Sunday, 31 May 2009


I'm giving a paper on class, sexuality, and transgression in Gossip Girl tomorrow, and I was just planning on giving the version I presented at the Oxford Radical Forum until a friend of mine who's watched every episode multiple times mentioned that she's planning to come and has tons of questions. And I suddenly realized that this paper probably sounds good to academics who have never watched the show or devotees who don't regularly think of pop culture in Gramscian terms, but not to the tiny but terrifying group of people who are at the middle of that Venn diagram. And now it is midnight, and I'm pounding tea and trying to trick Slideshow into letting me do impossible things.

The worst part was that I poured myself a cup of coffee, pulled up the paper, and sat down to do this at about 4pm this afternoon, and then David called and this happened:

"Hey, what are you up to?"
"I just sat down at my desk."
"You should probably take a break."
"I can't. What's up?"
"They just set up a Moon Bounce across the street."
"Don't move, I'm on my way."

Now I'm sunburned and totally screwed and I have some kind of weird anti-gravity rickets.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

My Fair Lady

You know how sometimes, you watch a movie for a second time and you notice things that you totally missed the first time? That happened with Free Willy, which 10 year old Ryan thought was a pretty good movie about whales and 23 year old Ryan thought was a profound morality tale about capitalism, environmentalism, and the foster system. Yesterday, it happened again with My Fair Lady, which turns out to be way more ideologically charged than I remember it being when I watched it in eighth grade in Ms. Del Val's music class. If you haven't already, go watch it, spend ten years developing a basic familiarity with Marxist and feminist thought, move to the UK for two years, and then watch it again. It is profound.

(It probably doesn't help that I'm out of TV shows and have been watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 reruns pretty much non-stop all week, so it took every ounce of self-restraint I had to keep the running commentary in my head instead of muttering at the screen. One person couldn't, and blurted out that this reminded them of their Rhodes interview.)

(I appreciated it so much that I almost high-fived them.)

Friday, 29 May 2009

With a Special Cameo of the Late Bea Arthur as Sandra Day O'Connor

The Daily Beast just did a mock casting for a movie about Sotomayor, and it pretty much defines the phrase horrifantastic.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

If I Were A Senate Judiciary Chair

My new criterion for supporting judicial nominees is that they have to be pro-Nancy Drew. It seems like an arbitrary litmus test, but I kind of suspect it would check out about 100% of the time.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A Match Made in Hell

I just found this photo of the award-winning Candy Pie (TM) in someone's Facebook album. I look like the offspring of an unholy tryst between Martha Stewart and Dexter.


Since I'm moving there at the end of August, procrastinating by looking at New York real estate suddenly isn't procrastinating anymore. I'd been hoping to live with friends in Washington Heights and Queens, but both Plan A and Plan B would have me working in near the Financial District and that means that pretty much all of my plans make no geographic sense whatsoever. And this means that I'll probably be needing a loft in Brooklyn, which is unfortunate because I didn't really pick up a whole lot of Brooklyn geography when I lived in Washington Heights but extremely fortunate because it gives me an excuse to spend the next three months screwing around on real estate websites looking for lesbian communes around Park Slope.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A Helluva Day to be Unhealthily Obsessed with the Judiciary

I feel for folks in California, but I kind of think that this might turn out better for the Left in the long run. Even when it's valid, overturning a popular referendum never looks good for the side that pushes for it, and doing it on this issue in particular would give a lot of priceless ammo to pundits who (unjustifiably) freak out about judicial activism whenever courts apply the Constitution to any problem that hadn't been foreseen by, say, Thomas Jefferson. Especially since Obama picked Sotomayor and the concept of judicial activism is going to be very, very prominent during her confirmation, it might be best for the Left if they overturn Prop 8 in a referendum in 2010 and have a saner, less bombastic conversation about judges, law, and policymaking that'll probably end up with better, more sympathetic judges getting approved for the bench. In the meantime, I'll be giving to the Courage Campaign.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

My Life is Not a Representative Sample

Sometimes, you realize that things you take for granted are actually kind of bizarre subcultural phenomena. I remember this about forensics when I talk to people who did speech or debate in high school, and when I see people online swooning over speed-readers like this one...

...and my first thought is, "whatever, that is not that fast."

Friday, 22 May 2009

Minor Suggestions for the Draft of My Essay

"My only other comments are that I think you should try to talk about quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and alternate universes."


I just got a rejection letter from a journal. Now nobody has to die!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Other Shoe

I'm having one of those weeks where things are going so suspiciously well that something absolutely horrific is pretty much guaranteed to happen at any minute. I got back from Norway feeling all refreshed and optimistic, then got word that I was conditionally accepted into the doctoral program here and started laying the groundwork for my fieldwork next year in New York. (It'll be nice to be back because I also just found out that I was elected to the board of an organization that I love, and I'm really looking forward to not finishing any conference calls at 3am.) Operation: Stop Getting Fat is going well, and spent a solid hour at the gym every day this week. Tomorrow is my six-month anniversary with David. And I bought train tickets to go to Tarek's goodbye party in London on Saturday, when it is supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny.

Basically, I will either get food poisoning tonight or my train will derail this weekend. I'm actually thinking of throwing myself in front of a bicyclist or destroying my library books just to preempt the universe and sabotage my life myself.

EDIT: The dessert at dinner was possibly the best cheesecake with berry glaze that I've ever had. This just keeps getting worse and worse. Someone I love is probably going to die for this.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Beginnings and Ends

I just bought a plane ticket back to the US for August 5th. I also just got a conditional offer from my department to stay for the doctorate. You can't get rid of me that easily, Gordon Brown.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

So Let's Make it Rock

Ooh! And my hotly-anticipated review of Hannah Montana: The Movie is posted as scheduled this afternoon, even after website difficulties earlier in the weekend. I can't decide whether comparing Miley Stewart to Abraham is my proudest accomplishment ever, or if just seeing "Hannah Montana" and my name as the two tags on the article should suffice.

In Which My Carbon Footprint Increases Tenfold

I'm the sole passenger on this bus from London to Oxford. The bus driver just asked me where I wanted to get off and I apologized for being only one person. This seems excessive.

That's Where I'm a Viking!

I decided to jet from Oslo back to Oxford a day before Brian, Chase, Taylor, and David - and to spend twice as much money and arrive around 4am in the process - because I wanted to be responsible and get the topics for a take-home essay in my department on the day they were released. This was supposed to be tomorrow. The department surprised us by releasing the topics the day before I left, which makes this whole nightmarish solo version of the Kind of Terrible Race pretty much unnecessary. Yay!

I guess this isn't the worst thing in the world - if your biggest complaint is that you have to leave a day early, your vacation probably went pretty well. Norway was like the perfect blend of sightseeing, romantic canoodling, hanging out with friends, and ethnicizing myself, which I don't think one often finds in a vacation. David and I hit up a couple of the big tourist spots like the National Gallery, the Viking Ship Museum, and the Kon-Tiki Museum and visited the Vigeland Sculpture Garden with Brian, Chase, and Taylor, but we also chilled out and made breakfast every morning, found a squat that we regularly dropped through to pick up ridiculously cheap coffee, went out to Brian's aunt's place for another barbecue and got schooled on the trampoline by a seven year old girl, and then rolled out of bed this morning for a gigantic breakfast that Chase made before going into Oslo. (We somehow also found time to watch Parks and Recreation and Drop Dead Gorgeous, which are pretty much the perfect complement to any vacation.)

I was especially glad that we stayed for Syttende Mai, which began this morning when David and I were sleeping in Brian's cousin's room and a bunch of his friends burst in shortly before five in the morning. We were surprised because we're not used to being woken up at dawn by a crowd of teenagers with what sounded like rape whistles, and they were surprised because they hadn't intended to wake up two American boys sleeping together in their underwear. I think things like this are culturally enriching for all involved.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Eye of the Beholder

I thought that Edvard Munch's The Scream was going to be the most notable piece of art I saw today, but then we were looking for a falafel stand and Kate Moss proved me wrong.

(Being kind of a pop culture geek, words can't describe how my heart leapt when I glanced over my shoulder and saw this across the street. If it had been his Britney Spears live birth sculpture, I might have actually died of excitement.)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Borderlands Can Be Fun

I don't think of myself as particularly ethnic, but I felt very complicated when the officer at border control looked at my last name and asked if I was Norwegian or Swedish. I was like, what, I have choices? I usually just put Caucasian. I think the pressure would have been too much, except that Norway has the nicest border control ever. One of the agents was dressed in a sweater and glasses that made her look less like an agent of the state and more like an agent of the Bookmobile.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

I'm Named After a God, You Know

Surprise! I'm flying to Norway tomorrow, and my department just gave us our essay topics a week in advance. We're going for a short vacation, except then I'm jetting back frantically on Sunday at like midnight and arriving in Oxford at dawn on Monday so I can be at my desk when the topics are released. I'd be really proud of myself for being so responsible and getting back just in time, except then my department threw me off by being nice and giving us the topics a week in advance. So basically, I will be half relaxing on a fjord and half writing about the crisis of representation from cafes in Oslo for the long weekend. The upside is that I'll have constant reminders of my primordial Viking awesomeness all around me. Vikings can do anything. It's in the Bible.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Putting the Date in Day Trip

When I finished the first draft of my thesis, I decided that nothing says "I'm sorry for being nocturnal and emotionally fragile" like tickets to see Jay Brannan. The show wasn't for another two months, but the good part about that kind of present is that a) it's kind of a great surprise when it sneaks up on you later in the year and b) I guess it prevents you from getting dumped in the short term. I'm a fan of both of these things.

p.s.hifrom david

To make it climactic, we decided to treat the day as a mini-vacation from Oxford. We caught a train to London around noon, went to Notting Hill and poked around the Portobello Street markets for a couple of hours and found a park to eat our gigantic slabs of homemade pizza, swung through the Tate Modern, picked up dinner from M&S and got mauled by pigeons when we tried to eat it on the steps of St. Paul's, and then hopped onto the Tube to Shepherd's Bush for the concert. (I could narrate how we got from place to place after discovering that the Circle Line, half of the District Line, and a chunk of the Jubilee Line were all closed, but it mostly involved me tweaking out and cursing at a map and David calmly pointing us in the right direction.)

"Jay Brannan is like the Anderson Cooper of folk music."
"Are you only saying that because you want to sleep with both of them?"

The concert was awesome, but the crowd was totally weird. Everyone just sat on the floor until the opening act started, and then everyone just stayed on the floor for the entirety of the set. (To be fair, I wasn't a huge fan of Arthur Delaney live, although we listened to some of his stuff the next morning and I was totally sold. I think it was because he kept doing this weird thing where he and his guitarist would almost press their heads together for no apparent reason and I get distracted easily.) We did all stand up when Jay Brannan came out and sang "Housewife," and everyone started singing along in this weird cathartic domesticity that would have been obnoxious except David and I were in the front row and not engulfed by it. And then the audience taught Jay Brannan how to use the word "cunty," and then Lily Allen was mentioned and I almost yelled "DRINK THREE PINTS OF WINE AND SING WOMANIZER!" because that part of the Lily Allen concert was one of the highlights of my life. He sang "Bowlegged and Starving" and then came down to the piano and was like five feet in front of us, which was awesome, except some guy who had apparently never heard of the zoom function kept sticking his arm over the barrier and taking pictures of every one of Jay Brannan's pores. I was like, if you chase him away before he sings "Stringalong Song," I will break your arms. (I didn't have to, because that happened anyway.) He also did a kickass cover of "Blowin' in the Wind" which was approximately a billion times clearer than when I saw Bob Dylan in concert. (And it involved a story about Bitch and was followed by a song co-written by Margaret Cho, and Dylan didn't have any fun stories about them.) And then someone tore off part of the wall in the back of the room. Um, welcome to England.

We basically had to bolt during the encore to make our train, but the day was a smashing success. And afterwards, I felt weirdly compelled to buy tickets to Po' Girl's concert in Putney, so I booked them so I'll have something to look forward to as I finish this last essay. Incidentally, nothing says "congratulations on your manic, sleepless week of high-pressure writing about the future of anthropology" like tickets to see bluesy female Canadian folk singer-songwriters.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I think when I'm back in New York next fall and I'm unemployed and verging on homelessness, I might become a groupie.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

A Very Special Mother's Day Message

So I never really noticed this before, but I was writing a sticky note that said "Call MLT, JO, and VD" and realized that two of my three grandmothers have initials that form sexually explicit acronyms. Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A Children's Treasury of Hair Related Comments

"You look so manly."
"You look so rugged."
"You look so... Farrah."
"Wow, lots of hair."
"I saw your pictures from Greece. They were beautiful. Cut your hair."

And guess which one of these is my mother.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Perks of Being Post-Thesis

One of the things I like best about being done with my thesis is that we no longer decide what to make for dinner based on how rapidly it can be cooked and consumed. ("How about rice?" "Rice takes thirty minutes." "Cereal it is.") Today we totally picked up parsnips, couscous, and tomatoes and got rid of our leftover potatoes, carrots, onions, yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli in the BBC's five-a-day tagine. Also, I can cut hair. This has been a very educational night.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Kids Smell Weird

I dropped off my thesis at the Exam Schools today and celebrated by filling out a fellowship application (not even joking) and then going to see Hannah Montana: The Movie with Sarah. The movie theater was filled with screaming girls between the ages of 4 and 14, and we were so comically out of place that I felt really bad for the toddlers who had to sit behind my comparatively giant head. (Also, kids smell weird. You forget that in a university setting, but there you go.)

I was picking up my tickets and the guy was like, "for what movie?" and I was like, "for Hannah Montana, please!" and I suddenly realized that I was actually a little bit excited about seeing this movie and I blushed. I wasn't aware that I was this invested in what happens to Miley Stewart, but it turns out I am. And I was not disappointed. Sarah and I both agreed afterwards that it was unsettlingly compelling, and when Hannah reveals a major secret at one point in the film, I gasped a little and put my fist up to my mouth. The soundtrack was good enough that I might have gone home and immediately listened to Hoedown Throwdown on repeat. (We will never speak of this again.) It also had the weirdest cameos ever, such as Barry "Rocky Horror Picture Show" Bostwick, Vanessa Williams, the woman who plays Jan Levinson-Gould on the Office, and the adorable mail carrier from the end of "Paris, Je T'Aime," who played Miley's grandmother and was my favorite character for so many reasons (she is sassy, she is matronly, she looks like my grandmother, "Paris Je T'aime," etc.). As a bonus, I'm going to give away a secret and say that watching Tyra Banks throw Miley Cyrus over a couch was the highlight of my week.

Saturday, 2 May 2009


Oh, I did not intend to fall asleep in my clothes for seven hours. I'm going to be nocturnal for like a month.

Signed and Sealed, If Not Quite Delivered

I had the weird foresight to ask at the print shop yesterday to see if they'd be closed for the Bank Holiday on Monday, and lo, they are. This basically meant I had to have it finished and dropped off for binding in time to pick it up when they close at 2pm today, even though the thesis isn't due till Tuesday. WHATEVER I DID IT. I worked on it all of yesterday afternoon, did some proofreading in the evening, and suddenly it was midnight and I was like, "oh, balls, here we go again." It's like the first actual all-nighter I think I've pulled since my senior year of college, in that I didn't sleep at all except for fifteen minutes during breakfast when I either a) fell asleep or b) got roofied by General Mills. I just went to drop it off, and I'm sitting bolt upright at my desk because I'm terrified that I'll fall asleep and they'll close with my thesis locked in the building. The good news is that it's done, the bad news is that I plan to celebrate by crawling under the covers and slowing my whole body down until I'm clinically dead. I will wake up on Monday.