- It occurs to me to mention that, although I brought my suit with me to the Big Giant Pseudology Conference, I never wore it. I actually put it on the morning that my interview onslaught began, but as soon as I saw myself in the hotel room mirror, I knew it wasn't right. (It doesn't help that the cut of the suit somehow makes me look like an undertaker.) I wanted to look professional and respectful at my interviews, but a suit would be going way too far. I ended up substituting my sport coat for the suit coat, and wearing the suit pants as separates. Felt much better.
- For those of you who find yourselves in a similar position to mine, try bringing a suit and something just a little less formal (but business-appropriate) to your next conference. Scope out the scene before you have to swing into action. I think that I saw only five men at BGPC wearing suits, the entire time I was there. Sometimes a suit just isn't what you need to look professional.
- Coming off the BGPC and getting ready for the Major Area Studies Conference coming up soon means that I was actually back in Ghosttown for Thanksgiving, which in turn meant that I spent Thanksgiving by myself. I felt a trifle sorry for myself about this, even though Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where I feel like I'm supposed to be with other people because everyone tells me I should. (Valentine's Day is the worst offender of these.) In time-honored fashion, though, I stopped feeling sorry for myself after a ten-minute phone call to my family in Hometown. As they passed around the phone so I could send greetings to everyone, I could clearly hear three of my close relatives yelling at each other in the kitchen about how to do the cooking prep — especially when someone put the phone down for a solid minute without anyone else picking it up. I know exactly where all of that was going, and when the call ended, I gave thanks to whatever powers might exist that I was nowhere near Hometown that day.
- And really, I get a little more uneasy about celebrating Thanksgiving every year: all this stuff and nonsense about "what are we thankful for this year?" seems to me a band-aid for our consciences, given that the source of the holiday is really a celebration of successful colonialism and the establishment of a toe-hold of British imperialism in the New World by "some Mayflower-cruising Jesus freak corn rustlers."
- Since I've been having trouble focusing on work after BGPC, it's only yesterday that I really began to write my talk for MASC. Of course, I never make things easy on myself, so I've also begun to fiddle around for the first time with iMovie, so I can edit together bits and pieces of things for my presentation. I'm not sure I can make this work, but I'm hoping to knit together some clips and some subtitles, and have it all come out looking good. No doubt this will require many hours at my computer muttering under my breath as I learn on the job how to use iMovie. But at least that's more productive than spending many hours at my computer surfing YouTube clips, repeatedly checking hobby forums, and generally skiving off work.
- The other thing gluing me to the internet for long stretches of time is the current wave of unrest in Research Country. It's arguably worse than earlier this year, for a number of complex reasons. And now, to be self-centered for a moment, it hurts me more, because it's beginning to hurt people I know. (I knew people involved from the start, but they all caught lucky breaks at that time.) I won't go into details here, for the sake of their privacy and mine, but it's giving me and a lot of my friends gray hair. I'm supposed to share a hotel room with an old friend at MASC, and now we're not sure that zi will be able to travel out of RC. Not that zi is likely to end up in a dungeon or anything, but the sense of instability, to say nothing of potential travel bans by the government, may make it seem more prudent for hir to stay in RC with hir family. I certainly couldn't blame hir if that's what happens, but I'd be sorry to miss out on seeing an old friend — which, as I've been saying lately, is the best thing about academic conferences.
- And, naturally, it raises everyone's anxiety to think about why people would have to make such choices. The beauty of non-violent civil disobedience can also be its weakness: it doesn't push violent people from power. We're, uh, coming to the end of the non-violent phase of RC's political transformation, I fear. (Really, it ended quite some time ago, but here we would have to start parsing language about who is coordinating violence in premeditated fashion for political ends.) There are many violent people still in power in RC, and they are willing to kill whomever they think they have to kill to maintain that power. Getting rid of them may require RC to endure a proper civil war. I don't know how any of this will pan out, but it seems a sure bet that there's going to be a lot more death and destruction before the dust settles.
- The neighborhood that I lived in for several years, and where I spent untold amounts of time during my doctoral research, is turning into a genuine war zone. A lot of my area studies colleagues and I have similar experiences there, due to the presence of a major academic institution in the area, and we're all heartsick to look at the videos on YouTube that show our former stomping ground transformed into a battleground, complete with front lines, field hospitals, and poorly observed ceasefire agreements. It's hard to see such things, even when your professional judgment tells you that these sorts of events had to occur sooner or later to sort out long-standing political disputes. It's...it's just hard.
Fork in the road
1 day ago