March 23, 2004

Lullaby of Nerdland

Filed under: Literati and Cognoscenti — tomemos @ 3:39 pm

Some of my favorite paper titles from the program for the upcoming conference of the Popular Culture Association, where I will be giving my blog paper:

“Ellipses and Elisions: Aragorn and the Ambiguity of Identity in The Two Towers

“The Game Grind: Why Are X-Rated Computer Games So Boring?”

Harry Potter and the Gothic Paradigm”

“Alice’s Deconstruction of Conventions in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop: Visions of Posthumanity”

“Disillusionment in the Forbidden Forest: Exploring the Dark Side of Harry Potter: A Roundtable Presentation”

“Hello Kitty in America”

“Animals and Animagi: Beasts and Men in the Harry Potter Series”

“‘Science is science, but a girl must get her hair done’: Representation of Women Scientists in Five American Science Fiction Films of the 1950s”

“Race Monsters and Mutilated Bodies: Investigating Ethnicity in The X-Files

“The Calculus of Media Commodities: Harry Potter and the Failure of Criticism”

“The Paladin and the Grad Student: Medieval Myth and Symbolism in Diablo II

“The Snake Problem: Adolescence, Masculinity, and Power in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

“Complement & Counterbalance: R2D2 as “Machine Protagonist” in Star Wars Films”

“The Color of Zion: The Growth and Popularization of the American Captivity Narrative from Frederick Douglass to The Matrix: Revolutions

“Heroism, Empowerment and Loss: Reading Harry Potter in a Post September 11th World”

“Animation as Parody in Space Ghost: Coast to Coast

“High-Brow Harry Potter: Teaching JK Rowling’s Series as College-Level Literature”

The complete program can be found here. PS–I love my job.


March 18, 2004

This doesn’t have to be the big get-even

Filed under: Uncategorized — tomemos @ 2:00 am

Oh MAN do I love watching this (courtesy of Tom Tomorrow and

Rumsfeld gets caught in his own web.

Go watch it, then come back here for my commentary, featured below:

Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for that smarmy son of a bitch to get his comeuppance? But more importantly: do you know how long those journalists must have been waiting for a chance like this? They must have gotten so sick of hearing that assclown say, in his special condescending way, “I just don’t understand where you media types got the idea that I said blah blah blah…” Why else would they have those two quotes right there, waiting to trip him up? I like to think that, after Rumsfeld hemmed and hawed his way out of the room, those interviewers were giving each other high-fives in the post-interview locker room, congratulating each other on nailing that punk. These guys won’t pay for a meal for weeks, the journalistic community is going to be so happy with them. And so am I.

That’s what you get out on the edge

Filed under: Game of Base, Literati and Cognoscenti — tomemos @ 1:50 am

I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a few days. It’s gotten to the point that one of you thought he could light a fire under me with a comment telling me to post something. But, you know, what did you expect when you decided to make a grad student’s life a part of your normal internet itinerary? (Netinerary?) I’ve just been wrestling with my papers, my students’ papers, and various other forms of stress that are either uninteresting or taboo. And I went to spring training. But I’ll talk about that later, because I need something to keep you reading while I talk about my classes.

LET’S TALK ABOUT MY CLASSES! I’m so goddamn exhausted. A couple weeks ago I reached the point where my classes were becoming a distraction from what’s really important, namely my seminar papers for those classes. Not that I’m in great shape with those. Last week, I gave my Medieval Romances prof a poorly-thought out, poorly-presented prospectus for my paper. She gave it back saying that it was poorly-thought-out and poorly-presented. Today, in class, I gave a quite impressive presentation on my paper; after class, she complimented on being a “fast learner.” And I am: I learned fast that I’d better get my ass in gear about this paper in time for my presentation. Have I written anything? Well…maybe I’m a fast writer, too, huh?

The other source of anxiety is my teaching. Not just the work involved–I’ll have twenty-one papers to grade come Friday, plus my first-ever Final Grades to dispatch–but also the fact that they just today filled out their evaluations of me, covering everything from my comments on their papers to, I imagine, my personal hygiene and choice of shirts. I’m very nervous about how they like me, I don’t feel like I have a good read on how I did this quarter. If you’re wondering how this could be, imagine that you’re expecting a grade in a class, and that all of the papers you wrote for that class had been handed back to you with no written comments and a blank stare. Would you feel that you knew what grade you were going to get?

However, with spring comes rebirth, and a new set of classes. I’ll be taking a class on Henry James–master of the hundred-clause sentence–and one on postcolonialism in the Americas. I’ll also have a lot more free time, since I won’t be working on a paper for a conference in the midst of all this. Man, am I looking forward to the first weeks of the quarter, when my friends and I can get together and watch TV or play video games without joking about how guilty we feel, or talking about how this was “just what we needed.”

But yeah, I went to spring training a couple weeks ago. (That’s baseball’s spring training for the uninitiated. It’s in Arizona.) I went with Sean Bartmasser, Berkeley High ’99 and recent graduate of UC San Diego, and a few of his friends. The trip was a bad idea, work-wise, and I knew it, and I’ve been paying for it ever since. But I sure as hell don’t regret it. It helped me satisfy the baseball jones I’d been having. More than just the baseball, though, it was the college road trip I never took. (Well, I took a couple to Washington DC, but they were for anti-war protests, and I got there in vans with fifteen people in them so it wasn’t really the same.) We went to bars, we chatted with the locals (including a foreign-born taxi driver who told us dirty jokes), we stopped to get Date Shakes on the way home. It was just the thing.

But yeah, the baseball was great. What’s funny about spring training is that it’s for the hardcore fans–who else would go to Arizona to sit outside?–and yet it’s also so much more familiar than most baseball games. The stadiums only hold 10,000 people or less, so no matter where you are you’re right next to the players. For example, at the Giants-Cubs game, our seats were located on a grassy embankment just behind the outfield wall. You can also get autographs if you’re willing to wait and wait for them. I only got one, but it was a good one: former A’s star pitcher Dave Stewart, now busily helping Eric Chavez extend his contract with the team. That ball’s sitting on my desk right now, actually.

Mostly, I was just thrilled to be there while these guys got ready to do what they do. We got to the A’s-Angels game (which the A’s won 26 to 3) at 10:30, in time to watch a B game between the A’s and Giants’ minor league squads. These were guys hungry to make the big-league teams–the most famous player there was probably Ryan Jensen–and the crowd wasn’t watching too closely. We sat down forty feet away from the players, right behind the visitors dugout. The A’s batter went to 0-2, and we were close enough to hear the third-base coach clap his hands and encourage him: “Only takes one to get a knock, baby. Come on.”

And if a missionary had been there at that moment, I probably would have converted to whatever religion he was pitching.

March 9, 2004

God sent me to piss the world off

Filed under: Uncategorized — tomemos @ 1:08 am

Here’s an idea for all of us bloggers to take part in:

A couple entries ago, I posted excerpts from Orson Scott Card’s article about gay marriage and ended succinctly, “Fuck you, Orson Scott Card.” Brian liked it and repeated the message in his own blog. Then, yesterday, Karen posted an entry about a bunch of animal rights activists protesting the SF Zoo, singling out one woman with a terrible name who claimed that zoos don’t know anything about elephants. “Fuck you, Deniz Bobol,” Karen wrote.


Why don’t we form a list of people who deserve a simple “Fuck you” for putting their outrageous opinions in a public sphere? Card and Bobol could be the charter members, and we could nominate others as we find them. It would be like Lore’s Oral Sex List, except with a message of hate instead of love.

My proposed guidelines, these are open for discussion:
–To avoid flooding our blogs with profanity, let’s stay away from obvious targets like George Bush and Fred Phelps. Rather than going for known offenders, let’s stick with people who a)are mostly unknown, like Bobol, but somehow have made it into the newspaper, or b)are generally well-liked, like Card, but have recently said something completely awful.
–The Fuck You List will consist of people’s irritating words (written or spoken, as long as they’re on a website), not just their boneheaded actions.
–Don’t use the Fuck You card willy-nilly–stick with the people who really infuriate you.
–To nominate someone, just post on your blog some of what they said that pissed you off, along with some commentary and the fatal sentence. The list will be eventually updated to reflect your pick, and will be linked to the original article that drove you to nominate them.
–You can echo a Fuck You posted on someone else’s blog; just post your own thoughts on your blog and add your Fuck You to theirs. This will show readers how egregious this person’s statements were.
–If you don’t think a nominee warrants a Fuck You, say so on the blog in question–we’ll resolve the dispute somehow.

This would be a low-effort way of relieving our tensions, and would spread helpful information about who should have fucks directed at them. Are people interested? Any other guidelines we should have? And can anyone tell me how I would link something like this to my site?

Okay, everyone ready? Roll up your sleeves and sharpen your resentment–we’ve got some yous to fuck.

March 2, 2004

There’ll be blood on the cleaver tonight

Filed under: Uncategorized — tomemos @ 2:11 am

The world fell on me today, as I had the mother of all bad Mondays. There’s nothing interesting about someone’s bad day, except this particularly egregious fact: I lost a student’s paper. An in-class exam, in fact, so there’s no copy saved on a computer somewhere. I felt like the biggest fraud. Here I am telling them I’m some kind of teacher, when in fact I slept through a class of my own that morning and then lost one of their papers. I feel like a high school student in a class full of grownups.

I think there’s a solution, one recommended by my friend Glenn: I did get to take a look at the student’s notes for the in-class, so I can tell him that I’m willing to give him a good grade based on those unless he wants to take the test again for my comments. And the day looks less terrible now that it’s in the rear-view mirror. But the problem with grad school is, when a bad day is over, I’m not off the hook. Sure I survived the immediate crisis–an essay and a presentation today–but I’ve got another presentation on Friday, and an abstract due Monday, and my final papers due in three weeks, and I’ve done fuck-all on all of them. So if I want to relax I can only due it by ignoring the facts and selling out my self of tomorrow or next week.

Yes, yes, I knew it was going to be hard. Yes, this is what I want to do with my life. But only because of two saving graces: summer breaks, and tenure. If I can make it out of here without an ulcer, I’ll count myself on the right track.

* * * * * * * * *

I do have one redemptive teaching milestone to mention (and even this is sort of macabre): I had my first Dead Grandmother of my teaching career. It happened over the weekend, on Sunday evening to be precise: a student e-mailed me to say that her grandmother had died, and so she wouldn’t be able to complete a homework assignment and might not be able to make it to class. (She did, as a matter of fact.)

I am suspending my disbelief as much as I can, because it’s not fair to doubt her without good reason. And it’s not like this was a major assignment. Still, I can’t help but be skeptical. Using a dead grandmother as an excuse for missing a test or assignment is like getting out of sex because of a headache, or saying that you have this friend who needs information about herpes. Sure, it’s possible you’re telling the truth, but that doesn’t matter–the excuse has become so cliche as to be a parody of itself, just a notch above a homework-eating dog. (Look here for some research on the subject.)

Anyway, genuine or not, I’m starting a tally. No, better yet: I’m going to play Excuses Bingo. I’ve marked off Dead Grandmother, and I’ve already had Car Trouble and Indeterminate Disease; I just need Traffic Jam, Computer Crash, and Didn’t You Get My E-Mail, and I’ll have the row.

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