Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Congress diary part three

Last day ... and I finally delivered my paper. Presenting on your last day at a conference is only a blessing if you're still writing your paper when the conference begins -- and this year I had mine done well in advance (well, I wrote my conclusion last night, but that was all of two sentences). So it was nice to finally make an end, there.

And it went well, I am pleased to say. It was one of those nice conference happenstances where one of the people on my panel withdrew at the last minute, only leaving two of us to present. Given that my paper was pushing the twenty-minute mark and I was prepared to omit my last page and a half (including my hastily scrawled conclusion) if I was running long, it was nice to not have to worry about that and just take my time -- and to have the freedom to make jokes and extemporize.

So for the curious, I presented a paper on the HBO series Rome .... and as per what I was focusing on, I might as well quote my opening preamble:

To frame this paper, and where it comes from: I have become a massive fan of HBO's programming. Beyond my own mere enjoyment however, I believe that it poses a series of questions for the always ongoing mass culture debate insofar as it represents what not long ago would have seemed an oxymoronic concept: intelligent mainstream television, television whose production values--especially in terms of the writing--is of startling quality, and which challenges (or at the very least complicates) a strictly Adornian conception of the culture industry.

I would suggest that this new wave of intelligent, well-written and well-made television poses interesting and important critical questions for film and media studies, and cultural studies more generally, which can in one way be summed up in the question I have posed students in my popular culture classes: Can television be art? And if so, how does that change our perception of art? My consideration of Rome today emerges from an ongoing engagement with such questions: I am seeking to read in the series a subtle counternarrative to the generic conventions of the "historical epic" and the received history of the Caesarian narrative. And to that end, I will be looking at that apotheosis of low cultural expression--graffiti.

Yup, my paper was all about graffiti -- Roman graffiti that is, some of which in the series is really quite filthy and obscene (to which end, I now have the distinction of having used the phrases "giant ejaculating penis" and "Atia fucks everybody" at the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences -- truly, I have arrived).

Anyway ... I'm happy to be done, pleased with the reception my paper received, and relieved that I can now truly relax for the remainder of my time here. I will post pictures when I'm back in St. John's ...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Congress diary, part two

Well, our good weather gave out for about half of the day -- gray and rainy this morning, but the sun's trying to burn through. Not that that's too much of a burden: even rainsoaked, this campus is still quite lovely.

And it has a great gym! I was proud of myself that I managed a workout this morning, making it in at 7:15 to do some weights and a short run on the treadmill ... which unfortunately had left me a bit dehydrated, so that I'm dying of thirst by the end of the sessions I've been sitting in on (though the fairly constant beer intake might also have something to do with that).

It's been wonderful seeing people I haven't seen, in some cases, in a number of years ... and also kind of pleasing to see some former students, now doing graduate degrees, presenting quite accomplished papers here. Andrew deWaard and Aimee Mitchell, both of whom took classes with me at Western, are here presenting at FiSAC (Film Studies Association of Canada) ... and if that's not enough to make me fee old, I recognized a woman whom I had TA'd in my first ever year at Western -- ten years ago! Ack. Still, it makes me feel sort of fatherly. Or at the very least, sort of big-brotherly.

More later ...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Congress diary part one

Greetings from Saskatoon! I flew in yesterday morning and have been reconnecting with many many people I haven't seen in ages. It's sort of Old Home Week. So many academics all concentrated in the same place. At Pearson Airport yesterday morning, waiting for the plane to board, I played "spot the academic" in the departure lounge. Conservatively, I think half the plane were Congress-bound types, at least gauging by the number of people feverishing still working on papers.

Not me this year ... I decided that this time I wanted to have my paper done well in advance, principally so I could enjoy my time and see friends. I still have a few sentences to write in conclusion, but that's always the case. I'll talk more about my paper in my next post.

For now: I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised by Saskatoon, and floored by just how beautiful U of Saskatchewan's campus is (I'll try to post some pictures soon). The weather has been beautiful, and they certainly don't exaggerate about the prairie sky.

That's it for now -- just a quick teaser. I'm off to see a friend's paper, and then to lunch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What's that, Lassie? Tigger's in jeopardy? Down at the well?

Oh ... Tigger's ON Jeopardy, and presumably she's doing well.

Just a reminder, sports fans, that everyone's favourite stage manager and trivia freak will be asking Alex Trebeck questions tomorrow night -- that's Thursday, May 17. And for those who get their Jeopardy courtesy of CTV, you might have to do some creative channel flipping b/c those idiots are showing a rerun of Lost for some reason. The Jeopardy is out there though ... you just have to look!

And a wee preview that Tigger emailed around:

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mutual of Omaha presents ...

Today, a treat for my gentle readers: the first in our series of English Professors Observed in Their Natural Environments: Burrows.

Yes, the burrows of English professors (or "offices" as they insist on calling them) are as varied and idiosyncratic as the individuals who inhabit them. Consider for instance the burrow of the Nancy Pedri (Comparatus Wordnimaginius), a recent newcomer to the hills and dales of Newfoundland:

Note the spare, even Spartan arrangement of space, the careful placement of discrete objects; the Nancy herself sits poised in imitation of the image on the wall behind her to confuse and intimidate possible antagonists.

Conversely, we consider the burrow of the Andrew Loman (Hawthornica Americanus), also a species only recently introduced into this environment. Note the barricading effect of the books and papers that the Loman surrounds himself with, a labyrinthine defense that only the deftest of predators can negotiate:

Tune in next time as our intrepid wildlife photographer attempts to enter and photgraph some of the more dangerous burrows in this remote wildlife preserve.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cleaning off my desk

OK, so it's not quite as dramatic on film as it is when you have to sit in the midst of it, but I took a good chunk of this afternoon to clean off my desk and organize my office.



Sorry about the long blog lag. I've been in a headspace where every time I think about writing a new post, I honestly can't think of anything to say -- at least, nothing I feel like writing down. So in the interests of keeping everyone more or less up to date, here's the highlights of the last two weeks:

  • I've bought a barbecue. Of course, I have no space for a barbecue, so I'm keeping it in Andrew Loman's backyard for the time being; and the last two weekends we've had bbq parties -- the first one in the midst of snow and sleet, which is a testament to just how desperate I was for grilled food. I'll post some pics from that one when I get them.
  • Facebook is getting weird -- or weirder at any rate, at least insofar as I've reconnected with a host of people going all the way back to elementary school.
  • One of the friends from grad school I've reconnected with is Jen Hale, aka Nikki Stafford -- a name known to Buffy fans as the author of the book Bite Me. I've posted Jen's/Nikki's blog to the right here. Anyone who's a fan of Lost or Heroes, or really any TV at all should check it out for her hilarious commentaries.
  • Independently of Facebook, I've also reconnected with Robert Hamilton, my best friend through high school, undergrad, and a good chunk of grad school. We lost touch when he moved to Japan to teach and then stayed -- but I recently received an invitation to his wedding in August (!!), fortunately to be held in Richmond Hill and not Tokyo -- which means I can afford to go. His blog / wedding lead-up chronicle is also posted to the right here.
  • I'm in the midst of my travel plans to head to Saskatoon for this year's Congress of the Humanities, which also means I'm feverishly trying to write the paper I'll be presenting. I'll be stopping off in Toronto and London for a week beforehand.

That's more or less it, aside from the fact that spring is slowly, slowly showing its face here in St. John's after a few tantalizingly false starts. The temperature today is fifteen degrees and sunny, which after the past week feels positively sauna-ish.

And just for variety, here's a couple of pictures I took while walking home from work the other day. It had been a gorgeous day -- the dark clouds in the distance caught up to me about five minutes from home and managed to dump a significant amount of rain on me.

And to end on a cute note, because I haven't posted any pictures of Clarence recently, here he is enjoying a recent discovery of his -- the exhaust fan on the back of my computer. Whenever I've worked in my office at home, Clarence keeps me company ... except now I'm more likely to be presented with his butt while he leans down behind my CPU to feel the fan blowing through his whiskers ...