Monday, 29 September 2008

Dates

I'm on a classics mailing list, and it's the start of a new academic year here in the UK, so I'm getting emailed about lots of upcoming seminar series and lectures and whatnot. Obviously it would take a fairly spectacular event to get me to Edinburgh or Leeds (or, frankly, even Exeter or London) at 5pm on a weeknight to listen to a research paper, so what are the odds that both* the events I most want to go to - Miriam Leonard's paper on 'Noah and Noesis: Derrida between Greek and Jew' and Ahuvia Kahane's, on 'Poetic proportions, ethics and politics', in a series on epyllion** - are on the same day?

And both on a day when I have to be in Bristol for an equally interesting event?

::gnashes teeth::

*Actually, I also really want to go to one in Leeds, on homoeroticism in Lucan's battle scenes ('ardens amor: Brothers in (each other's) Arms in Lucan's Ilerda Episode') and I can't make that one either, despite the fact that it combines all my research interests into what is clearly the best topic ever.

**Epyllions are 'little epics' and really interesting - I wish I could go to this whole series, actually.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Small writing update

1. Derrida and Antiquity chapter redrafts finished (I hope) and mailed to the editor and my above-and-beyond beta-readers, Una and Aren. I am secretly rather proud of it.

2. Yesterday I tried to work on Chapter Three of Now and Rome but the map/territory relationship just fell apart around me and I ended up having to go for a long walk, cook smoked tofu with peanut and coconut rice plus hot walnut-pomegranate-rocket salad, and watch An Affair to Remember with knitting and ice cream instead.

Today I took Chapter Three to the coffee shop and had a medium-sized structural insight and wrote 500 words, fairly angstlessly. Which is fine, and reminds me that bad days often precede good ones. (The only trouble is that as of next week I will only have one day a week to work on the book: my plan is to take it to the coffee shop and keep telling myself firmly that I am only working on one paragraph at a time, in order to avoid the abyss of map/territory disintegration).

3. Surprisingly, working on fanfiction this summer has been potentially really helpful for my theory practice, in a couple of ways: one of them is precisely the map/territory relationship. I am getting into a working/workable flow in relation to plot/writing in the fanfic: I can usually tell when I need to stop writing and let the next section of plot clarify a bit further, and I seem to have found my comfort level in terms of how far ahead I need to plot, so that I'm not writing into a void and constantly anxious that I'll end up finding out that the last umpty- thousand words were a tangent, as has happened a couple of times with this story already, but I'm also not constrained away from random insight and creative flow by too-tight plotting. And I can start to see how I can import that into my theory writing, getting a feel for the overall argument and shape but letting my embodied, sentence-by-sentence, walk through the territory inform the map as well as the other way round.

The other thing is delight. When I think about how many rules my fan story is breaking - how many things it contains that I know full well that lots of fans mock and denigrate (mary-sue! mpreg! weddings!) - I just feel delighted. And I want to learn how to import that into my theory, that sense that my certainty in, my ownership of, my delight in my writing actually increases when I think about its oddness, its me-ness, its newness. Not feeling that I am potentially under attack and I have to write from a position that's either unassailable (ie already-known) or belligerently 'new'; just feeling, as with the fanfic, that this is something which delights me and which I want to show to other people, in case it delights them too.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Idiosyncrasies of memory technology, by which I mean GODDAMNIT

So if - hypothetically speaking* - I download a document that I've emailed to myself on my work computer, and spend a happy hour or two editing it (hitting 'save' every five minutes), then you think I mean 'save to a temporary folder which is then emptied, purged and lost forever when I turn the computer off to go to a meeting'?

Interesting choice, IT people/Windows, interesting choice. It didn't at any stage occur to you to save the document by default to, say, the desktop? Or My Documents?

*by which I mean 'just now'.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Knitting

I haven't really blogged about knitting since I took it up, back in Melbourne, but you can take it for granted that these days, pretty much every moment that my fingers are not typing, they are knitting.

Which means that friends with babies - even if I have not yet been able to meet said babies - will sooner or later become the target of Sekrit Knitting Projects. Most recently, the baybeast babies, Loey:



and Huey:



for whom I knitted, respectively, a giant hat (it came out bigger than I was expecting...) and a cable-knit jumper, which came out pretty well (though slightly smaller than I was expecting, so that in the end the hat and the jumper were, rather alarmingly, more or less the same size.)

Both of them were patterns I got from knitty.com. The hat was from this pattern, for a hat which looks like a berry tart (the linked page has a photo of a cute and non-giant version of the hat, which actually more-or-less resembles a berry tart, unlike my version). This was exciting to knit, as I hadn't knitted a hat in the round before (and also because I was using stash yarn and I had literally about 30cm left of the purple colour when I finished, so it was a race against time [or, more accurately, length] by the end), but also frustrating as the bobbles involved many, many iterations of k3tog, a stitch which I fundamentally cannot do.) The jumper, very excitingly, has a randomly generated cable pattern: you roll a die every two-to-four stitches on the cable rows (every fourth row) to see whether you're going to do a right-twisted cable or a left-twisted cable or no cable at all. It was really fun to do, and it came out surprisingly pretty! Here's the pattern.

But really, this is a story about human connection and the Internet, and how much fun it is to knit for other people and have them in mind when you knit, and how strange and moving it is to see photos of people who didn't even exist (not quite, not yet) when I left Melbourne, and now they are wearing clothes that I made for them. It is kind of like the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef - new connections coming into being via very old webs of knowledge and craft, plus very new technologies of transmission - but this time with added pictures of baaaaaby humans. Truly the Internet is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

More Harry Potter copyright stuff

So I read in the Guardian that a movie made by a Mumbai-based studio, Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors, about a ten-year-old Indian boy in England comically foiling a couple of inept criminals somewhat in the manner of Home Alone, has been blocked by Warner Brothers on the basis that it 'infringes its intellectual property rights', by having a character with a name that sounds a bit like Harry Potter's.

It's kind of interesting, the way that HP keeps showing up at the cutting edge of legal disputes about intellectual property, fair use, creative transformation, and the ownership of funny words; the books were always products of a brand-based aesthetic. Brands basically stand in for magic in the books: where Ursula K Le Guin, say, would create a coherent set of rules and laws for magic in her universes, Rowling always used one-word spells and created a universe based around commodities: the Nimbus 2000, the Firebolt, Bertie Bott's Every Flavoured Beans, Chocolate Frogs, etc. The most meaningful magical connection in the whole of the seven books is the fact that Harry and Voldemort have the same wand. Magic in the HP-verse is basically commodity fetishism. J and I once gave a conference paper on this - on Guy DeBord's Society of the Spectacle and the disappearance of labour into fetishized commodities in the HP-verse - and a fabulous woman gave us the perfect example of it in the question-and-answer period. It's a moment in Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry gets his Firebolt-brand broom and Hermione, who is worried that it's booby-trapped, says 'You're not going to ride it, are you, Harry?' and Ron says:

What do you think he's going to do with it? Sweep the floor?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Things

Dorian Gray was wonderful. I want to write about it in more detail, partly because I don't know anything about dance and the writing thereof and that reminded me that that was one of the things I wanted to use this blog for: nondisciplinary, amateurish writing about stuff that interests me but doesn't feed into the life-cycle of academic capitalism. (But having said that, I keep making plans to publish things about slash and Doctor Who and Melissa Lukashenko and whether Catullus was a lesbian*, so everything ends up being appropriated for career profit anyway. I mean, except that the only thing I've published which has ever been cited or led directly to any RAE-declarable 'signs of esteem' was the Harry Potter slash essay, and that wasn't even part of my RAE submission** because it doesn't fit with my research profile as part of the Classics department, so the economics of the whole thing is sort of eccentric, anyway.)

Anyway, though, it's 5pm and I've run out of steam, so instead of writing about Dorian Gray (oh God it was wonderful though) I am just going to put up a few links to remind myself of things:

1. The online Journal of Transformative Works has its first issue out, and I must go and read it.

2. Postgrad conference on Doctor Who! And Una's going! And Tony Keen is going to be giving a paper on Doctor Who and the Cambridge Latin Course! And there's a paper on the Radiophonic Workshop, which is going to be unmissable for me. And it's twenty quid for the weekend and within commuting distance, so the only question is whether J wants to come with me.

*Yes, is the answer. I wrote an essay for my MA on Roman lesbians which had a section headed 'Catullus, The Sapphic Man', and now I really want to use that as the title of a journal article... Actually, now I come to think of this, this essay was probably the start of what one might describe - if one were that way inclined - as a whole strand of my research, about queer desire for the past, or a relationship to the past premised on queer desire (this is what my essay for the Derrida and Antiquity volume is about, and the paper I'm giving at the Eros conference at Easter, and perhaps the one I'm thinking of giving at the Sexual Knowledges conference in July...)

**The RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) is this thing where academic departments submit a big document about their research, plus also selected publications of research-active members of staff in the department, to a panel of experts for assessment, and the panel decides how good individual university departments are at research. This determines the distribution of prestige, of course, but also of funding. I have a job which spans departments, but I was declared in the Classics department for the last RAE, which meant only my publications which mentioned, you know, classical stuff counted.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Harry Potter Lexicon

Steve Vander Ark's Harry Potter Lexicon not only cannot be published in print form, but has been taken down. Yesterday I was angry about this. Today I am very sad.

What transformed the Harry Potter books from the poorly-written, under-edited, over-derivative things they are into a global phenomenon of communal joy and squee was the appropriative, taxonomic, and imaginative labour of readers and fans, who filled in the plot holes and filled out the characterization. The Harry Potter universe is a collaborative one, from the moment one child sits alone in her bedroom and opens Philosopher's Stone to the moment that the folks over on InsaneJournal create an archive of classic HP fanfic, nominated and voted for by fans. If 'Snape' is anything, he's the creation of Jill Murphy (Miss Hardbroom), Antonia Forest (Miss Cromwell), J K Rowling, Alan Rickman, Christopher Colombus, Alfonso, Cuaron, Mike Leigh, David Yates, Snaples, Telanu, and everyone else who's hated him or crushed on him or drawn him or wondered whether he's a good guy or a bad guy. And the Lexicon was a concrete manifestation of that collaborative, fannish, readerly, analytical work. I'm absolutely miserable that imaginative, as well as financial, control of that universe has been granted to Rowling/Bloomsbury/Warner Brothers.

And also, you know, I miss the Lexicon. It was a nice site, and it meant that when I needed to check the name of some character or find out how many people had been given the Order of Merlin and what for, I could find out without having to comb through three or four thousand pages of print. I should have figured out how to archive it, I suppose, but I never thought it would really be gone.

Thanks for all your work, Steve Vander Ark and all the other Lexicon contributors. It was a fantastic resource, and I'm really going to miss it.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Publications

Actually, what I want to post about is two things: (1) Mysterious Skin which I finally summoned the energy to watch yesterday and which (you were quite right, Az) is unbelievably brilliant, and now I even more can't believe that anyone bothered to make The Woodsman or was ever fooled into thinking it was anything but a facile, spurious piece of Holden Caulfieldery, and (2) the Aeneid, because it's occurred to me that I never actually write about the Classics, and that most people I know don't like the Aeneid even though it is the greatest work of literature in the Western canon,* and they must be shown the error of their ways.

But those are long and thinky posts, and who knows whether I will get time for them today, so in the meantime, I just thought I would let you know that my abstract for the Doctor Who essay was accepted (yayy), and that, in a bizarre blast from the past, my co-editor on an edited collection called Origins of Deconstruction, which we put together in 2003 and which I thought was long dead and buried but which contains an essay I'm still quite proud of, on Dido and Derrida's 'The Double Sesssion' and Irigaray... anyway, he got in touch with me to say that it looks as though we'll get a contract for it with Palgrave Macmillan in the very near future (the reader's report was glowing). So that's strange but good: the collection contains first English translations of a couple of interviews with Derrida and Cixous. The Derrida interview is all about his writing practices - handwriting, typewriting, computers, etc - and is one of those lovely theory-meets-geeky-fetishism pieces. (He wrote Of Grammatology standing up, with a quill. I'm serious.)

*except possibly the Georgics, which is like Gerard Manley Hopkins translating Lucretius with a sudden, From-Dusk-Till-Dawnesque twist into high fantasy at the end.