Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The congress that was

You gotta love a conference that features a beer tent. Of course, they called it a "hospitality tent," but we all knew what it was. And for an hour and a half on sunday afternoon, a slew of film studies types, myself included, roasted slowly in the egregiously hot sun while throwing back some frosty Steam Whistles. Kudos to my friend Aaron, who went from there to deliver his paper without displaying any ill effects.

I love academia, sometimes.

However, being new to the whole Congress of the Humanities ringamarole, I was caught out a bit by the fees levied on participants ... first, the overall conference fee of $150, which essentially just gets you in the door. Then, the various fees for whatever society you happen to be a part of -- in my case, another $60 for the Film Studies Association of Canada (FSAC). And then, because I wasn't a paid-up member (oops) I had to pay my membership fees -- another $60.

So, $270 poorer, I proceeded to rather enjoy the conference, along with the complimentary canvas bag and travel mug that came with the original registration. I did however, considering what seemed to me a rather exhorbitant cost for a few days of sitting through academic papers, compile a list of alternative Congress freebies that I think the organizers should consider for the future:

1. Complimentary Congress of the Humanities alcohol, specific to fields of study (mead for medievalists, beer for Canadian Studies, wine for the various francophone societies, Irish whiskey for Film Studies -- not because Irish whiskey has any significance to film, it's just what I would want).

2. The Official Congress of the Humanities Hot Tub Party.

3. Licensed massage therapists ... say, one to every three delagates.

4. Express helicopter service from downtown (had this been in place, the whole TTC fiasco wouldn't have even been a blip on the Congress radar -- something to consider!)

5. Congress of the Humanities Personal Valets (easily gotten cheap -- how? Three words: poor grad students).

6. Free books, especially from the really small and struggling Toronto presses. ;-)

To be fair, there were some pretty swanky receptions, replete with free sushi and assorted crudites. Cash bars, though; I do think however that the cash bars had less to do with expense than with some organizer being bright enough to realize that the equation of HUNDREDS OF ACADEMICS + FREE BOOZE + CROWDED SPACE = POTENTIAL DISASTER. It's true -- I've seen that particular calculus in action.

Also, I had more money than expected this past weekend, because on Friday night, for the first time in my life I actually won money at poker. My brother Matt hosts Texas hold'em tournments about once a month, twenty-five dollar buy-in. I usually do rather pathetically -- I love poker, but am reeeaaaallly bad at it -- but actually came out of this game splitting the pot with my brother.

I cannot claim any skill in this co-win, however ... my cousins Jeff and Alex had to leave a bit early, and so when their ride arrived they tried to commit chip suicide by going all in. My brother called them ... and so did I, having the incredible luck of having drawn pocket aces. So I quadrupled my chips, which put me into a good position for the rest of the night (to say the least).

Which was fortunate, considering that the next day I was to end up dropping my insane conference fees. That, and do a lot of drinking with friends and colleagues. Let's not forget the necessities, which also get a bit pricey ...


jer said...

Sorry I missed you...I arrived in Toronto on Sunday night, en route from another conference in N.S. On the Monday, strike day, I ended up having to take a limo to Keele Campus ($55 - aargh) and decided that if I was to have any chance of catching my train later, I'd better book a car to come back again at 1 pm, much earlier than I had planned to leave (aargh - but I had to be back in London Monday night). So - $55 to York U. Picked up receipt for conference and association fees (money already spent, but aargh anyway), picked up bag (very nice, perfect for groceries, beach kit or a small dog), coffee mug (shame it's not an official Congress one though) and natty red neck-strap for ID badge (will use to hang other items around neck, such as jump drive, large clock or saxophone). Went to association meeting at 9 am and found that I was the only one in my session who had made it. Was faced with prospect of giving my twenty-minute paper and then being quizzed for an hour by the overheated multitude. Twenty minutes later, the other two showed up, thank God. Gave paper, stayed for next session, successfully pressured friend who also had to catch train into sharing my $55 ride back into the city. Left at 12.45 pm. So in short, I didn't make it to any receptions or hear any keynote speakers like David Suzuki. I had not a bite of sushi. I didn't see anyone I expected to see beyond 19th Century French types, aside from former Summer Shakespearer Ian Brooks, now a PhD student. That was a nice surprise (he was walking along with his head in a book, as always), but as I and my friend Philippe were on a mad mission to catch our ride before some misbegotten scholastic bastard or other pretended to be Jeremy Worth and snagged it, I couldn't stop to chat.

And now you're telling me there was beer in that bloody tent that I went thundering past with my wheely case, shedding Congress freebies in all directions.

Lesley said...

You academic types, always enjoying the "free" beers. Who knew getting a PhD involved such fun "social" activities!

star*mora said...

well being a registered massage therapist myself, i suppose a benefit is if you are faced with the cash bar increased circulation will allow you to feel the effects of alcohol faster for up to 12hrs post treatment.

*not* usually considered a benefit of a therapeutic massage treatment though...