Friday, June 01, 2007

Congress post-mortem

Well, after an excruciatingly long day yesterday -- left Saskatoon at 9:30am, on a flight that went Saskatoon-Calgary-Halifax-St. John's, landing finally at home at 11:30pm (and to add insult to injury, the in-flight movie was Norbit) -- I'm back, and even back in my office ... though I'm really not intending to accomplish much today beyond shelving all the books I bought at the Congress book fair, and generally getting myself organized for a solid month of research and writing.

And writing a blog post, of course.

So as you can see from the photos above, U of Saskatchewan campus is in fact absolutely gorgeous. I snapped those two photos on the Sunday ... which as it turns out was the last day of good weather. Monday got cold, and Tuesday and Wednesday positively miserable with rain and gloom. Which I guess made everyone more amenable to sitting inside and listening to academic papers; had the weather been like the photos above all week, I imagine my own session attendance would have been much lower.

Congress 2007 highlights:

(1) Seeing a ton of friends, and seeing a broad range of papers in different disciplines. I decided this year that I would make a point of seeing my friends' presentations, and then pick and choose other sessions depending on my mood (which on one memorable afternoon meant eschewing papers entirely to sit on a patio: see below). Because I have friends in a variety of fields, this meant that in addition to English and Film Studies papers, I also got educated on Aristotle's thought experiments (Sean) and conscientious objectors in WWI Canada (Amy). This, for me, is the best part of these kind of conferences: never having been inclined to hoe a single furrow intellectually, I love learning stuff from other disciplines. This can sometimes be tricky at academic conferences when papers get so caught up in their own disciplinary jargon or preoccupations that they can be hard to follow, but when you get good presenters it can be truly educational.

(2) Sunday afternoon on the patio at Louis' pub -- I ran into Sean Mulligan (soon to by Dr. Sean as of mid-June when he defends his thesis -- huzzah!) at lunch, and we migrated to a table on the gorgeous and spacious patio depicted below. The day was amazingly bright and sunny, to the point where I developed rather a nice tan. This was at about one o'clock, and I'd had vague plans to attend some papers in the afternoon, but that resolve pretty much evaporated as we went through four pitchers in three hours (I think it was four).

(3) Seeing former students doing well. I mentioned this in my last post so I won't belabour it, but it was extraordinarily gratifying to see students I'd taught at Western holding their own at Canada's largest academic conference in the humanities.

(4) My panel. As mentioned, I was extremely pleased with how my paper went, and our panel of two papers meshed surprisingly well. Did I say surprisingly? I should say "bizarrely," given that the other presenter was speaking about Irish-language television. And yet we managed a useful dialogue between the two topics.

(5) Having lunch with this past year's Pratt Lecturer, Susan Gingell. Susan, a professor in U of Sask's English department, is one of those amazing academics who manages to be both exceptionally talented and intelligent but really down to earth and human. Suffice it to say, the Pratt committee (on which I served) fell in love with her, and I was told rather sternly by the other committee members that I had to at least have a drink with her while I was there. And a good measure of what Susan's like? In spite of her insanely busy schedule at the Congress, as both organizer and delegate, she make a point of coming to see my paper.

Congress 2007 lowlights:

(1) Spending five nights in a grotty Howard Johnson's. Now, this isn't the Congress' fault, obviously, but mine for having booked late ... but still, it does colour the experience a bit when you feel very strongly that you should avoid touching surfaces in a your hotel room as much as possible. I took comfort in the fact that I was not the only one in this predicament: I think most of the hotel were delegates. Misery does love company.

(2) The dearth of cabs. I don't think Saskatoon was quite prepared for the volume of people who descended on the city for the Congress, in excess of five thousand. By Monday morning, cabs were more or less scarce, and you were looking at an hour's wait if you called after 8am (if you could even get through, which wasn't guaranteed). Thinking I was being smart by calling a cab on Wednesday at 7:15am, I still did not make it up to campus until 8:15 -- by which point the lobby was crammed with delegates. Now, this is sort of the Congress' fault -- a problem that could have been alleviated somewhat by the arranging of campus shuttles to the major hotels, and having airport shuttles leaving directly from campus.


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed your paper Chris, sorry not to get a chance to praise it in person, and hope it wasn't too distracting to have two historians whispering in the back.
By the way, did you notice that it is apparently impossible to speak Gaelic in anything other than a deep baritone?
Condolences for the inflight movie. I recently suffered through "Catch and Release" and felt great self-pity, but am pretty sure that Norbitt takes the cake.

Mark P said...

Cool to know that some of the old film studies gang is out and about, following in the footsteps of the Locketts and Zryds and Millikens. A friend of mine did part of his undergrad at U-Sask and constantly raves about the campus. It's good to have his opinion backed up, as I kind of thought he was just high on wheat.

I once had a flight that showed 'Walking Tall' and 'Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen' back-to-back. My attempt to get the plane's air marshal to shoot me was unsuccessful.

Anonymous said...

I would like to read this paper. Upload to the blog? Also, add the PhD dissertation while you're at it. After all, (some of)the general public wants to see this stuff.