Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gurlesque Burlesque

I'm back from California, exhausted in that post-vacation way, and filled with fear that somehow I'll fritter away my precious ten weeks (one quarter) of research leave. So, like many bloggers right about now, I'm not going to be posting much here, not that (and yes, like almost all bloggers who make this resolution, here I go, writing the next obligatory, cliched qualifier) I think anyone's life revolves around reading my blog. In order to immerse myself in my project I'm methodically cutting myself off from distractions, namely:

1. The New York Times. Reading the Times cover to cover each morning is one of THE joys of my life, but it means that my morning "wake up" ritual lasts about 2 hours. I know I can still sneak a peek on-line, but it's just not the same, so I think I'll be able to resist.

2. Blogs. Yesterday I went through my favorites menu and deleted all the blogs I love most--La Lecturess, New Kid, Dr. Crazy, Profgrrl, BitchPhd, etc. Of course, I didn't delete my bloglines account, so I can still peek at them, but I can't pore over their pages anymore, or join in their conversations.

But before I get back to whatever one does on a Sunday morning without the Times (it hurts, it hurts; I feel empty and alone), I have to give a quick shout out to the Sissy Butch Brothers whose seventh Gurlesque Burlesque was last night. As always, this was an AMAZING show. Seriously, it was breathtaking, moving, vibrant, and joyful. Picture a venue packed to the rafters (literally) with dykes of all shapes and sizes and degrees of conformity/funkiness.

Now picture a series of sexy, empowered, politically charged burlesque performances that make you wonder how music ever made sense without women taking off their clothes and dancing to it.

I never leave one of these shows without wanting to write, sing, dance, strip, think, theorize. And I never leave without feeling giddy-grateful that my academic interests allow me to revel in gender performance and hyper-femininity and decadence and costume, etc. This event makes me proud, but more than that, DELIGHTED, even STOKED, to live in Chicago, where the queer community is strong and diverse and intellectually engaging and, most importantly, accessible.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

handing off the books

I'm getting ready to see my niece and nephew next week, after far too long. My favorite part of the preparations is figuring out which books to get them.

The Wednesday Witch is on its way. If it doesn't arrive in time, I can always send it for Rowan's birthday, which is in about a month. Today I got her two books that I would have given her anyway, at some point, because they are two of my first and favorite chapter books. How happy am I that she asked for them!

First, there's the real Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers. I didn't even know Rowan knew there was anything besides the treacly Julie Andrews movie. She rules.

Then there are the Little House books. I didn't know kids still read these, but I'm glad they do. My favorite was Little House in the Big Woods, because I loved the scene where Ma and her sisters got ready for the dance, in their pretty ginghams, with their hair braided and rolled. I LOVED those women, and wanted to be just like them when I grew up. I also loved it when Mr. Edwards brought Christmas treats, including an orange for everyone's stocking. She's already read that one, so I'm getting her the next one, Little House on the Prairie (this is the next book in the series according to ME! I am not buying Farm Boy, just because the publisher has pedantically numbered the books).

If The Wednesday Witch gets here before we leave, I'll have three books for her. Of course I'm dying for her to be a reader, and she seems kind of maybe interested--not the way I was when i was her age, but I think she's getting more interested as she gets older. My sister is pretty strict about setting aside lots of reading time. I know, I know, Rowan gets to choose her own books and have her own subjectivity. I'm pacing myself, though, and getting reacquainted with the childhood books I don't think she or her brother can live without before I pass them on. Because, really, some of my favorites haven't held up that well. Take my old friends Betsy-Tacy. You might remember their books looking something like this:

I loved those books. I read them several times throughout elementary school. I thought I had never heard cuter names and I used to dream of having twin girls who I would name Elizabeth and Anastasia, so they, too, could be Betsy-Tacy. But, you know, it turns out those girls don't really do much besides hang out and be really girly together, sewing, and making cookies. The one time they go outside, they either ice skate on a semi-frozen lake, or run around in a rainstorm, and wouldn't you know it? One of Tacy's siblings catches a cold and dies. There's a lesson there, kids. You know it's one of Tacy's, because if I remember correctly, she's from the wrong side of the tracks, from some big, poor Catholic family, where children are often lost due to carelessness and neglect. There're just too many damn children to keep alive! That's why Betsy's more genteel, Protestant family graciously allows Tacy to hang out at their house, eat their food, wear Betsy's clothes, sleep in her warm bed, etc. So while I might have enjoyed these books for the insightful critique of class tensions in early 20th century America, I don't think my niece would dig them. Besides, have you seen the new covers? What the hell is this?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I'm creeping towards the edge of the pool that is writing. That is to say, if writing is complete submersion in water, I'm in the room (my writing pool is an indoor pool), I've changed into my bathing suit, I've got my swimming cap on (because this girl is not ruining her highlights with chlorine) and I'm preparing to walk towards the pool and get in. But I'm not there yet; I don't even have a toe in the water yet.

What I am doing is reading. Reading, reading, reading, reading. I'm going back and dipping into the books and concepts that I couldn't touch when my project was a dissertation. But now I'm ready for them. And it looks like my project is ready for them. The theoretical concept that I tried to use to read my neglected author during the dissertation just didn't work. I spent all my time--at conferences, in meetings with my committee, in my dissertation defense--defending my theoretical lens, which left my neglected author even more neglected. But the theory/movment I really wanted to use, I found/became enchanted with too far into the diss. to let go of my initial reading. The really beautiful thing here is that a lot of what I ended up writing didn't quite make sense precisely BECAUSE it was crying out for the reading I'm ready to give it now. So, not only are there many close readings of primary works that I'll be able to salvage from the diss, I think I'm going to get to return to some of the primary works I was dying to write about while dissertating, and kept circling around, but never quite got to.

And after a year in a women's studies department I feel a HUGE need to indulge my literary critic and stay the hell away from contemporary politics in my writing.

So that's all good, and I spent the morning reading for my project. Why, then, do I feel so blah? Is it because it's in the 90s outside and humid? Is it because Nate Fisher died? Or more importantly, because there are only two episodes left of Six Feet Under? Is it because, after kind of sucking for 5 years, Queer as Folk actually got really topical and relevant and then ended on Sunday with a STUPID denoument? Or is it because my GF is going over the copy edits of her book while listening to The Magnetic Fields, who totally depress me.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Does anyone else remember this book? My father bought a used hard-cover copy of it for me while on a business trip. I couldn't believe how good it was, and read it over and over, as well as any other Ruth Chew books I could find. I remember likilng another one that featured a flying bathmat. Right now I'm trying to decide between buying my eight year old neice a hard cover copy from Amazon's used books, for $16, or buying a package of 10 paperback Ruth Chew books, including The Wednesday Witch, for $30 on e-bay. I've had a good morning intermittently looking up Ruth Chew sites and reading plot summaries.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Happy August

Is anyone happy it is August? I'm feeling pretty anxious about how quickly the summer has gone. (And still feeling ripped off that my summer started about a month after everyone else's because of the stupid quarter system.) It's still steamy hot here in Chicago (after a brief reprieve), so much so that the most physical thing I do is walk out on the back porch twice a day to water my friend's enormous hanging plant he left here two weeks ago when he went on his one week vacation. Not to sound like a total lazy-ass, because we're just talking about watering a plant here, but it's kind of a pain and I wish he'd come back for it!

Because I've spent the last two weeks doing advising for incoming students I feel equally ripped-off, time-wise, though the money is really good and, turns out, so is the atmosphere in the "advising pit." (No one calls it that that I know of, but I like saying it.) It's really one of the cheeriest, most supported things I've done at my generally very-supportive and cheery university. Imagine you and 20 or so colleagues from throughout your college sitting in an air-conditioned room, during the hottest days of summer, walking students through their registration at a rate of one student per hour. These are freshman, meaning they have a heavily prescribed schedule and there's not much you have to do: they sign up for a math class, placement already figured out; they sign up for an English class, placement already figured out; they are already in an intro. to college class. All you have to do is choose an elective *or* support their decision to only take three classes (on the quarter system that's a full schedule). Plus, you are surrounded by colleagues in different disciplines who can help you. Not sure which bio. class a pre-med should take? Ask the bio. prof. sitting across the way. Is there, in fact, a photography minor in the Art dept? Ask the head of media studies who's sitting at the station right next to yours. The student is out of there in 20, 40 minutes tops and you spend the rest of the time cruising the internet, reading your summer novel, or, more likely, gossiping with the other profs. One of the things I most appreciate about my university is the colleagiality within colleges. I love it that my closest friends here are from outside my dept. Someone called this advising gig summer camp for professors the other day. I like that. Only, there are no snacks.

Speaking of summer reading, I started off the summer by hopping through three novels very quickly. This left me stranded in New Hampshire with nothing left to read. So I pulled Dickens' Our Mutual Friend off the shelf and started reading it. I like Dickens; I've read a lot of Dickens; I've written about and even taught a good amount of Dickens. But this one is killing me. I'm 400 pages in, which is a little less than halfway through, and I still don't have a good sense of the plot. I can see all the Dickens' tricks--I know who is bad and who is good, I know who has a secret identity and who is not really dead, etc. But the machinations are moving sooooo slowly that I'm having a hard time staying interested and this is making me feel like a failure as a reader, as an English prof. and as a person who did most of their coursework in Victorian. So do I valiantly push on and keep reading? Or do I cry uncle and pick up the Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta mystery I haven't read yet? Has anyone else been following the Salon Summer School series?