Sunday, December 25, 2005

Io, Io Saturnalia!

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Happy Hannukah! Merry Christmas! Joyous Yuletide!

Since I grew up in Southern California, I never really got why we celebrated Jesus's birth in December. (Mormons believe not only that his real birth was in April, but that it was specifically April 6th. Go figure.) I mean, I was raised Christian, and so I understood the holiday as a celebration of the birth of the Son, and knew that it was celebrated at the same time as the Roman Saturnalia (technically, Dec. 17-23rd) so that the renegade Christians would be safer and less conspicuous in their celebrations. But I certainly didn't have much of an understanding of how totally pagan Christmas celebrations are, or, more importantly, how totally appropriate it is to celebrate the birth of the Son at a time when you really need to believe in, hope for, and celebrate the immanent return of the Sun. But now that I live where winters are bitterly cold and long and the days are dark and short, I get it. I really, really get it.

Here's our tree:
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(Some of you might have seen this over at my girlfriend's blog)

GF and I exchanged gifts last night, after we got back from an amazing Christmas Eve dinner at our friend's home. It will be hard for anything we do today to match the beauty and peace of sitting in our living room late, late into the night, unwrapping gifts by the light of the tree.

Today we'll have about ten friends over for a feast, and then we'll have another half dozen or so over for after dinner festivities, including fondue, paper crowns, and champagne. Last year GF made everyone watch "The Littlest Angel," a 1969 Christmas classic starring Johnny Whitaker, Fred Gwynne, Cab Calloway, and Connie Stevens. (And by Christmas classic, I mean seriously schmaltzy shit: an hour of kitsch that feels like 15). This year she's decided that we will all watch "The Little Drummer Boy," I think because she wants people to cry, and not for the same reasons they cried last year when we made them watch "The Littlest Angel." My holiday movie choices were:
1. Auntie Mame (they have at least two Christmas parties during the course of the movie) or
2. The original Yours, Mine, and Ours, because we're all feeling a little nostalgic for a house full of screaming kids, or
3. Jesus Christ, Superstar, because nothing says Christmas like a rock opera about a skinny, sexy, sanctimonious about-to-be-slaughtered corn god who ditches his political message at the last minute and makes his friend take the heat. Forever. (Remember how Judas is kind of a misunderstood hero in JCSS? If not, you need to see it again. It's all about peace, man.)

But, since I got the new Barbra Streisand television special box set, aka the best Christmas present EVER, last night, I am hoping we can watch a little of it.

Happy holidays to all! May your day be the gayest ever! (Ours will be!)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Back to School

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These are my back to school splurge shoes. Obviously, they're not everyday shoes, nor are they shoes I can wear from the car, across icy sidewalks into the building, but baby, once I'm in my building and don't have/get to go outside again for another ten hours, I'm strutting the halls in these puppies. (You can't tell from the picture, but they're remarkably sturdy--no rock, no wobble, just strut.) It's my Toril Moi look, I guess, though I won't be wearing them with a leather mini--I'm thinking a straight skirt that hits just at the knees. Mostly it's me pushing back against people who may or may not be in my program who are suspicious of theory, queerness, and flamboyant femininity. These shoes say, "Yes, I'm wearing 3 1/2 inch heels, and yes, you might think that makes me suspect as a feminist and a scholar, but I'm marching in to my queer theory class tonight and I'm going to teach Foucault, and my students are going to get it. Can you do that? Then back off, you in the sensible shoes!"

What I Did on My Quarter Leave

Hello Darlings,
I have missed talking to you; most likely I have lost most, if not all of my readers, but Miss Margo had to stay focused during her leave. That is not to say I totally followed through on my promise to quit the blog world while on research leave. I certainly didn't stop reading other people's blogs. And there were so many moments when I wanted to blog, but stopped myself, insisting that the only writing I could do was academic writing, which meant I often did no writing at all.

Here are the top ten things I did while on leave:

10. Did catch up reading. I never meant to be an Americanist--I'm a modernist, goddammit!--but with all of my publications on a very American poet, that's how I get read. So I spent the first month or so of leave reading twentieth century American history. Ask me anything about nativism. Quiz me on bohemian Greenwich Village.

9. Ate a lot of cottage cheese and Triscuits. It's my new favorite snack food. It's also my new favorite dinner.

8. Stayed home for days on end. Sometimes this meant I didn't bathe. Other times it meant I drew a bath, let it get cold, ran a new one, let it get cold . . .

7. Cut off my hair. I had this ridiculous idea that I'd save money while on leave by neither cutting nor coloring my hair. Obviously, the coloring part lasted about six weeks and then I couldn't live with my trashy roots. The not cutting part just made me look old and conservative, so I got a kicky, shaggy, Beck-like short cut. Speaking of Beck, anyone else enjoying his new album?

6. Worked out like a fiend. This was enabled, in part, by

5. Becoming obsessed with Seventh Heaven. It started innocently enough--it comes on at 5 everyday, and if I was still on the elliptical machine when the Gilmore Girls repeat ended I'd watch a few minutes and try to figure out who the characters were and why the parents were so obsessed with drugs and sex. And then I noticed how much this squeaky clean, and not surprisingly, hateful, judgemental, and sanctimonious family reminded me of the people I grew up with in Mormondom, and I had to watch more. And then I just plain got hooked on the melodrama. Now I do whatever I have to do to be in the gym, on my machine, tv on the Family Channel, by 5pm everyday. I've gone down two pants sizes already, and I'm only up to the third season.

4. Stayed up late; woke up late. Berated myself. Cried. Promised myself I'd go to bed earlier the next night and start an early morning writing schedule the very next day. But then I'd want to watch the Colbert Report after The Daily Show, and then I'd need to see which Will and Grace was on at 11 and then watch just long enough to see Karen, and then switch back to Comedy Central to catch a quick minute of the David Spade show or Reno 911, or Drawn Together, and then it's time to check in real quick with the midnight Will and Grace and then watch just long enough to see Karen . . .

3. Gave a paper at a conference for the first time in two years. After having been ruthlessly over-professionalized in grad school (and bankrupting myself in the process by going to conferences all over the planet) I stopped cold turkey once I got a t.t. job. Conference sessions were as boring and pretentious as I'd remembered, but I met up with old friends, enjoyed some papers, and appreciated having been forced to write something.

2. Scratched the book project I've been planning to write since grad school, decided instead to just revise my diss (which wasn't really that bad) because it would be easier and because I knew people would totally want to read it. Sketched outline of book, divided saveable writing from diss. into new chapters, struggled to come up with a new title, thought about book covers. Then, as per item number 10. did tons of background reading in 20th c. American popular culture and decided I needed to expand my diss. from one figure to a larger project about a whole literary/cultural scene. Sketched out that book, realized single-author book chapter outline would work just fine in this new, expanded book. Did more background reading, decided I didn't know what I was talking about and that what I really, really wanted to write about was the subject of the original book, the one I dumped at the beginning of the leave. Went back to it, wrote a preface and most of an introduction, sketched outline of the rest of the book, started putting juicy quotes and bibliographic info. into the various chapter holder documents I had made. And, ultimately,

1. FELL IN LOVE WITH MY PROJECT. You know how you can shop a concept for a book--at cocktail parties, in departmental reviews, in your diary, on the Works in Progress section of your CV, etc., but until you start writing it, you feel a little apologetic about it and think maybe it's dumb? But how, once you start actually writing and letting your thoughts happen for real it starts to take shape and pull your mind around and synchronize all the courses you've ever taught and all the areas of your doctoral exams, and all the theory that most makes sense to you and starts to become a for real book, one that you would love to read and are completely astonished and excited that you get to write? Yeah, that's what happened. It's my new drug, it's what I think about when I'm driving, showering, doing the dishes, it's what I sneak back in to look at after the 2nd commercial break of the 2nd episode of Will and Grace, what I mess around with until way too late at night/early in the morning.

So that's it, kids. I don't know if I'm back per se, but for now, at least I'm caught up.