternoon and checked IMDB, and lo, it is totally Miley Cyrus - billed at the time as "Destiny Cyrus," before she got famous enough to stop crawling around in muck and stealing body parts from old women and became a carefully pre-packaged pop culture phenomenon. And now I feel less crazy.

Monday, 27 October 2008


Chase sent this to me like a month ago, but I'm just putting it up because a) I've been on a domestic streak lately, and b) I just bought the entirety of Jay Brannan's album on iTunes (and Red Letter Year and Acid Tongue), thereby defeating the purpose of my birthday list.

(Also, c) the video is totally fucking adorable.)

Any Questions?

"The discussion of camp, authenticity and gay porn in Australia draws attention to the fact that queers' relationship to nationalism is not merely one of rejection and exclusion."

- Jon Binnie, The Globalization of Sexuality

And this is why I study what I study.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The [Drawbacks] of Being a Wallflower

It's been a crazy week (starting my thesis, finishing start-of-term MCR stuff, accidentally becoming LGBTSoc president, etc., etc.), so I've been mostly AWOL from my computer and using my spare time to catch up with, you know, tangible people. Like today, when I grabbed coffee with Leslie at Blackwell's and we went to Sainsbury's afterward. She convinced me to get cod filets for dinner, and it was the closest I've come to setting my kitchen on fire.

The downside with all this socializing is that I'm feeling hella behind on my thesis, and that (and not being able to put down Julia Serano's Whipping Girl, which I'm in danger of reading until I finish it tonight) means that I decided to be lame and hibernate for the evening. I did this without realizing that the rowers were having cocktails downstairs, and that I'd basically be barricading myself against loud music, a thick fog of gin and sweat, and an army of undergrads who seem to spill more than they drink. It's times like these when it's nice to have two thick doors to your room.

When it's not nice is when you decide to take your contacts out, open both doors, and find two undergrads fucking on your doorstep. My room is the only one on the top floor, and it's just my door directly across from a windowsill. When I walked out, there was a girl sitting on my windowsill, and a guy standing in front of her with his back to me and his pants around his ankles. The guy turned his head and said, "oh, fuck" and I blushed and covered my eyes with one hand, and then he said, "dude, in or out!" and I panicked and thought, "in, in!" and ran back into my room and slammed the door. I took a deep breath, and then I was like, wait a minute, what? So I went back out and they were still at it, and the guy cursed again, and I was like, "I live here, and stop fucking on my landing," and padded down to my bathroom. But they were actually pretty apologetic when I passed them on the way back up, and didn't make too much of a mess except for a gigantic moat of gin in front of my door. It was pretty innocuous, and they were actually lucky that I'm not in a dry spell, or I might have just pushed them both out the window.

I sympathize, but seriously, kids. This is why public toilets and poorly-lit parks were invented.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Aww, SAD Times

"Since the days are getting shorter, the MCR is providing subsidized Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)."

I think they meant that they were providing the lights and not the crippling seasonal depression, but either way, £5 is a bargain.

Monday, 20 October 2008

In Which I Am Not Even the Hottest Thing in My Otherwise Unoccupied Building

I got back from the gym tonight, peeled off my shirt and socks, and plodded down to the shower on the third floor in my track pants. When I got there, the door to my bathroom was locked - which is unusual, because I'm the only person living in the stairwell, but it's not unheard of because the tearoom is downstairs and hey, everybody pees. I figured that it would probably be awkward when a total stranger popped out to find me half-naked in the stairwell, but it also seemed really childish to hide in my kitchen.

And then I heard something in my kitchen, and the door swung open and Jamie came out. She started to laugh and I shyly pulled my jeans and tee-shirt up to hide my half-nakedness, and I apologized because I'd always gotten away with nobody seeing me when I've trotted down in my shorts before. And then I changed the subject by asking how the curry she and Ed had made had turned out, and she said it went off without a hitch. (I know it's easy to make, but everything seems adventurous when your culinary ability runs the gamut from stir-fry to boiling vegetables with pasta, spiced up with the occasional bowl of cereal.)

As if on cue, the second doorway on the landing opened, and Ed and Mark came out, and I blushed a deeper shade of red and tried to cover more of myself with my bundle of clothes. And before we really had time to chat, the bathroom door opened and Dan popped out, and there I was, hanging out with everyone in the stairwell just like I do on a lot of evenings, except this time they were fully clothed and I was wearing nothing but track pants and getting sort of cold and blushing in many, many colors. I ducked into the bathroom to shower, and Dan kindly offered to prop the door if I wasn't done stripping in public. I declined.

Rural Populism Changes Everything

It's starting to look like the Forum poll that showed Obama up by 2 in North Dakota wasn't a total outlier (!), since a Research 2000 poll this week came up with Obama and McCain in a tie. Wha?

If Obama reopens his campaign office there, I'm seriously tempted to go back and volunteer for the week before the election, even though this is a) the worst possible timing in my term and b) completely impractical. Alternately, I'll probably just donate a bunch of that plane ticket money to the Democrats-NPL in North Dakota or the No on 8 campaign in California. I sent my absentee ballot, and I guess I'll also call my grandma to try to convince her not to vote for McCain, even though this means that I'll probably have to shatter the illusion that I can't call because I'm in England, and then I'll have to explain what Skype is, and then I'll be expected to call her every weekend for the rest of my life.

This is when I grit my teeth and mumble something about country first.

UPDATE: In wholly unrelated news, I stumbled over this feminist blog by women in North and South Dakota this afternoon, and it is tremendous.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Jenny Lewis!

It was probably a mistake to skip Ulf Hannerz's departmental seminar on anthropology and globalization (as I'm currently struggling to write a thesis on that, and failing), but I finished meeting with my supervisor yesterday and booked it to see Jenny Lewis in London because going to more shows is on the list of Things to Do Before They Make Me Get a Real Job.

The concert wasn't outstanding, but it was definitely worth the trip. I was trying to explain this to someone this morning - the band didn't seem that enthusiastic about the show, and left out any anecdotes or witty banter that usually make things like this fun, but the performance itself was really solid. She did end with See Fernando - which is maybe my favorite song from Acid Tongue - and her drummer is absolutely nuts and looks like a teenage version of a lunchlady and has the most expressive face I've ever seen, to the point where I was worried that she would either burst into tears or suddenly, violently, kill the bassist with her drumsticks. Or both. It was like watching somebody go through all the faces on those medical charts that rank pain on a scale of 1-10. So she was great, and since it's impossible to be mad at Jenny Lewis, I deemed it a success.

Anyway, I rocked back, brought scones and jam over to Julie and Zak's and saw their new place this morning, went grocery shopping for the queer brunch tomorrow, and then took a much-needed two-hour nap before the first Queer Studies Circle and the matriculation ball later tonight. I was just about to head out to the gym when someone asked if I could send out an agenda for a meeting tomorrow, and after doing that, I don't have enough time for a full workout before QSC. After Love Bar, the presidential debate, staying up to finish a 200-source bibliography for my thesis, and the concert in London yesterday, it's probably better that I took a breather, but I do hate nap/gym tradeoff days.

Friday, 17 October 2008

I Blame Breakfast at Tiffany's

"I'm going to a concert in London, then hustling back to get sleep before a housewarming breakfast at 9:30 in the morning."
"Are these Americans?"
"Yeah, why?"
"Americans are the only people I know at Oxford who plan social events before noon."

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

What I Did For Love


So Dick Cheney is getting a heart operation and Nancy Reagan has been hospitalized with a broken pelvis. The death of a prominent politician tends to trigger selective amnesia and sympathy from the public, and it seems suspiciously like the GOP is trying to off iconic Republicans as the October Surprise. Stop! Nobody has to die, guys!

Important Life Lessons, October 13-19

It is surprisingly difficult (or, you know, flat-out impossible) to draw up a reading list on globalization, diffusion, gender, sexuality, social movements, the Philippines, transgenderism, domesticity, religion, urbanity, Marxism, poverty, and development - basically, the whole of anthropology. It turns out that there is a great deal of anthropology floating around nowadays, and while the upside is that I have about 100 sources for my thesis, the downside is that I don't think I'm supposed to have that many before reading or following up on the footnotes in any of them. And that I'm supposed to present this to my supervisor in like 48 hours.

(To procrastinate, I a) voted absentee, b) got tickets to see Jenny Lewis in London, and c) did my first obligatory night of bartending/clubbing for LGBTSoc yesterday. It was insanely packed, and by the end, there was so much alcohol spilled on my hands and forearms that I could have performed reasonably sterile surgery on someone on the bar.)

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

It's All in the Vowels

R: "Hey, McCain is finally in the New York Times crossword puzzle."
E: "What's the clue?"
R: "Senator McCain."
E: "And the answer?"
R: "John."
E: "..."
M: "It's a Monday."

Monday, 13 October 2008

Your Mangled Back

I blanked and totally forgot about my first lecture today - not mandatory, but there's a seminar series on human rights and I'd sort of planned to attend - which is probably not a great way to kick off the term. Instead of "learning," I spent the day hunched over my desk banging out a reading list for my thesis and listening to the new Ani CD, which is super-good. (And then I went to the gym for an hour and realigned my back and listened to the Gossip so I don't develop spinal or psychological problems.)

My room gets a lot of sunshine (for England, this is relative) and my desk faces the door, so my room is a way pleasant place to work this year compared to last year. But today I ran into Daniel in the computer room mid-afternoon and he pointed out that I was wearing socks, and I realized that I hadn't put on shoes at all because I hadn't left the building.

I live in a bioturret, like a cross between Quasimodo and Pauly Shore. Except blessedly different.

I have a kitchen, a bathroom, and a computer lab. The mail and newspapers are delivered downstairs. At 1pm, everyone I know shows up for lunch and the BBC in the tea room, which I usually attend in my socks. If I absolutely need to, I can jog across the quad for a) laundry, b) tech support, c) a nurse, or d) the spiritual aid of our chaplain, who I mostly visit so we can drink tea and play with her cats, not because of any sense of existential despair. (One is a tabby!) It's all very self-contained. Unless I run out of groceries or there's a fire, I'm pretty much set - and even then, they've got food in Hall, and since there's really no fire escape from my room, I'd probably just sigh and stay put. If they ask me to start ringing any bells, though, all bets are off.

Today's Opening Salvo

"Firstly, a very warm welcome to everyone who has joined us in the paradise of attrition we like to call Oxford, and welcome back to everyone stupid enough to come back to this place."

I love that this is what greets me when I open my inbox in the morning.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Freshers' Fortnight, Check

Tonight was the JCR Bop, and for it to be a bigger success than last year, I had to:

a) not lose my jumper, and
b) not have the most awkward hook-up of my life.

It is 12:40am, I've succeeded at both objectives, and I'm back in my room with my kitchen and bathroom locked so that everyone who stumbles into the MCR by mistake will only puke on the landings and not in my fridge or shampoo. Really, all I had to do to pull this off was to stay fully clothed all night, but it worked and I'm un poco proud of myself.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Why I'm AWOL

See, this is why it pays to have Google Alerts for yourself, even if it is totally narcissistic:

First, I wrote an article for the Advocate on the way queer issues would be treated under an Obama or McCain administration - it doesn't go to print until the November 4th issue, but it's online now. (It's also the Advocate's poll topic for this month, so if you feel strongly about it, that's here.)

Secondly, the project I'm doing on Hannah Montana and the Suite Life of Zach and Cody made it onto a Disney fan site, but the actual advertisement for the colloquium is also up. How fun is that? I've stopped telling people that I'm watching three episodes of Hannah Montana a day, and when someone asks what I've been doing, I've started lying and saying I was upstairs napping. I have about two days until everyone begins to think I've got chronic fatigue syndrome.

Betty White for President

This is the best video, ever.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Up in Smoke

When I was flying through Duty Free in September, I spotted a carton of cigarettes for like $15, and I was like, hell, a pack of cigarettes costs like $10 in the UK, I would be a fool not to buy these. So I did, and now I've got 200 Lucky Strikes in my cupboard.

The only problem is that I don't smoke.

Occasionally - like, very occasionally - I'll have a cigarette if I'm out clubbing or with a big group of smokers at a bar somewhere. (Or if I happen to be in Peru, where I smoked constantly for no apparent reason.) But because I'm not a smoker, I only smoke when someone politely offers me a cigarette, which I never reciprocate, ever. I'd be that terribly obnoxious guy who's always bumming cigarettes off people, except I never ask for them and only smoke them when they're passed in my direction. But I had grandiose visions of me actually carrying half a pack with me out to a bar and then giving them to people and being like a cross between Santa Claus and the Marlboro Man. And with the rate that I smoke, that carton of cigarettes would probably last me for like two or three years.

Now it turns out that even social smoking is bad for you and messes up your arteries, so I should probably stop. I hope my family doesn't mind that they're all getting cigarettes for Christmas.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Pop Quiz

Ow. Tonight was Quiz Night in the MCR, where six teams squared away on rounds of African geography, washing machine symbols, cryptic pictures, taste-testing different flavors of crisps, Britain, incredibly obscure music trivia, general knowledge (and by 'general,' I mean 'defining words like hypocaust,' which is not the genocide of hippopotamuses), and bad teen movie dialogue. Guess which round I was in charge of writing!

So here are the questions, and the answers are below:

1. "Okay, so you're probably going, 'Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?' But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl."
2. "You are cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded."
3. "I feel just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. You know, except for the whole hooker thing."
4. "In America, we have laws. Laws against killing, laws against stealing. And it is just accepted that as a member of American society, you will live by these laws. In West Canaan, Texas, there is another society which has it's own laws. Football is a way of life."
5. "Love's a bitch, Duck. Love's a bitch."
6. "Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns."
7. "I've been killing myself for eight days and I gained a pound."
"That's impossible. Did you deduct sixteen pounds for your shoes?"
8. "You realize we're all going to go to college as virgins. They probably have special dorms for people like us."
9. "Hello, Katarina. Make anyone cry today?"
"Sadly, no. But it's only 4:30."
10. "Whoever said orange is the new pink was seriously disturbed."

You know what's amazing? Most groups got like 6 of them, but one of the teams got 10 out of 10. I don't even think I could do that, because I would almost definitely trip up on the love's a bitch quote. (The rest are semi-intuitive, if you're one of the rare people who would give these a lot of time and careful consideration. If that's the case, I think you're wonderful.) I wandered over to their table and was like, 'so, um, which one of you knows a somewhat alarming amount about the worst films of the 1980s and 1990s?' and two people raised their hands and I was like, right, you are my new best friends.

And then I went to bed early because I didn't feel good, and now I'm completely awake at 4:30am with a generalized ache all over my body, which may be from kicking my ass at the gym for two days in a row after a three month hiatus, but may also be because I haven't shaken whatever almost killed me in the Philippines. I figured I just had the persistent cold that everyone in Oxford eventually catches in autumn that you just learn to live with until spring, but now I'm like incapacitated. Ow.

Meep, here are the answers:

1. Clueless
2. Bring It On
3. She's All That
4. Varsity Blues
5. Pretty in Pink
6. The Breakfast Club
7. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
8. American Pie
9. 10 Things I Hate About You
10. Legally Blonde

Why Grad Students Shouldn't Be Allowed to Hook Up

"A year ago, I had that disastrous hookup with the first of the Dans."
"Which one was the first one?"
"I can't remember his last name."
"No, pretty sure it wasn't Cruickshank."
"Well, it was something between Cruickshank and Panopticon."

Rock and Roll, It's... Tuesday.

Because Tuesdays are when everyone on the Rhodes goes to the Turf and when LGBTSoc has its weekly drinks, it tends to be my night on the town every week. (And this is the perk of being a graduate student and being able to wake up at 10 or 11 on a Wednesday morning. Or 1 in the afternoon.)

But yesterday night was jazz and cocktails, one of the biggest draws on the MCR's calendar. They hire a jazz band, make sexy cocktails that nobody has heard of since the Wilson administration, and generally make it a classy affair. Clearly, this takes precedence. I showed up and reluctantly decided on an El Diablo (it was tequila-based, which is a bright, bright red flag, but it was one of the only cocktails that didn't have something weirdly savory like basil or sea salt), but then dodged that bullet when I changed my mind and ducked out for a few minutes with Brian and Chase to go over and see the incoming scholars at the Turf.

I met one of them. Check!

For the rest of the time, I caught up with everyone - like, everyone - who I hadn't seen since I got back to Oxford. I sat with Brian and Chase and talked about how-we-met narratives and Middle Eastern anthropology and Sarah Palin. I saw Leana and got to hear about her trauma rounds in South Africa, which sounded sufficiently traumatic. As we were being jostled around in the stairwell, Taylor and I talked about the difference between having to be in the middle of nowhere and choosing to be in the middle of nowhere. And I gave a lot of man-hugs and overzealous embraces and it was great.

But then the Turf closed, and I remembered that Debs was coming back to visit before going to York for her PhD, so I popped back to jazz and cocktails to see her before it ended. The band was just finishing at that point, and the cocktail bar had closed, so it turns out that I got all glammed up in my jazz and cocktails attire (copious midnight blue and black and silver! minimal buttoning and rolled-up sleeves! ankle boots!) to go across the street to a pub and drink cider all night, then roll upstairs at 2am to watch the presidential debate. But by every objective metric, the night was a success. (My metrics include: it was like a This is Your Life of my favorite people, I inherited a bunch of peaches from the cocktail bar, and I learned a little bit about tax policy. Not bad for a Tuesday.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Because Disney, Like Cockroaches, Will Survive

As the global economy collapses and everything generally goes crazy, I'm doing a project on the ideological underpinnings of Hannah Montana. I think it's too kind to even say that this is like Nero fiddling while Rome burns, because I'm just watching somebody fiddle. And by 'fiddle,' I guess I mean 'possibly just lip-sync and gyrate energetically.'

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Graduation List

I'd like to stay at Oxford for another two years after this to do a DPhil, I think, but it's still quite possible that I'll bomb my thesis and they'll show me the door to the real world in June. With that in mind, I've been thinking about stuff I want to do this year while I can still chalk things up to Getting an Education and Not Just a Degree.

- impulsively visit Greece
- learn to read tarot cards
- meet fifty fascinating people
- successfully cultivate a warm, womblike living space
- publish
- get a solid grasp of all the theorists I've faked knowing for years
- learn to do cryptic crosswords
- do something political that feels like it makes a difference. Bonus if it's militantly political and involves placards, rallies, or the possibility of arrest.
- finally see Ani DiFranco in concert, in a yet-to-be-determined city
- read at least two books a month that have absolutely nothing to do with my degree
- learn about and/or drink a lot of pretentious wines
- write my thesis

I feel obligated to put that last one on there.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Nostalgia, Much?

I can't believe I forgot to delete this.

To Italy, With Love

In my early, early days of blogging - like, about five years ago, using Xanga before I was even on Blogger - I backpacked across Italy for eight weeks as a researcher-writer for Let's Go. It was pretty much the best job ever for a scrappy, bright-eyed nineteen year old who'd never left the country. I got to see a ton of tiny towns along the way, but the tradeoff was that I missed Milan, Florence, Turin, and other big cities that weren't on my route.

This weekend, I had a retreat outside of Milan, in Stresa, at the hotel where most of A Farewell to Arms is set. (And now I have to read A Farewell to Arms, but whatever.) We got a bit of free time, but mostly we stuck around the hotel and learned stuff. This was fine, as it was a totally sweet, totally five star hotel, and everyone at the retreat was lovely.
So we got to spend a grand total of two hours in Stresa. My mission for the weekend was to hunt down gelato - straciatella or bacio, preferably - to relive my summer of eating gelato, oh, twice a day, sometimes instead of meals. I went hiking up through Stresa with a couple of the other people on the retreat, then ducked away as we reentered the city center to find gelato. (It was probably better that I did it alone. I was kind of a man possessed.) Anyway, I found it, and I got a scoop of each and I devoured it along the shore of Lake Maggiore and I was basically totally and completely content with my life and the universe and my existence at that moment. And that, for only two Euros.
So this was Lake Maggiore. Totally beautiful.
And this was Isola Bella, where we had dinner on Friday.
I like this guy. Way to drink at noon, sir.
I spent most of the working portion of the weekend in this villa. We got the room on the terrace, which was great until we were attacked by a single bee who drove us all inside. We're a pretty rugged bunch.
The chandelier in my room, which was pretty much never on because I was a) out, b) enjoying my bathtub, or c) watching post-VP debate updates.
Sigh. I think I need to go back to Italy at some point.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

"That is Friggin' Hot!"

Also, I've been all morose for the past couple of days about everyone leaving, but the incoming grad students are actually pretty awesome. Proof? Yesterday, this guy who lives across the courtyard from me invited me over for raspberry echinachea tea and we hung out, and then I went to President's Drinks (albeit in my pajamas and drinking a screwdriver, because I'm sick and I think orange juice is still supposed to help when it's combined with one part vodka) and spent about an hour talking with this girl about Flava of Love, the Hills, Hogan Knows Best, and the Girls Next Door. Like, not just reality TV, but the dregs of reality TV. I told her this in a moment of frankness (too frank? too soon?), but she reminds me of Anna Farris. And that is magical.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Empty Threats

If my bank in the UK and my bank in the US can't figure out which of them lost $150 in that inexplicably botched wire transfer in July (both are currently blaming Wachovia, because hey, why not?), I'm closing out my accounts on Monday. And being $8000 richer, I plan to spend it on iTunes downloads, because Jay Brannan, Dar Williams, and Jenny Lewis all have new(ish) CDs I want. I cracked and bought the Jay Brannan one today, but I will buy it twice, because you can do that when you have $8000 dollars. And just to be a bitch, I might tell everyone I did it because of the financial crisis and spark a bunch of bank runs and a generalized sense of panic. You deserve it, jerks.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Sing It, Grandma

I looked at my bank statement today and realized that I've spent over $200 since Friday. Whoops! I think I'm finally done stockpiling dishes, kitchen supplies, office supplies, and toiletries for the year, though.

The upside is that my suite looks, well, sweet. I'm in a two-room suite at the top of a fifteenth century turret, with carpet and a leather-topped desk and a floral-print armchair and sofa and a little, possibly non-functional tiled fireplace. And best of all, it's got enough shelves and empty walls for me to display all the junk I've brought back from around the world without looking like the pawn shop of Babylon. (I've got Moroccan dishes, Filipino masks, Malaysian prints, postcards from Switzerland, and a Slovenian vase on display. It looks suspiciously like a flower child's version of Pier 1.)

It's all just stuffy and tasteful enough that it could pass for my grandmother's apartment. Hopefully, this kind of grandmother:

(I shamelessly stole that from Bob.)

Monday, 29 September 2008

In Which I Drink the Wine of the Grapes of Wrath

Being the dork that I am, I skipped the first half of President's Drinks tonight to watch the streaming coverage of the federal government taking the economy behind the woodshed and emptying a shotgun into it. I thought about going to stockpile canned goods, but I've got a half a box of All Bran, a couple of plums and apples, a half-loaf of bread, rice cakes, and some jam, so I'm all set for, what, two days? Maybe?

Regardless, I went to the Turf instead. Sarah and Nikki are back to turn in their dissertations before they go the way of Abby, Debs, Abby L, Ambika, Tanmay, Remi, Dwayne, Dave, Darcy, Bernadette, and leave Oxford like pretty much EVERYONE ELSE in my social universe from last year. (We've got a motley crew of hardened survivors - Erika, R. Dave, Jamie, myself - but the field has definitely been culled.) I love that when my grandkids are like, "what did you do on Black Monday?" I'll be like, "oh, you know, rearranged my furniture, bought a pair of trainers, killed a pint of cider with a couple of friends." I also went to RBS to see if they could refund a couple of bogus charges to my account, but I might just stop asking because they probably need the money more than I do. (I should point out that the shoes are wicked cute, though.)

At the Turf, somebody cracked a joke about PETA asking Ben and Jerry's to use breast milk in its ice cream, which was admittedly one of the odder stories of this week. But then I thought about it, and maybe we've just reached the same point that Rosasharn does in the Grapes of Wrath when she up and breastfeeds the old man in the barn. Except the only lesson we learned over the past eighty years is how to mix it with tiny chocolate fish and name it after a rock band.