Thursday, February 26, 2009

Testing the Waters

tantalizing glimpse of Spring and palm trees just outside my reach, from inside the airless convention center

Day Two of the Gathering of the Nerds

In trying to find a way to justify spending a few minutes in the hot tub-after months of numbing cold and grey skies-intellectually at least, is not easy. But thanks to a brain-storming session with fellow nerds including one that left the field but still experiences Stockholm Syndrome, we came up with the idea to hold a panel at the hotel's hot tub. Papers could address issues such as optical versus haptic drives, phenomenology, or entropy, and a panel could have a title such as: Performing 1970s conviviality: the liminal space of the hot tub as a site of relational aesthetics, or better perhaps might be Testing the Waters: (Re) envisioning submerged histories of global relational practices.  

But breakfast awaited. My friend/colleague/roomate/comrade ventured out early and we decided we have to do a Joan Rivers/Melissa Rivers Nerd Red Carpet report on the fashion. One constant besides the black clothing, and the aggressively hip eyeglass frames on many, is the footwear. Many of the women (and let's face it, in my field, it's mostly women) of a certain age and clearly income level, wear the French squishy yet geometric comfort shoes in bright hues produced by Arche. A hipper version of Aerosoles, they project a discordant note of color in academics' normally funereal attire. A friend commented that these shoes are Birkenstocks of art historians. GENIUS! 

Another trend is the "ethnic" wear. Women donning squarish Japanese, African, or Chinese jackets. Also popular are the "ethnic" scarves, another area of adventure - often Indian paisley, Mexican rebozo shawls, or perhaps if one gets lucky at a sample sale, a Miyake pleated geometric number. Later in the day once we got sucked into the airless convention center, we noted as well the courduroy paisley patterned ones, and the appliqued, quilted ones with subtle Bedazzling (perhaps hand made?). 

The artists are a different thing altogether, they can be more informal and they also tend to go more into the "ethnic" fashion route. There are also clogs and other comfort garments. Maybe even courdoroy.

There are also the middle-aged or older lady museum workers, who tend to wear one color squarish suits in unflattering ambiguous hem lengths with Aerosoles loafer type shoes. Here there is a bizarre intersection between dog breeders who show dogs at Westminster in buisness attire versus eveningwear, and people in the arts. 

Oddly, the Convention Center was host to an unlikely coupling perhaps as jarring as the Computer Nerds - Porn Industry folks one that I described in an earlier post. New US Citizens were sworn in (is this the term, it has a kind of policing connotation) and so one saw a disparate group of people from all over the world, with families in tow, tiny American flags in their hands. One sign gave the name of the meeting for the Nerds, the other said "CITIZENS." Appropos perhaps since we too are citizens, in our case of an imaginary land of academic freedom, "original" artworks or arguments, poorly read publications, bi-coastal/trans-atlantic relationships with peers or lovers, fleeting encounters at these conferences assuring us that we "exist" in some broader universe of sense. And we get discounts on books. 

Speaking of books, I love how every year there is a trend in publishing. So two years ago it was "Visual Culture" and this year it's Digital this, Gaming that, Facebook too, Game Theory and internet art, New media. Also John Cage. How so many people can write books about the same thing fascinates me, but why should it, a zillion books about Renaissance art have been published, why not half a dozen or so on gaming? This book publishing mimeticism reminds me of my favorite theory about dogs as pets. I believe that one can may "date" a dog by species. Much like old school connoisseurs can date a picture by something in the line, brushwork, or signature, I can date dogs by the breed after living in a big city for twenty years. I should say, gay dog breed. So if I see a Daschound, I know it's probably 6 years old, and an Italian Greyhound, ten. A French bulldog is probably two. So years from now a student approaching the library stacks might not realize that the book on Cage is from 2009, but I would. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Gathering of Nerds

I am in Los Angeles for an annual gathering of those of my professional ilk. A nice excuse to get away from the lousy weather, to go sit in drafty over-air-conditioned conference rooms to hear panels with titles including words and phrases such as performativity, digital ecologies, virtual queer sexualities, haptic versus optic, or, for those struggling to hold on to the Canon, sexed up titles such as: What is new about Rembrandt? Frankly, who gives a shit, when I can go have sushi with West-Coast friends, or look out my window to a tiny view of the HOLLYWOOD sign?

The best are this year's proliferation of panels about second life, web 2.0, and of course my drug of choice, Facebook. It's fabulous to see 30 and 40-something nerdy academics theorizing the life out of absolutely anything and everything, including Facebook or Twitter. Then people like me can feel ironic smugness as we blog about them. Because my tolerance for self-surveillance, addiction to over-share, and exhibitionism have not yet gotten to the level of Twitter. And hearing last night that GOP members of Congress were Twittering during President Obama's "don't panic even though the USA is in free-fall" speech did not encourage me to try it.  

A friend of mine told me that her husband goes to a tech conference in Las Vegas each year that fortuitously coincides with a meeting for those in the porn industry. Thus, computer geeks and purveyors of porn's worlds intersect (in person, we know that they do privately via DVDs and the web) as nerdy white guys pass pierced, tattooed, and silicone-enhanced performers in the halls of cavernous conference centers. The next time this happens, she and I are meeting there to witness this marvelous event, and to visit the Liberace Museum, the Holy Grail of historic homes, if you ask me.  

I don't know about Mid-western college towns but I can tell you that New York City was suddenly drained of its nerds, it was like a giant Bermuda's Triangle that opened up in the heart of town. I think the neurosis quotient of the city will drop to dangerously low levels! Shrinks will sit listlessly with nothing to do, alternative cinemas will see a drop in ticket sales, and students everywhere will celebrate canceled classes, as mine did. 

I recall one such meeting in San Antonio many years ago. It was my first such conference and I was eager to attend as many panels as possible, running to and fro to catch certain talks in simultaneous panels (known as panel surfing, no, actually, I just made that up, it's probably the jet lagged induced delirium), exhilarated at the thought! A funereal hush spread all over the cheerful Texan city, as black-clad masses descended on it, like a plague of near-sighted locusts. The best was visiting a gay bar, where white guys in full cowboy regalia danced with handsome African American men, and fabulous butch femme couples played pool. They were very welcoming of our nerd posse as we rolled up in our black suits, fancy footwear, and aggressively over-designed eyeglass frames. (at this moment, mine are red and geometric) 

Besides the panels there are also job interviews, awkwardly held most of the time in hotel rooms. A colleague once told me that these marathon interviewing sessions made her feel like a hooker: waiting in an anonymous hotel room for strangers to come in for 45 minutes to an hour and then on to the next, all day. Now I have thankfully never experienced this on the receiving end, but will be in the position of interviewing people in a hotel room for the first time this year. The other event that takes place is the product placement, besides the human kind, there is our version of porn, academic porn, the book fair. The last day is the best, as you see black clad nerds practically ripping each other's eyes out for the deeply discounted newest volume on ghostly hauntings of cyborgs in visual culture of Eastern Europe. It's not as vicious as the Super Bowl, but close. 

More on the nerdolicious adventures later......

Friday, February 20, 2009

I invested good money on that weave, it saved my life!

This young woman was shot by an ex-boyfriend, but her weave saved her life. The bullet made impact in the back of her head, where her wig cap and weave prevented it from penetrating. Damn! That hair dresser knows what she's doing, that weave isn't going anywhere. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Doggy Pageantry

This was a special week: my favorite pageant after Miss Universe took place, The Westminster Dog Show. Someday I will attend in person, but for now, the coverage on USA and internet was pretty satisfying.

I have been plotzing over the toy breeds, my favorties being the chihuahuas, Pekineses, Chinese Cresteds, pugs, Italian greyhounds, and a breed I'd never noticed before, the Japanese Chin. The Chinese cresteds are fantastic, imagine a taller chihuahua, hairless with a nice mottled pattern, but with long tufts of hair on the head, ears, chin and bottom of the legs. They left the top tuft super long and the ears too so that it looked like Loni Anderson's hair style in WKRP in Cincinnatti. Off the chain. 

Then there are the miniature poodles, shaved to the skin in parts and then the hairy bits shaped like topiary. Exquisite. OMG the grooming was a fucking masterpiece, Ivana Trump is nothing in comparison. That dog's up-do put Marie Antoinette to shame!

In general it's not surprising that I should love the toy breeds the best, like me they are: petite, highly strung, noisy, high-maintenance, extremely camp, and require a lot of grooming.

The breeders/show people whatever they are called, are hot messes in terms of grooming. There are a lot of bad polyester bedazzled dresses worn at unflatteringly ambiguous hem lengths with coffee colored hose and loafer style shoes. My favorite was one of the presenters, who was extremely butch but with a suburban Prince Valiant-style coif, and a severe suit, neutral lipstick and a very deep voice. Not sure if she was a she or a trans-woman, but she was the bomb.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Yes Pecan!

My loyal reader and commenter, Narciso Espejo, shared this fabulous item regarding suggestions for Ben & Jerry flavors inspired by our (thank goodness) former President:
Ben & Jerry created "Yes Pecan!" ice cream flavor for Obama.
They then asked people to come up with flavors for George W. Bush.

Here are some of their favorite responses:

- Grape Depression

- Abu Grape

- Cluster Fudge

- Nut'n Accomplished

- Iraqi Road

- Chock 'n Awe

- WireTapioca

- Impeach Cobbler

- Guantanmallow

- imPeachmint

- Good Riddance You Lousy Mother&*^%$... Swirl

- Heck of a Job, Brownie!

- Neocon Politan

- RockyRoad to Fascism

- The Reese's-cession

- Cookie D'oh!

- The Housing Crunch

- Nougalar Proliferation

- Death by Chocolate... and Torture

- Credit Crunch

- Country Pumpkin

- Chunky Monkey in Chief

- George Bush Doesn't Care About Dark Chocolate

- WM Delicious

- Chocolate Chimp

- Bloody Sundae

- Caramel Preemptive Stripe

- I broke the law and am responsible for the deaths of thousands...with nuts

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Oh no they didn't

This week, one of my teaching assistants told me that when they were showing Manet's "Olympia," a student literally held up a piece of paper in front of his face until they switched Power Point images. Another student emailed me and had a saying about the need to believe that the Devil exists at the bottom of his message. Now I see that there is a new Born-again Christian fashion statement - "ex-masturbator," best quote: "You people are laughing because you people are masturbating." Having survived the Regan era, and of course the dictatorship of Bush the Second, and the Religious Right, I am experiencing Post Traumatic Stress.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

West African Fashion

Photo by Ashanda

Yesterday I had to go back to buy MORE of the Obama fabric for another friend, who will use hers as a table cloth. (you may recall that my friend and I are having dresses made; there was a fantastic show at the Bard Center for Decorative Arts a while back that included "patriotic" dresses, scarves, table cloths, etc. from Japan, the UK, the USA, and France from WWII - to-die-for and also sinister)  So we went back to the fantastic purveyor of wax cloth, other fabrics, jewelry, and bling, Kaarta, at 121 W. 125th Street. We also checked out the Malcolm Shabazz Market, which had ready-made clothes, such as the absolutely gorgeous dresses - one might say schmattas or batas - like the one above, which features a football print. Football being soccer of course, one of the handful of sports I actually like. 

The Bard show was called Wearing Propaganda: Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and the United States, 1931-1945, and there is a catalogue, edited by Jacqueline M. Atkins, (2005).