Friday, 29 February 2008

V is for Victory, and Very Tired

I finished typing at the stroke of midnight. And you can tell that I'm really working hard because a) I'm progressively getting nakeder, which happens when I'm furiously writing into the night and b) I've suddenly got very strong Marxist opinions and a decidedly postmodernist vocabulary, which also happens in those circumstances. And that's why I'm in a muscle shirt and underpants, and why I'm fervently arguing that capitalism is witchcraft.

Shell of a Person

I've been reduced to rewarding myself with a cup of Sainsbury's instant coffee if I finish transcribing excerpts from Michael Taussig's The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America by midnight. I'm all about carrots and sticks, but instant coffee is a pretty depressing carrot.

You know what the sad part is? I'm totally not going to make that deadline.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Sometimes, I Set Unreasonable Goals for Myself

After accidentally telling my supervisor that I was jetting off to Morocco on Sunday just shy of the beginning of our vacation, I've tried not to bring it up again. Sometimes, this involves a little bit of strategic vagueness, like when he asked if I could stop by his office on Wednesday and I told him that Wednesday wasn't so great, but Friday would work. I strategically didn't say "Wednesday isn't so great, because I'll still be drinking mint tea. IN NORTH AFRICA!" (I know it doesn't seem like much, but that really is about the maximum amount of tact I possess.)

But this also meant that when we decided to change our tutorial topic for 8th Week, I just casually asked if I could get the reading list to get started on the reading without really saying why. And maybe because I never gave a particularly good reason, we got the list this morning. Of course, it's the longest we've ever gotten - with a whopping fourteen articles or chapters and SEVEN ENTIRE BOOKS - that I'm supposed to have read in the next twenty-four hours so that I can spend Saturday writing an essay, proofreading it, and sending it before I jet off at dawn on Sunday. I savagely gutted my social calendar, but I've still got a charity auction and a drink with a friend from out of town that I can't miss. And I can usually skip a reading or two and nobody dies, but I could skip half of them and it would still be insane. So basically, this is going to be the ultimate test of my ability to recover from very poorly executed decisions.

(I say that now, but we all know I'll make worse decisions in the next couple weeks or so, so let's not kid ourselves. I'm not going to stress about this too much.)

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

In Which I Sleep Through an Earthquake

I've been told that there was an earthquake yesterday at about one o'clock in the morning, which was approximately fifteen minutes after I crawled into bed post-bartending and fell asleep. And somehow, even though Erika and Jessica could feel their beds shaking as the building trembled, I just slumbered right through it. It's not like this is new. Once, I woke up and pulled my knees up to my chest and told Lee that it kept me from falling back asleep, and then promptly fell asleep on my back in a sort of stylized fetal position. Still, sleeping through an earthquake is certainly a new twist. I could try a hat trick with a fire alarm and a riot and see if I'm completely disaster-proof, but I might wait on that for a while.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

BBC South Today (and Yesterday and Tomorrow)

Every afternoon during lunch, the BBC's South Today reliably reports on at least one of four topics:

1) the Princess Diana inquest
2) a missing child
3) the obesity epidemic
4) binge-drinking in Britain

And when they hit two, my lunch ends. It's a foolproof way to keep myself from sitting in the tearoom all day and watching game shows.

In a jarring change of pace, they had a special feature on hospice care today with Hugh Grant. Technically, Hugh Grant earnestly talked about death and dignity in the background while the BBC kept replacing him with black and white glamour shots of himself, but the important thing is that it was in no way related to Madeleine McCann. It was a bold move, and I applaud it.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Take Your Mama Out

Of all of the much-needed vacations that I have coming up over the break, I'm most looking forward to the Thursday in April when I'm taking my mom to Embassy to go clubbing for the night. Back in the day, Brady and I took her to the I-Beam in Fargo and were trying to explain the differences to her between that bar (largely empty, lots of neon, clouds of cigarette smoke, Toby Keith, a popcorn machine) and places like Embassy where we went in Boston (packed shoulder to shoulder, go-go dancers, drinks we can't afford to consume in threes and fours, hip-hop, a distinct lack of popcorn), and we basically just concluded that they were in no way alike. So I promised to take her to Embassy, and now I'm supposed to deliver. And both of us are way more excited than we should be.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Toxic Chatter

So yesterday night was the Toxic Chatter party, celebrating the one year anniversary of a gossip podcast on iTunes co-hosted by a couple of friends of mine. It was extra-fun because it was also another friend's birthday, also at BabyLove, so it coincidentally happened that all of my favorite people from my fellowship program and all of my favorite people from my college were there mingling. (Everyone actually mixed like oil and water, but they were good sports when I awkwardly bounced from conversation to conversation.)

Anyway, the theme of the party was to dress as your favorite celebrity (natch), and as an avid reader of the Superficial, TMZ, Perez Hilton, and Pink is the New Blog, I started to panic when I realized that I couldn't think of anybody to go as. (I thought about Matthew McConaughey, but I had already shaved and I didn't have time to devolve.) Instead, I just sewed price tags onto all of my clothes and stuffed costume jewelry into my pockets and went as Winona Ryder.

It certainly wasn't the best costume (who can compete with Mariah, who?), but someone thought highly enough of it that I won a copy of Andrew Morton's The Beckhams, which is totally going to be my celebratory end-of-term reading on the flight to Israel. (Julie Burchill describes it on the cover as "a truly delightful and calorie-free indulgence." Watch yourself, VanGennep.) Anyway, I took a picture when I got home to digitally immortalize the evening. I think I was going for feigned innocence.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Why I'm in a Shitty Mood

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who yell homophobic slurs when I'm trying to carry on a conversation with someone else. Like, someone will yell something at me on the street every once and awhile, and even though that clearly sucks, I'm able to roll my eyes and keep walking and forget about it pretty quickly afterwards. What seriously pisses me off is when I'm with someone and having a conversation, and then somebody else shouts something stupid and it's awkward to keep idly chatting and pretend like you don't hear somebody calling you a faggot, but it's also really uncomfortable to have to crack a joke about it or otherwise perform unfazedness on the spot. It's awkward for all involved.

I'm pretty good about rolling with the punches in this regard, but I don't think it's too much to ask for people to not interrupt when they're being verbally abusive in public spaces. (They might also think about not getting piss drunk before 5pm, but that's more of a suggestion that they can take or leave.)

Friday, 22 February 2008

Alien vs. Predator vs. Canadian Goose

I live by the Isis and tonight it honest-to-God sounds like the ducks are being killed. It's like something out of a crazy collaboration between Animal Planet and Wes Craven. I don't really know why they're tweaking out, but if this doesn't stop soon, I'm going to have nightmares.

The Presence of Absence

So this was the week where I had a couple hundred pages of very dense readings on the body and medical anthropology, which is so not my bag that it isn't even funny. (I would completely understand if my supervisor thinks I'm troubled, since I wrote volumes on resistance and violence and then was like, meh, bodies are complicated.) So I was struggling with this essay all day on Monday, got it mostly mapped out on Tuesday, and actually had a draft finished by that night. Typically, I bartend on Tuesday, feel too panicked about my essay, and resume writing from 11pm to 2am while everyone else goes to PopTartz. This week, I finally felt good enough about my essay to do both, possibly because it was already three times longer than it was supposed to be and I knew that if I added in an extra part about Donna Haraway's stuff on cyborgs, I would have to subdivide it into chapters. So instead, I went clubbing, where I promptly ran into everyone I've become romantically entangled with at Oxford within five minutes and twenty feet of each other BUT also danced and pretended like I still have a social life, which was worth it.

Want to know the worst way to wake up on a Wednesday? Get up and squint painfully at your alarm clock and realize that you will collapse if you try to go to the gym, you have an essay due that evening, and then check your email and find a message from your parents letting you know that your dog is probably about to die. And then take two Motrin with a bottle of water and climb back into bed, only to sit up two hours later not only still broken, but with two fewer hours in your day. Anyway, I proofread and polished all day, ran to a meeting and had a Krispy Kreme with sprinkles (which usually helps) and saw Juno again (which unfailingly helps). And then I read about legal sociology until I fell asleep on top of Emile Durkheim.

Thursday was slightly better - I got my itinerary for Israel, which is awesome. I'm going to be all over the place, and it was nice to finally be able to conceptualize the trip in an actual, day-by-day format. I was seriously tempted to celebrate by seeing Sandi Thom at the Zodiac, but my guilt complex kicked in and I went to LGBTSoc's pizza and wine night like I was supposed to. I eventually went back for a conference call that started at 7pm in North Dakota, which means that it starts at 1am in the UK. (I wasn't going to pass it up, though, because nothing fills me with as much joy as a dozen Midwestern accents on a single phone line, and I mean nothing.)

And today I've done nothing but read for tutorial and fall asleep conspicuously in the Bodleian. I just did jumping jacks to try to stay awake so I can finish reading How Societies Remember, which is stimulating, but not so stimulating that it wipes out about twelve hours of cumulative sleep debt. I think it's safe to say that I'm ready for term to be over, and then I can go back to blogging about interesting things. Or at least blogging. My standards get weaker as the term progresses, clearly.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Surefire Ways to Ruin an Otherwise Lovely Lunch with Your Supervisor

"So, which library are you headed off to now?"
"The Bodleian."
"Wow, you had that answer at the ready."
"Oh, not at all! You just caught me on the one day that I actually spend in a library."
"I said that by accident."

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Shining My Love

After a very heated discussion on the existence and usefulness of queer culture (including a disagreement about Durkheim that almost became violent), I chilled out with Debs, a bottle of red wine, and the MST3K disc of "Angels Revenge." I vowed to find this song today, and lo! behold the awesomeness of "Shine Your Love."

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Lazy Afternoon

What do you get when you stay up until 2:30am finishing a paper on sexual minorities in international law? Lazy! I did manage to make it to the gym and to Sainsbury's before it inevitably devolves into a war zone (like, if you go to get skim milk after about 6pm, the shelves look like they've been lifted from the set of "Twister" and you leave empty-handed). So far, so good. But after reading one article, I looked around and shrugged and spent my entire afternoon napping, watching the L Word, reading celebrity gossip blogs, and shopping for music (not leaving my room, of course, just doing it on iTunes). I only stopped when I noticed that it's getting dark outside, and I'm supposed to run the Queer Studies Circle solo tonight because Milos has a cold.

The best part of the day is that I spent my lazy time sabotaging the productivity of my evening by suggesting to a bunch of friends that we veg out in our building tonight and continue doing nothing. I get the sense that red wine and Mystery Science Theater 3000 aren't the best start to a productive spell. Then again, apparently, neither is going to the gym, running errands, or starting your work. Whatevs, it's Saturday, and this is supposed to be normal. It's just that this is the first afternoon I've taken off all term. And actually, maaaybe that should give me pause.

Friday, 15 February 2008

On a Technical Note

I'm just finishing up a paper for this conference in Mexico City in March, and while I don't mean to pick on Ivaro Colom of Guatemala's National Union of Hope, something is lost in the phrase "God said Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steven." Like the rhyme, or the catchiness of the phrase. I'm not criticizing, I'm just making suggestions.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Wow. Come to think of it, I should probably be worried that I need a good reason to go out for coffee with someone, but I'd have to have a really good reason not to sleep with them. That's actually sort of messed up."

The Body in Pain

I pulled off another double-essay week this week, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I remembered that my reading list for tutorial has a scant four readings on sites of memory next week. And that means that I can totally play catch-up on things like socialization and sleep, which would be a welcome change. You can tell that I need sleep because my hair is falling out onto my pillow and keyboard, which only happens when I'm particularly exhausted and stressed. Also, my coffee mug is probably radioactive because I wash it by filling it with new coffee, in the hopes that I'll just sort of drink the residue and it'll basically clean itself in the process. I don't think it does, and it occurs to me that I have the common sense of a five year old.

Anyway, I whipped out the reading list in the hopes that I could finish it off by this weekend, and realized that the easy week is the week after next. Instead, I've got seventeen readings on the body to do by Tuesday, including two books in their entirety and a bunch of articles from medical journals. Maybe they'll tell me why I'm shedding, or how long it will take for fossilized aspertame and instant coffee to kill me in my sleep. Anthropology is magic.

Monday, 11 February 2008

No We Can't

I'm going to London tomorrow for the launch of a book on the criminalization of HIV/AIDS transmission and then frantically polishing up my essays for Wednesday, so obviously I've been reading Politico and watching YouTube instead of starting on my to-do list tonight. The highlight thus far has been an incredibly uninspiring video for McCain '08, which I'm about to email to my dad.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Songs That Change Your Life

I was watching Swarovski's Fashion Rocks concert on the treadmill at the gym today and wanted to find this as soon as I got back and showered. Basically, I think Beth Ditto is about the coolest person in the world. Not only do I read What Would Beth Ditto Do? in the Guardian, I've actually considered having a WWBDD bracelet made and wearing it semi-religiously.

On Grabbing One's Toothbrush

One of the most vivid early-in-a-relationship conversations I remember having was one where someone told me that they wanted to be the kind of spontaneous person whose friends could pull up in a car, say 'we're going on a roadtrip,' and he'd hop in and ask to pick up a toothbrush along the way. I remembered this after Friday in the tearoom, where Abby and I were having lunch, decided that we needed a vacation, and impulsively booked flights and hotels for two and a half days in Marrakesh in the middle of the term. Normally, I don't fly to North Africa for two and a half days, but we got a couples' deal with flights and hotel for less than $300 and it's my present to myself for my performance in Michaelmas Term. (And Abby is one of my favorite people here, as evidenced by the fact that our mutually agreed-upon objectives for our vacation are to 1) ride a camel, 2) sit outside a cafe and drink mint tea all afternoon, and 3) hum "Rock the Casbah" for two and a half days.) Yay!

Friday, 8 February 2008

Laura Veirs!!!

It's going to be a crazy weekend of speed-reading and essay-writing, but that didn't stop me from going to the Laura Veirs concert at the Zodiac tonight, which was AWESOME. (It also didn't phase me that I couldn't find anyone who had ever heard of Laura Veirs, so I was like, fuck this, I'm going by myself.) The lead singer from Your Heart Breaks opened the show, and even though I was like, "sure, I'll buy a CD!" before realizing they were ten pounds and instantly regretting that decision, I'm listening to it now and I'm retroactively glad that that happened. And then Veirs came out on stage, and I was surprised to find that she looks almost exactly like a slightly younger version of the professor who taught my gov seminar on grassroots democracy as a freshman and once invited us all over to play with her toddler and watch Primary Colors. The deja vu was sort of unsettling and mesmerizing all at once. I was secretly hoping that she'd play Parisian Dream (which was the first song I'd heard of hers), but she did play a bunch of songs from Saltbreakers (including Cast a Hook in Me, which is my fave, and Nightingale, which is not my fave but was awesome performed live). And just to mix things up, she followed them up with a song on the banjo, and managed to get a room of two hundred British people and myself to stomp along and clap in time. (Did you know that the banjo is a fusion of gourd and catgut instruments brought to the US during the slave trade and the fiddles that Irish immigrants brought when they arrived? I don't actually know if that's true, but Veirs said it was, and I trust her because she's taken up quilting and I instinctively trust people who quilt.)

Rock on, ma'am.

Thursday, 7 February 2008


Um, my mom, Mrs. 'I think I really like Rudy Giuliani,' totally caucused for Obama in North Dakota on Tuesday. She described it as 'electric.'

I'm so proud.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Learning to Share

I'm starting to think that Clinton and Obama should just agree that they'll be running mates if nothing's sorted out by the Pennsylvania primary. Let's be realistic - at this point, nobody's going to get goosebumps from Evan Bayh or Ted Strickland. They're not building much love within the party by firing on each other until August, and Democrats are going to need to learn to bounce back and love their alternative when one of them finally has to give it up. Plus, after umpteen debates and screenshots that juxtapose the two of them, most of their alternatives are going to make a Clinton ticket look awfully white and an Obama ticket look conspicuously male. (I say this because one of them running with Michelle Obama would be completely okay.)

Plus, I'm ready to start rallying behind someone. And I'm scared that if I rally behind McCain, I'll accidentally startle him and he'll turn around and kill me with his bare hands. I dunno, the man spooks easily. It happens when you turn two hundred years old.

My Democratic Duty (as a Fellow Democratic Socialist of Questionably Sound Mind from a Similarly Underpopulated State)

I just finished voting in the Democrats Abroad primary, where I checked the box for Barack Obama in the hopes that he'll get all 22 of the delegates that the DNC has set aside for those of us who have fled until Democrats take control of the country again. When I showed up at the Rothermere Institute to vote, I went downstairs to a conference room flanked by tables of pens and paper, with a big plastic tub of ballots and a mostly-eaten plate of free Oreos at the far end. Except for the hum of the fluorescent lights, the place was pretty quiet. The whole thing took under a minute - I filled in my name and address, ticked the box next to Obama, signed my name with a flourish, and took off for the library. (And since I'm still full from yesterday's pancakes and preparing to do another round tonight, I reluctantly passed up the stale Oreos.)

On the way up the stairs, I passed a bunch of festively patriotic signs directing people to the polling place, alongside printed sheets that just said HILLARY CLINTON! or BARACK OBAMA! which kind of seemed like a sad attempt to replicate the insanity of Super Tuesday on Ash Wednesday. I stopped for a second, glanced around, and almost wrote MIKE GRAVEL!!! on one of them, but then thought better of it. It's going to come down to the convention in Denver, and I would feel terrible if my misplaced sarcasm created an inexplicable surge of support for Gravel overseas.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

It's Mardi Gras, Live a Little

So it's Mardi Gras today, and the rough equivalent in Britain is Shrove Tuesday, where you make pancakes to get rid of all of the extra flour, sugar, butter, and eggs in your kitchen before fasting for 40 days and 40 nights for Lent. (This was explained to me after I went out and bought a ton of Nutella and bananas for the pancakes that we had in the kitchen, which I will now slowly consume while incurring God's wrath and earning extra days in Hell over the next 40 days and 40 nights.) Anyway, Mardi Gras and/or Shrove Tuesday is my excuse for eating like five pancakes and a ton of Nutella, finishing my essay early, going to drinks and then to PopTartz, dancing like an idiot, eating chips and burning the skin off my mouth on the way back, making dessert and going to bed. And now I'm realizing that it's technically Ash Wednesday, and it was probably technically Ash Wednesday when I was dancing to Fergilicious. Now I'm refreshing every five minutes, which is like political pornography. Meep.

The tiny shred of observant Catholic inside this hollow shell of a person has been killed by Britney Spears and Wolf Blitzer, but the ghost of Cecil Rhodes would have bludgeoned him to death anyway. Scheduling conflicts meant that our Shrove Tuesday party and pancake run were rescheduled until tomorrow (by which I guess I mean today), so maybe I'll just have an extra-penitent day on Thursday or something.

Monday, 4 February 2008

You Know It's Monday When

Part of the reason that the eight week terms at Oxford fly by so quickly (aside from the fact that they're only eight weeks) is that I get two long reading lists every Thursday, hang out in the library all weekend, plot out an essay on Monday, type it on Tuesday and Wednesday, turn it in that evening, and begin the cycle again. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that I was ahead if you peered down from the heavens tonight at 7:30, when I was sitting cross-legged on a couch in Jericho eating sushi and drinking wine for a friend's birthday. You'd be quickly corrected if you stopped back at 11:30, when I morosely scooped two spoonfuls of Nescafe into my hot chocolate to artificially jack me up to write about the anthropology of violence before wrapping myself in a blanket and hunkering down at my laptop. I've got no time to waste, it's practically Tuesday.

Quote of the Week

“But the original mandate of anthropology and ethnography remains clear: to put ourselves and our discipline squarely on the side of humanity, world-saving, and world-repair, even though we may not always be certain about exactly what this means or what is being asked of us at any particular moment. In the final analysis we can only hope that our time-honored methods of empathic and engaged witnessing, of ‘being with’ and ‘being there’ – as tired as these old concepts may seem – will provide us with the tools necessary for anthropology to emerge as a small practice of human liberation” (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, Violence in War and Peace, p. 27).

I don't know if Tylor or Malinowski would have put it in quite the same way, but believing that I'm fighting the world's fight makes it ever-so-slightly easier to crank out this essay on the anthropology of violence.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Things You Occasionally Forget

- One of my favorite things in the entire world is two-hour brunches, especially with people you think are fantastic. Now that I remember why this is, I hope all of my friends don't mind when I insist that we go out for pancakes EVERY DAY when I visit in April.

- Always write down library call numbers before you go to the library on the off-chance that the internet (and card catalogue) inexplicably crash right after you've spent thirty minutes trudging through the cold to the library. Especially when you know the book is somewhere in the stacks, ready to be checked out and quietly laughing at you.

- Sometimes, the things that they write on the back of wine bottles are totally asinine, and don't tell you anything about the wine at all. When a wine is described as "refreshingly acidic," though, that's a clue that you probably shouldn't buy two bottles of it.

- Did you know that you can make eggs in the microwave? I totally just learned that on Saturday night, and it's among the best fifty seconds I think I've ever spent staring in awe at a microwave.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Queer Studies Circle: Round Two!

So tonight's topic for the Queer Studies Circle is "What's the Trouble With Normal?" and I've basically excused the fact that I spent my day doing the NYT crossword and occasionally glancing at a pile of unread books by doing the extra reading that we've suggested, as I'll look like a total idiot if I haven't actually read them beforehand. It sounds like this one might actually get semi-heated, so I'm kinda stoked to sit back and watch how it unfolds.

- "Teresa de Lauretis, the theorist often credited with inaugurating the phrase 'queer theory' (Wiegman, 1994: 17), abandoned it barely three years later, on the grounds that it had been taken over by those mainstream forces and institutions it was coined to resist... Distancing herself from her earlier advocacy of queer, de Lauretis now represents it as devoid of the political or critical acumen she once thought it promised" (Jagose, 1996: 127-129).

- Andrew Sullivan's "The End of Gay Culture":

- Review of 'The Trouble With Normal':

- Queer Nation's "Queers Read This":

I love social anthropology and everything, but Queer Studies Circle makes my brain and heart flutter all at the same time.

Everyone, Interrupted

For anyone who's in Oxford, totally go see The Flu Season at the Burton/Taylor Studio this weekend. It's sort of a love story, sort of set in a mental hospital. When I read a review that basically warned that nothing good happens to anyone, I told the guy I was going with that I was worried it would be like The Book of Job - The Musical! (or the entire plot of the horrifically mismarketed The Family Stone), but I really, really liked it. (I'm not convinced that my friend did, but I have a pretty high tolerance for what the Cherwell24 reviewer derided as pseudo-sophistication, so there you go.) And part of it was probably that I was dredging up everything I know about Brechtian staging, since this has two narrators - Prologue and Epilogue - and Prologue is this really upbeat, optimistic woman and Epilogue is this wonderfully bitchy, sarcastic guy (in a really great suit). Anyway, as the show goes on, Prologue basically has a total breakdown, and Epilogue makes even less heartening proclamations about the state of art and humankind (although while Prologue gets really disheveled and weepy, every time Epilogue spoke I kept being like, wow, I really want to know where he got that suit). The sort of sweet, dizzy nurse was also really charming, and I sort of wanted to be her best friend. Anyway, through the entire play I was like, yay, fuck the fourth wall, politicize the opera and I think some people were like, whoa, this is sort of weird. They sort of have a point, but I still liked it.