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 ...