Another reason to love the Beeb*

Their ongoing coverage of the "Future of TV" on the BBC Online site.

In the past few days, they have told us how to acquire TV shows online, where to do it and what to watch on the web.

Oh, they've also added that most of the downloads are not quite legal. But, is that enough when they've already told us about all the *gasp* illegal downloading people do online?

As someone who grew up watching BBC shows through the means of the local British Council library, these new ways of acquiring shows are even better--quick and easy. It's also rather amusing that the Beeb seems to be teaching people (or at least its online readers) how and where to get these new TV shows--almost like the British Council but in digital (and, of course, not quite legal) form.

* Seriously, they should start paying me for the amount of (free) publicity I give them.

This is totally not my fault.

Someone else made me do it.

Your Birthdate: August 7

You are an island. You don't need anyone else to make you happy.
And though you see yourself as a loner, people are drawn to you.
Deep and sensitive, you tend to impress others with your insights.
You also tend to be psychic - so listen to that inner voice!

Your strength: Your self sufficiency

Your weakness: You despise authority

Your power color: Maroon

Your power symbol: Hammer

Your power month: July
What Does Your Birth Date Mean?


So she said, "I'm sick. What should I watch?"

What was I supposed to do with an opening like that?

Things on TV right now:

1. Studio 60: It's like eating sugar free cookies. Sure, they're not very good and they leave a bad taste in your mouth, but when there isn't any of the real stuff around, they're better than nothing. Your only Sorkin option is this, so suck it up and whine about it Tuesday morning like the rest of us. Try turning the sound off whenever Danny and Matt aren't in the room.

Mark McKinney is one of the writers. He's making guest appearances. Those are both hopeful things.

2. Numb3rs: Math, physics, boys in tight pants carrying firearms. And banter. Lots and lots of banter. It's the best cop-and-academic-crime-fighting-duo on American television. That's more of a claim than you'd think.

3. Doctor Who: You have your choice of Doctors, your choice of companions, and your choice of "Old Who" or "New Who." Choose wisely, Loyal Reader.

4. BSG: Meh. I still think it's coasting on the merits of previous seasons, but I'm told that any day now it'll be really, really good. Patience is not usually one of my strong points. But CKR is pretty and crazy and maybe some sort of prophet who dresses badly.

5. My Boys: This could have been awful. Hell, it's the first episodes; it could still suck. But for a pilot, I'm pretty pleased. Also, it's a comedy set in Chicago and centering around sports metaphors. In which the tomboy dresses up in a cute top and makes brie, and her friends call her dude and wonder what's wrong. And she doesn't get the guy. I think.

It's possible that I'm a tiny bit biased based on the location. I can admit that. Chicago is pretty.

6. Hardware; The Eleventh Hour: Both starting on BBC America next week; both with good reviews from the Brits. Worth checking out.

Things that may be available through other means:

7. Torchwood: Cheesy plots, shiny sets, pretty bisexual characters, stuff that explodes, all the snark you could ask for, and the website is a fannish treasure chest. John Barrowman is pretty and kills people. Also, aliens. Everything is better with aliens. British.

8. Sling & Arrows: There are no words for how fantastic this is. Shakespearean themes, modernized and then set within a theater festival featuring Shakespeare. Funny, sad, brilliantly acted, and possibly the only show ever that is perfect without any fanfiction fixits. Also, Paul Gross is pretty and he talks to his dead mentor. Canadian.

9. Twitch City: Curtis can't leave his apartment. Nathan goes to jail. Hope is quirky. Newbie is weird, but hot. Jennifer Jason Leigh may be a psycho grad student writing a thesis about people who watch television. The episodes are all references to television and film history. There's a brain transplant, a job wheel, and a hostage situation. Really, I can't do it justice. CKR is pretty and fires a remote control like nobody's business. Canadian.

10. LFN: See #2, only take out the math, physics, and banter. Replace them with emo, angst, martial arts, and a super-seekrit anti-terrorist organization. Make the pants leather. Add pretty girls. Stir. Watch things explode. American/Canadian

11. The West Wing: The reason #1 is so very unsatisfying. American.

12. due South: Oh, please. Para-Mounties, Chicago cops, a deaf half-wolf, and a Russian submarine. In one episode. This is the show against which all other shows are measured. Paul Gross is pretty and he talks to his dead father. CKR is pretty and fires a gun like nobody's business. American/Canadian.


I'm an academic and I'm okay...*

I work all night and I work all day

I read books, I write stuff,
I go to the libra-ry
On Saturdays, I watch footy
And have vegemite toasts for tea

I'm an academic and I'm okay
I work all night and I work all day

I rather like being an academic. As I pointed out in my previous post, it's a good thing to be in today's world where critique is sadly losing its role and humour is being replaced by ponderous discussions about security and danger.

Another vocational option, if I had been from the land of the Free and the Brave, would have been to join this august organisation but, as a foreigner, I'm barred from entering. However, I can (and did) take this short test on my CIA Personality.

Apparently, I'm a "thoughtful observer". E, who is quite sure I don't have any observational skills, will probably find this rather amusing.

By the way, on a different (yet related) matter, read Peter's post over at the Duck making a similar point to what I was trying to do with my previous post: make the case that how things are framed in (and through) language matters in how we make sense of things in everyday life.

On that note, please indulge me in a bit of frivolity and sing:

I'm an academic and that's okay
I work all night and I work all day

Going from book to book! As they are shelved in the mighty libraries of Washington! With my best books by my side!The Foucaults!The Nietzsches!The Giant Tractatus!The Wodehouses (or Wodehice?)!Oh and The LOTR!

We'd sing! Sing! Sing!

I write down things, I teach and grade,
I like to watch English soccer.
I put on women's clothing,
And hang around in bars.

* If it really needs to be said (written), with grateful thanks to MP and the Lumberjack song.


send them to the argument clinic

Charles Tilly, fairly well-known here among PTSD readers, once wrote that you have to pick the battles you fight since most of the battles are conducted in the language(s) of your opponent.

After 4 days of reading, across disciplines and subfields, I am not much closer to knowing which battle to fight. Or, even if I want to fight one. I do know though that this issue-of there being something which is real, which is true and which cannot be questioned--seems to be fairly common when studying terrorism than in other sub-fields of International Relations.

A case in point: Today's Washington Post Book World carries a review of two new books on Al Qaeda. The reviewer and "founding head of the CIA's bin Laden Unit" praises a book by a respected journalist. About the second book he writes that the author's tracing out of the histories of various groups of violent actors is "erudite if irrelevant". After all, it's Al Qaeda, the global evil networked menace that we should be concerned about, not a bunch of Zealots, Thugs and Assassins! Academics are so thick--they just don't get the real dangers of bin Laden and Al Qaeda. But, isn't being academic the point?

In the words of Edwards and Co.:

"In everyday parlance, "academic" implies pointless, empty, inconsequential. But we are academics, for whom it is proper, essential even, to care about the epistemic and ontological status of claims to knowledge. And it is far from inconsequential. If even ostensibly bottom-line instances of brute reality are demonstrably social accomplishments, then academics are dealing with some powerful machinery; the possibility of critique, denial, deconstruction, argument, for any kind of truth, fact, assumption, regime or philosophy – for anything at all."

So, yes, I'm well-pleased to be an academic, if that's my job. But, if I had to fight this fight of whether what we, as scholars, do actually matters in the sense the practitioners seem to be defining the word, then here's what I would like to say (but Edwards and Co. already did it and much better than I would so here yous go):

"Those who maintain that their truths are best preserved by protecting them from inquiry are followers of a religious ethic, not a scientific one. Truths become sacred objects, unfit for profane and corrosive inquiry, to be celebrated by incantation and propagated by conversion to the faith. The realists' bottom-line arguments are both forms of incantation and attempts at conversion. They are presented as the points beyond which inquiry will not be permitted. We, the "amoral" relativists, are the ones who insist upon the right to inquire and who are thus (arguably, of course) the true keepers of the flame of the ethic of science. "

Go here for the entire article.

I'm arguing for an argument. An argument on how our understanding of terrorism came about. An argument on learning about terrorism in a methodologically pluralist fashion. An argument about listening to my argument and counterring it, not dismissing it as trivial because, really, that too is just another move in the game.


post-thanksgiving kung-fu fighting

Did yous know there is a channel called "Kung-fu Channel"? Well, there is.

Reading boring articles about terrorists is much more fun when there's Ronin-gai and Iron Monkey on the telly.

Why don't I have this channel at my place?


always look on the bright side of life (aka my non-Thanksgiving dinner)

The past 12 hours, in random order:

Got caught in the rain, again. Decided having an umbrella when it's raining and windy is about as useful as having an English bowler about on the first day of an Ashes test.* Had the brilliant idea of buying a bunch of flowers for my aunt**. Did. Had some random person on the train tell me: "Oh, the man who got that showed good taste". So, let me walk myself through this here:

a) girl with flowers must have had them given to her
b) girl with said flowers must have had a bloke give them to her
c) girl with flowers can be randomly talked to (at)
d) really, isn't (c) enough? I used to be intimidating once upon a time. What has happened?
e) it's a holiday. Let me be friendly and talk to random girl with flowers.

Odd. And oh-so-very non-Washingtonian. Though I did notice a lot of people were more talkative yesterday. I had to do the trek from my home, across two states (and a district) to reach my destination so I noticed the increased tendency to talk upon the part of the Washington population. I didn't enjoy it much.

But, on to the main course of this post. My dinner. I believe most PTSD readers (or those who know me IRL) are aware I spend my holidays looking after people's houses or pets while said people jet off elsewhere. This time, it's a familiar place--same one as last Thanksgiving--and a familiar pet--a rather grumpy but quite enjoyable cocker spaniel. The family's from Nepal but has been living here about 30 years. Through my time here, they have frequently fed (and sometimes even housed) me.

Dinner last night consisted of:

Rice: Proper, white, fluffy rice.

Daal: Yellow daal, with some moong beans added. And jhaneko. Not quite sure what that is, in English, but it's when you heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter, put spices and suchlike (especially jimbu***) and then add it to the daal. It makes it all taste better.

Gundruk: This was the best part. It reminded me of home, cold winter evenings and eating gundruk and rice while watching bad shows (This is my family we are talking of--think Star Trek, Doctor Who or Dad's Army or the latest sports, no matter what that may be) on television.
I'm not quite sure how gundruk can be described. Oh, thank you Google. Read here for a (almost academic, no less!) description. And, yes, my family tries**** this at home.

This is how my lot do it (with comments added):

"The leaves (of any plant, really, but mostly radish and cauliflower or anything spinach-like) are beaten with a wooden hammer or a large stick (a good sight to see--grown-ups beating up small, defenceless, dead plants with sticks), and then squeezed to remove moisture. The residue is pressed into an earthenware vessel or bamboo basket, and then placed in a sunny spot until it starts to smell salty (a very intersubjective notion this. There's always a lot of discussion about when exactly things start to "smell salty" with debates about temperature, timing and the lunar shape. Fun stuff. Often, the oldest person summarily decides the plants have been left out for long enough and the discussion ends right there.)."

The next item on the menu was golbhedako achar (tomato pickle) but with tito (bitter) karelo added. This latter item is a Nepali veggie*****--we happen to have it growing in our back yard--which is very much an acquired taste as it's extremely bitter and quite often leads to much coughing and choking******. Yet, Nepali folk not only eat it at home but (from last night's evidence) search for it when halfway across the world. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about Nepalis, then I don't know what would.

Finally, saag. Or, spinach. But, not like how Giant conceives of spinach but basically a bunch of green leafy veggies cooked together. One is never quite sure what one is eating when having saag.

Today, while those of yous here in the USA eat turkeys and stuffing and green bean casseroles (if you happen to be hanging out with E), I have entered my hermit phase. I have opened up the file I have to work on, said goodbye to the family as they jet off to Florida for a week, made sure the dog is still alive and about and been quite thankful about all sorts of things. I have leftover gundruk, rice and my uncle's version of the Great American Tradition--ground turkey meat, fried with onions and garlic because "you have to have some turkey today, Priya"-- to keep me going for the next few days.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. I guess the foods are different for some of us but I do hope all of yous are having fun (and eating well).

* Yes, well, I know it's only the first day. I do hope things don't improve for the English though.

** One of my Bostonian resolutions was to think "what would a regular person do?" at odd moments and try do that. I think people who visit people usually take stuff there. I never did before--just showed up and smiled and ate and then played on my computer. This time, roses. Roses, mates. My aunt was well-pleased, which shows how lax I have been in the normal social niceties of life. PTSD has to remain hidden from my Mum or else she will be confirmed in her opinion that she's raised a "jangali" ("wild" in the sense of being at home in a jungle--usually allied with "bhoot" which then becomes the much more fun phrase "jangali bhoot" or "wild ghost". Often used to slag off people with little or no evidence of ever having been taught manners--rather like me, in fact).

*** My father, the forester, tells me jimbu is a "perennial herb found in high altitudes, usually over 3500 metres, in Nepal, Tibet and India". It looks like small pieces of wood, chipped off a tree by a woodpecker.

**** Tries but doesn't always succeed. Thankfully, gundruk is easily found in shops or acquired through means which involve dodgy blokes popping up at 5am to slide a jar of gundruk over the wall of the house. This then leads to discussions over which gundruk (cauliflower? radish? or something different?) is better.

***** I have been told it is found in other parts of South and Southeast Asia as well but apparently the Nepali variety is much more bitter (and hence, called "Nepali" karela by our Southern neighbours) and considered to be uneatable by all except Nepalis.

****** For those of you with this experience, think of slathering vegemite on toast and eating that. It is a very similar feeling.


Like a zero in nothingness, I disappeared*

But, before I did that, I said "hurrah" for this:

The bloke on the left of us is the Prime Minister, nattily attired in Nepali gear. Those hats? They are made of special cloth and the really good ones can only be found in Bhaktapur (and I know this because my siblings and I once shopped for one for my Dad).

The bloke in the nifty grey/blue ("Western") suit (with an open collar, probably signifying his willingness to hang out with the Proletariat as well as his casual disdain for those oh-so-formal Nepali gear**) is Prachanda, the leader of the Maoists.

The event? The signing of the peace accords, ending the decade-long conflict. Something worth giving thanks for.

* Umm...no, it doesn't make much sense to me either but then I'm fairly thick (and a bad translator of literary Nepali). The rest of the poem is along similar lines. It was written by one of the (many) Nepali "great poets" and seems to be about nothingness and peace. There's been a lot of the former and not much of the latter around there lately.

** Nepali gear comes with a lot of ribbons. There are ribbons on either side of a double-breasted tunic-like top and ribbons around the top of the trousers. Presumably, Nepali trouser-makers have yet to discover the benefits of elastic. If yous are really keen on reading more, go here--not just Nepali gear but the gear of our friendly neighbours in the region are explained.


Someone's at the door!

1. The USPS won't deliver my packages because they're Canadian. The packages, not the postal service. I want to complain, but I'm afraid they'll start throwing my stuff down the stairs. Again.

2. Twitch City is actually better than I remembered. My love for this show, which is completely insane and scarily brilliant, cannot be expressed. Seriously, the Job Wheel. That alone is totally worth the shipping and the effort of finding the post office and standing in line and the initial waiting--three months for the dvds to be announced and then delayed and then delayed again before they were released.

"Hey Curtis, what's up?"
"I slept with my mother."
"Oh? Great."

"It's beyond the realm of conventional cleaning. It needs a colonic intervention."

"Frooty-O's are not cat food."
"She likes them."
"She does not like them. The bowl is full, and even if she did, even if she loved them, even if she ate them every day, she would die within a week because this crap has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever."
"Yeah, but they taste good."
"They're not life-sustaining, Curtis. Technically, they're not even food!"

"The job wheel is our friend."

"Hey, schoolboy! Can you spell Mississauga, schoolboy? M-I-S-S-I-S-S-A-U-G-A!"

"Well, why do you sell it if it tortures the cats?"
"Hey to break it to you, man, but we're not exactly a health food store. For cats."
*character stomps out*
"Say hi to Squirtis. Freak."

And then it gets weird.

"I need help!"
"No refunds, man."
"I need a phone!"
"I think I killed someone!"
"Well, you just keep that outside."

"Are you trying to scare me?"
"No, actually, I'm trying to flirt with you."

"He came in, he was all agitated, all he wanted was three cans of catfood. You know, I tried to warn him against it, but he was...too crazy. He wouldn't listen. He wouldn't listen."

So. Much. Love.

3. Everyone else at the grocery was buying salads and tofurkey. My cart looked like a bomb went off at an LWML potluck.

4. I can't find my nanaimo bar recipe. I've looked everywhere, and I can't for the life of me figure out where it went. I know I had it, but I haven't used it in a while and it's not where I should have left it.

5. The local grocery does not carry black walnuts. Not only that, but they don't seem to know that there's a difference between black walnuts and regular walnuts. This does not bode well for the rest of my holiday preparations.


Pineapple Almond Cookies

My dvds of Twitch City are sitting at the post office* waiting for me to come get them.** I am strong, though, and in no way obsessing over the delayed opportunity to watch one of the best self-referential pop culture events ever in a format other than a digital rip of a third generation VHS copy.

I am not rushing over to pick them up right this instant.

I'm not. I'm sitting right here, not working on editing a paper that needs to be sent to Weberman because I may have volunteered to talk about it. And listening to the Headstones.***

Of course, had I not gone to campus yesterday, the USPS would have given me my dvds and I could be watching Curtis, Nathan, Hope, and Newbie right now. But I'm not bitter. No, suffering is good for the soul or something.****

* I live in a fairly nice area, so I don't understand why the Canadians insist on me signing for all my packages. Amazon.com has no qualms about leaving stuff on my doorstep, so why is Amazon.ca trying to ruin my life?

** At least, they should be. I've had one threat that someone was going to drive up from Texas, break in, and steal them. I think she was kidding, but with 6 degrees fans, who can tell?

*** And you thought I'd forgotten about my efforts to convert the world to the wonders of Hugh Dillon. Fat chance.

**** Priya, I think, might disagree.

something's gone wrong again

In real life, I've somehow managed to do something that is fairly large on the scale of things not to do. It was inadvertent. It was unintentional. But, then, that's what we all say, isn't it? I mean, have you ever heard of somebody who had a spectacular cock up and then confessed it was all their fault? Well, if you have, then you, dear PTSD reader, are a better (wo)man than I am.

The point is that an object of great value is ruined. Well, not utterly ruined but ruined to the extent that it shouldn't have been ruined. A look at the object itself (and it is right by my computer as I type) shows that it looks rather like Dylan Thomas, after a long night out carousing in the Mumbles--raffish and slightly dissipated but still capable of witty conversation and wry self criticisms. You can still engage it in debate but I doubt you'd want to look at it while you were doing so.

The worst part? It's not mine. Yes, some objects of mine were also adjacent to said object and suffered from the same (if not worse) damage. They have all emerged with a slightly yellowish cast to their facade, as though they were hanging out with Conrad's folks in the Heart of Darkness and contracted jaundice while they were wandering about in the jungles. But, overall, they do not matter. They are mine, to do as I will. Not that I willed this torrential downpour. Oh no. I didn't. But, you see what I mean.

It would have to happen on the one day the weather here in Washington, DC decided to become tropical. It rained. It rained some more. And then, it kept on raining. I had an umbrella. It was about as much use as a paper towel. Of course, it was also the day that people drove about as though they were Michael Schumacher. Don't get me wrong--I'm all in favour of driving through water pools. It is fun to do so. But, not when I happen to be the person walking on the pavement or trying to cross various streets.

The upshot? Well, you read about that already. I've tried Lance-Corporal Jones' dictum but it's not working, I don't have money to fly to the US Virgin Islands (the only place, barring home, I wouldn't need a visa to go to) and I haven't got the balls (in all senses of the term) to confess in person.

So, yous get this.


for your eyes only

The next in my continuing if infrequent film reviews in hopes that PTSD readers will a) find this the lit bit interesting (doubtful) and b)ignore that neither of us has posted a "substantial post" for a while...

So, I took myself down to the local cinema today and watched the latest James Bond flick. Now, Bond's always been a staple feature of the Priya household. In between conversions to Islam (not me, personally but other members of my family-mainly for the purpose of argument), criticising the news and frequent arguments about which footy team's better, 007 forms a large part of my childhood memories. So much so that when the 1990s versions came about, I drifted into watching them anyway. After a while, they all ran together into one big film with chases, one-liners and lots of women.

This one? A ripping yarn. The storyline is fairly predictable--one would have to have the thinking capability of a blond gerbil not to be able to figure out who the baddies are and what the plan is. The actual story? Something about terrorist financing (though these "terrorists" are lurking about in the jungles of Uganda and not the usual Muslim or even Irish versions) . The main bad guy? Danish. But not in a yummy let's have one of those type of ways. Instead, Danish in the absurdly stereotypical Scandinavian fashion of being cold and emotionless and so on.

But, is there any reason to go see this flick then? *spoilers ahead*

Oh yes, two words: Daniel Craig. Fantastic upper body strength (and those Speedos, mate), good acting (the little that is needed to be a Bond) and just all around lethal meanness instead of the pretty boy charm Pierce Brosnan had got going. The type for a spy has obviously been reformulated from charm and double entendres to a very appealing combination of danger and arrogance and a lot of stupidity. This Bond could hang out with the Transporter. In fact, they probably shared the same gym, from the looks of things.

Some things, though, do not change. Bond does not cave in under pressure (even if the pressure is being applied by a rope to naked flesh, apparently. Very Lawrence-ian); Bond is cheeky to M; Bond jumps off buildings and blows things up; but Bond also is rather arrogant, makes mistakes and runs about without many clues. He misses seeing things that the rest of us, sitting out on the audience and armed with loads of other movies to draw upon, have already figured out.

In IR terms, terrorists actually play a small part in the film. I mean, they could well have been Nepali tantrics instead of Ugandan terrorists for their specific role in all of this.

The best IR moment comes when the Felix, the CIA guy, offers Bond money so he (Bond) can continue his high-stake poker match with the Baddie. Felix's condition is that the CIA should get credit for arresting the Baddie. Bond agrees and asks what about the winnings? Felix answers along the lines of "and you think we need the money?".

A sly dig at the rest of the world and an assertion of American superiority, all in one short sentence. Perfect.


where the buffaloes roam...

Four years and counting, I've lived here, and this still amuses me.

It's the Beeb, doing its best to make sense of an inexplicable situation. Some highlights (notes added):

A quick look at the leading US sports websites will tell you that Ohio State University's gridiron team host the University of Michigan's in a contest that is billed as Verdict/Judgement/Something Extremely Portentous Day (my fellow PTSD-er will probably see it in a similar fashion. As will one or two fairly-regular readers)

In a vote this week on the ESPN site, 35% said OSU v U of M was the sporting rivalry they would pay most to see.

This beat professional rivalries such as baseball's Yankees v Red Sox or the NFL's Cowboys v Redskins (no, that isn't a joke) by some margin. (I liked the "no, that it's a joke" aside. BBC reporters get to put asides in their news stories. What fun.)

But then none of those teams have sold every ticket in a 107,501-seat stadium for every home game since 1975.

And, some more:

In fact, so seriously are the Buckeyes taking this game that they have announced a "Beat Michigan Week".

One of its features is a blood donor drive, which makes me wonder what they are planning if they lose (well, if E's stories are any hint, blood is the least of what people are willing to give up. Furniture, cars, shopfront windows. Hey--maybe they should have a "protect property" training session too. Or, maybe they already do).

After all, the rivalry is thought to stem from the Toledo War - not a US soccer franchise, but a 19th-century border dispute between these two Midwest states - and their games in the 1970s are often referred to as the "Ten-Year War".

And this:

Despite being strictly amateur, US college sport, on the other hand, is very competitive and often very good (yes, with lots of money involved too).

In the top games there is usually a strong chance that many of the players will be performing elaborate celebrations for an NFL or NBA team in the not-too-distant future.

In the UK, most people who are actually any good at sport would not get anywhere near university, even if it was just to study - but not necessarily pass - a degree in "communications".
(Now, that's just harsh. Imagine what some top footy players could have done with a degree in communications--even without the quotation marks).

There's a bit at the end contrasting US college sports with British--banal nationalisms and all that, what?


inspect it with your perfect ways until it burns your eyes

Foundational information for this particular IM transcript:

1. It always rains in Georgetown. Today, it was also pouring buckets everywhere else in the two-states-and-an-unrepresented-federal-district area.

2. Zizek is a central part of the paper under discussion.

3. It is made of portions of a dissertation in progress.

4. Overall, we’re not talking about the same magnitude of annoyance as, say, the last Culture Workshop. At least, I’m not. Perhaps other people were equally annoyed.

5. The first example the Author used for a metaphor was actually a simile.

6. Did I mention that it was raining? Rain being rain, whether you call it rain or not.

Right, then here goes.

We join our Culture Workshop already in progress. Weberman has just sidestepped a potential mishap by clarifying his terms. Sort of. Whatever he did, he got away with it, because I was preocupied with a smudge on my sleeve. It was a very big smudge.

WM: oops

E: you caught it, at least.

WM: true

[Insert the first of many mentions of Barry Buzan and his happy helpers.]

E: I'm assuming that's "systems theory" loosely defined.

WM: indeed
» IR "systems theory"
» = bad structural-functionalism

E: good, bc "dysfunctional" systems = BAD

WM: …unless you're Parsons

E: which no one is, except Parsons, who isn't publishing anymore.

WM: tell that to IR scholars

[FTMD asks so what. Author repeats his claims about the need for rehabilitation of the English School.]

E: okay, fine, this is why the English school has a problem. But that doesn't answer the "so what," really.

WM: no. I had this discussion with him earlier.

[FTMD gives up on “so what” and moves on to other things.]

E: "sympathetic disciplinary move" would be like "I'm grounding you, but I don't like it, and it's for your own good"?

WM: kind of…

[Representative Realist Policy Guy™ points out an analogy between cases v. theory and exercise machines. It’s a much better metaphor than it sounds. No, really.

FTMD runs away with the discussion for a while, in the face of rather glazed expressions around the table.]

» I am very tired
» hard to focus
» boy, we're all tired today

E: rain makes people tired.

WM: Someone Else said the same thing
» a few minutes ago

[Reference with slightly derogatory connotation is made to the existence of “people who like numbers.” Once it becomes clear that he means numbers, rather than Numb3rs, I find myself offended because I’ve been singled out as representing such a group of people.

WM is similarly offended, because he hasn’t been singled out, what with being a former math major and all.

Of course, this was in no way a disciplining move based on the participants in the discussion—five men and me. Don’t be silly, Loyal Reader. Such things do not happen in the realm of academic theory.]

E: do you think we'll get back to the idea of time and being--I want to talk about ser vs. estar in naming characteristics.
» the whole naming over time / change argument is only an issue in English

WM: yes, good point

E: well, no, that's not quite it. it's more that it's a completely different question

WM: but it's also a problem in German
» because there's only one verb to be

[Are notions of identity, community, and society teleological stages? Analytic stages? Rocket stages? Stages in the Round?]

E: gosh, it's like community and society identities are in a feedback loop

WM: or a dialectical relationship

E: either way, they're not stages of anything
» strike that--they're not temporal stages in a teleological sense. If that makes any sense.

WM: they're not sequential

[Rather jarring bit of conscription into the conversation, followed by a discussion of the possibility that maybe, in an ideal (in the normative sense, not the Weberian sense) world, it might be a good thought to acknowledge that this particular issue of naming has some linguistic context—see above, under “my Spanish sucks but here’s the thing…”]

WM: she shoots -- she scores! [Which is totally not true, by the way. But at least I was persistent in my claim. The more someone tries to tell me what I’ve said, the more I’m inclined to argue the point. I have no idea where I get that from.]

[There is a glancing mention of the perennial hard science truth vs. social science truth false dichotomy. Also, some talk of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

WM and FTMD begin to argue intensely. Again. Everyone else looks on. I stifle the urge to ask them not to fight in front of the children, because it makes us nervous. What’ll we do if they break up? We’ll have to go become statisticians.]

E: sts studies might be helpful, actually

[The Author states that he might need to add some case study “fluffiness” to the theoretical discussion. Cue eyebrow lift, skeptical squint, and rapid typing.]

E: yeah, no normative claim in the term fluffiness

WM: and no gendering there either

E: this is clearly my fault for wearing pink

WM: oh, obviously

E: I've gendered the discussion with my girliness

WM: well, look around -- it has to be your fault

E: my very identity is queering the manliness of this chapter

[This may be the point where the subtextual discussion began to intrude on the text of the conversation. Snickering while typing furiously does tend to do that.]

WM: that kind of dispensing that isn't, say, dispensing

[Reference is made to the fact that, as a grad student, there was more time and inclination to read long, complicated explications of theory without analytic grounding. Or something—to be honest, my eyes were starting to cross by this point.]

E: so now we've got gender and academic position. Nice hierarchy we've got going on.

WM: don't we always?

*end transcript*

24-hour party people (or, Elizabeth and I)

IM-ing between the PTSD members late night on Wednesday. Liberties have been taken with Withnail and I and with the actual chat

I: We're out of time, we're out of time! Oh, it's a nightmare!! We're out of time.

Elizabeth: There's two hours to go.

I: No, it's only 1.5 hours now. Oh my God. I don't feel good. My toes have gone weird.

Elizabeth: Do we have all the papers?

I: I can't think. My brain's dead. Even deader than it usually is and that is quite a feat. Oh and I have to write a lecture on genealogy. How do I explain a genealogy to undergrads? Bloody Foucault.

Elizabeth: Ok.

I: Please send it. Please. I owe you a $5 bottle of sherry. I just ran out of wine. What will we do? There's no time. Why don't we do this earlier?

Elizabeth: I will get back to you after I have sorted out the papers and seen if I can organise them into two panels. I'll send it to you before I send it off.

I: It's too late. I feel dreadful. Really, I do.

Elizabeth: Everybody does.

I: And you're sure nobody else answered emails? Did we even send any more? Why didn't we think of this earlier?

Elizabeth: I'm going to socially-construct you out of existence

Earlier in the day...outside the PhD Office at TUWSNBN...

Elizabeth: So, it's decided. We'll be punk rock IR chicks.

I: I don't know if I can pull that off. I like punk rock but was never an anything chick. I used to live in the basement of my high school and my brother was the chess player.

GS would make a great punk rock IR chick though.

And, a bit later. E's talking about fairly serious stuff. We are having a discussion of how being an off-centre IR chick feels like in the IR world...or something like that. I should really be writing my lecture (see above for result) but am enjoying this too much.

E: What are you laughing at?

I: This is Monty Python.

Elizabeth: What is?

I: The castle. It's the castle.

Both (at various points): "...silly English kniggets"..."your mother was a hamster and your father was [E corrected it to "smelt"] of elderberries"...

So, there you have it.


from washington to boston (and back)

E's already given yous a picture of how things were at the SmallRegionalConference. Let me now contribute my bit:

I've become a transportation snob to the extent that I don't want to ride around on Greyhound anymore. I remember a time when I spent 14 days, off and on the bus, making my way around the American South. Not any more. I took the train up and back.

At least the train inspectors don't make me move aside and stand around, in bare feet, while they go root through my bags. That always happens to me when I'm taking the plane. I wonder why? It's not like I look dodgy, is it?

Being able to stay in a marvellous apartment with books and CDs lining the walls. Even the loo had a huge bookshelf (and a glass roof). I was tempted to linger in the loo. And, there were comics! Tintin comics! And plants everywhere! I have a crush on an apartment.

The conference itself was not much different to other conferences--people grouped up, schmoozed (a new term I picked up) and hung out with their mates. I didn't hang around there too much--I didn't network, though I did hang out with different groups of TUWSNBN people; I worried about life back in DC (and didn't get into the Conference-ing mode); I wandered about in jeans and t-shirt (seriously, I think the whole "wear clothes to impress" doesn't really work. I have already decided that, since I suck at networking, the likelihood of my getting a job by impressing people with my clothes is about as likely as Liverpool winning the League this year); I did notice (and, really, it was rather obvious) that there weren't many Asian people about, especially not Asian women. I doubt that's much of a comparative advantage though. It's just a bit odd as this was apparently the biggest SmallRegionalConference and, yet, it seemed to have many of the same people it had last year. And the year before.

I also decided that potentially scary senior academics become lot more fun when they are debating intricate issues in Doctor Who. And the Dalek and the cats was a fantastic picture.

The rest of the time? Well, Boston is a proper nice city--easily walked around in and with loads of fun things to do. I participated (and interviewed, mainly because I find that calling something "research" helps me get out and talk to people) in a demonstration calling for rights to civil marriage for everyone and in the Veterans' day march. The latter was even more entertaining because the leader for "Veterans for Peace" asked me if I could speak at their next meeting.*

I bought 13 books, which I then had to lug home from the Metro station at 2am on Sunday morning (the train, as usual, was late). I bought a brilliant poster, of an obscure 1950s movie called "Hell Squad" which, despite its name, has got nothing to do with the Devil's minions in the religious sense but seems to be about fighting in the desert (there are men in uniform, big guns and sun and sand, all on one poster!). I bought a new button for my rucksack and loads of cheap CDs (and was lectured about something called "Bitrot" by my host, who was taking me about town, when I mentioned that, perhaps, I could get most of my music off the Web).

The best bit: the (extra) towel left for me at the flat when I first walked in. Really, I can't believe I left home without a towel. After all, everyone knows it's the most useful thing to have about during a crisis. It's a good thing no interstellar highways were being built right then.

* Of course, I said no and pointed out that it's rather daft to ask someone, just because they are from a certain country, to speak about pretty serious matters like non-violence and war. This whole thing goes back to my ongoing observation that people here, in general, seem to reckon that just because you are from a certain geographical area, you should automatically be an authority on what is going on there. Perhaps it's time to start saying I am from the Maldives. Or Vanuatu. Or, the land far far away. Or, just talk about the obscure Nepali methods of peace-making. I'm sure there are some. Otherwise, I could always invent a few.

rubber duckie, you're the one

Lessons learned from Sunday morning:

1. Do not wear a t-shirt that reads STONED to fly home from a conference.
2. Do not wear said t-shirt along with a big black leather coat that makes you look like Silent Bob.
3. Do not wear the coat and carry a bag full of papers about pop culture, infectious disease, and bioterrorism.
4. Do not carry the papers in the same bag as a rubber duck dressed as a character from BSG.
5. Do not pull out your laptop (the one with stickers plastered all over the back of the screen suggesting that you have very little respect for authority) and place it in the tray next to the bag with the duck in it.
6. Do not, under any circumstances, laugh when the TSA lady says, "Are you high right now?"
7. Do thank the nice lady when she decides, after careful and lengthy thought, not to make you open all of your bags and sit through a full search of everything you've brought along.


Conference notes, part the second

For Veterans Day I was going to give you a poem, but instead of Rupert Brooke, here’s some conference snark, complete with typos from trying to write while balancing the computer on one knee. Enjoy.


In general:

Dear academic-type-people,

Please don’t spend fifteen minutes telling us “what this paper argues.” Just make the argument. Don’t apologize for what you’ve left out of your presentation. Everyone leaves stuff out; 30 pages of text contain more information than a panel slot can hold. Don’t explain how long a discussion about your paper should really take. Just make the argument, tell the story, demand that we think about your topic, say we’re all wrong because we aren’t looking at it right.

And please, please, for the love of little green apples, stop stating all the subheadings in your outline. Think of it as performance, and your paper is the script. “Exuent, pursued by bear” is the part you don’t let the audience hear. Stop it. It’s annoying, and it takes time away from the actual “isn’t this awesome, my research is so kewl” point of the exercise.

Also, it’s a good idea to lift your gaze from the page to look at the people in the audience. You don’t have to do it all the time, but an acknowledgement that there are other people in the room is a nice touch. Just a thought.

Thanks. Can’t wait till next year,



The specifics:

IR Theory is, apparently, about Hegel and feminism. Or something. Not that Hegel was a feminist, just that the papers were about one or the other.

And not that there were any women on the actual panel. Or very many in the audience. But still, I suppose it’s the thought that counts.

Random quotes:

“Hegel the economist we like, Hegel the racist not so much.”

“The UK is not really the happy fun time for feminists that they think they are.”

In response to a challenge for work that connects statements about Hegel’s influence to some sort of documentation of said influence: “It’s a good book, I like that book, but [colleague] and I aren’t going to write that book.”

And my knee-jerk (as in scribbled in shorthand in the margins of the program) reaction to a subset of the discussion: by making assumptions that in referencing Derrida we speak a language the public can’t understand, we make two mistakes. First, we vastly underestimate the public and the capacity it has to process what we’re saying and how we say it. And second, if that’s really what we think, then perhaps the responsibility to understand how to communicate with the public is ours, and any effort to engage with public intellectuals should be placed in that context. Basically, I’m not sure whether the critical approach is all that useful in this particular conversation.


The Regional Conference version of the Friar’s Club Roast only works if people are willing to really critique the work they’re talking about. Having a room full of people afraid to speak up is worse than having a heated discussion of a work that’s good, but has some flaws. I find it hard to believe that a book in progress really had no flaws that the discussants could tease out to start the audience talking.

Also, I’m not sure that call and response is the best model for this sort of thing. Maybe the audience ought to be allowed to talk to each other? I think it’s an idea worth considering.


Academics at a conference reception are like college kids at the dorkiest kegger ever.

I’m not saying it isn’t fun. I’m just saying that the conversations I caught were pretty good evidence that the discipline is made up largely of those of us who spent a lot of high school stuffed in a gym locker, and now drink to try and blot out the memories.

Seriously, there’s a reason we have our own little conferences at which the policy folks and the public are not welcome. It’s because we don’t want people we don’t know to point and laugh.

I enjoy standing on the edges and laughing. It’s not polite to point, but I bet that’s fun, too.


Last night at the bar we finally found (after wandering around following Theory Guy, of all people) a bar with okay food—not great food, but not horrid—cheap beer, and a band. Named the Bumpin’ Uglies. (No, really. It’s the second-best band name ever.) Who sang the traditional bar band cover songs, but added a halfway decent version of “Brian Wilson” that made me happy.

Some people refuse to get into the proper spirit of these things. Who doesn’t love a bunch of guys who probably hang out in someone’s basement practicing for a weekly gig? (Of course, it’ll probably turn out that they’re some famous-for-Boston group that was out slumming for the tourists.)

Still, it was fun. No mingling with people from other places (I know, I’m a bad grad student who sucks at networking) but a good couple of hours to decompress a little and just relax that tension that floats through the air at the conference proper.


This morning’s panel (the first one I managed to drag myself out of bed for) started out with an AU person handing out papers and buttons (buttons!) to the audience. The rest of the panel wasn’t quite sure what to do with him. The political campaign mode of expression makes academics twitchy.

But it’s fun to watch.


The only public health panel in the conference was the last day, in the last room at the end of a hallway, literally as far from the center of activities as possible. Scheduled against one of the few development panels. There were four people in the audience and seven on the panel.

I find this seriously depressing, but don’t know what to do about it.

So I’m shoehorning my public health stuff into panels that people do attend—like ones on popular culture, or identity construction, or security. I’m like subliminal messaging with spiky hair and a leather coat.

I really wish I had a better idea.


The State of the Discipline? From the sounds of it, we’re all fucked, but we can still laugh at ourselves. I have a shiny new academic crush, on a guy who did a groundhog impression while presenting at a roundtable. Apologized for committing social science, and said he was like Timothy Leary and would try neo-behavioralism.

“I thought if we could count it, they would have done it at Michigan long ago. But I was wrong.”

Lucky for me he’s a world systems theorist, so I can embrace his approach to the discipline with very little cognitive dissonance. So, yay.

The discussant dropped the bomb of Hegelian dialectic on the disciplinary angst.


Fine, it’s an imagined analytical community. And we’re all sitting around, working in a much larger vacuum than we like to admit.

So let’s change it. Let’s hook the word processors up to the fucking internet and talk to each other. If high school girls can beta read, why can’t academics?

Come on, people. Stop whining and start writing. Eventually *somebody* has to get published.


And finally, if I never hear the word hegemony again it’ll be too soon. Really, can’t we please talk about something else? Anything else?


Regional Conference notes, Day One

1. Pop culture panels are the best. They rock. Even the bad ones are better than most other panels.

1a. I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever felt the need to give a spoiler warning for a paper presentation.

1b. Time from the start of the Q&A period to the first mention of pedagogy? 1.5 questions.

1c. I did not talk about "New Earth" in the paper, because I wanted to focus on security and public health. I'm still not sure how it fits with my thesis, but when I revise I'll have to think about bringing it into the discussion.

1d. My favorite audience comment was on the problem of regressive politics in the health-related portions of Doctor Who.

Followed closely by the problems of teaching with Torchwood, which is much more overtly political and non-progressive, and yet also more likely to deal with questions of identity and security.

And the bits about whether a professor is needed for students to figure out that BSG is really all about contemporary politics.

And the part with the Daleks being defeated by kittens.

I repeat, pop culture panels rock. As in, they rock.

2. My cell phone is evil and hates me. The feeling is mutual.

3. After Priya ditched to go hang out in her nifty borrowed apartment, we found a fantastic coffeehouse (after the thing with the restaurant which was just weird) and sat and talked while not really mingling. Still not sure how much you're supposed to tip the wandering accordian player.

4. Cobblestones + high heeled boots + dark = Me wearing my brace for the rest of the week. Yay.

5. I love Boston. Why in the world did I move to DC?


the dealing's done this thing is stacked

My contribution to the whole Election Day hysteria isn't nearly as detailed as Priya's, but for what it's worth:

I find it deeply weird to be related to someone running for Congress. S doesn't. He thinks it's cool to watch her vote counts.

Don't get excited, Loyal Reader. My sister-in-law is a libertarian in Indiana. According to S's brother, all they're getting is a higher class of junk mail.

Still, it makes the whole thing a little more interesting. Especially when CNN reports that half the voting machines in the district weren't turned on all morning because the volunteers didn't know how to work them.

For my part, I learned today that if your identification doesn't match the name on the voter rolls (if, for instance, you changed your name and they didn't process that change for a reason that the question-answering people can't fully explain) the folks at the polling station are disinclined to record your vote.

Good to know.

If a hungry cannibal cracked my brain open,...

...there wouldn't be enough there to cover a small water-biscuit.*

It occurs to me that, as a supposedly academic blogger, both E and I should have something to contribute upon the ongoing elections. So, here you have it. My contribution to the 2006 elections:

Baldy: I have a cunning plan, my Lord. I shall say slag off the troops currently fighting overseas and will not mention the phrase “our brave men and women in uniform”.

Edward: Good plan, Baldy. That should help us win back…wait. Wait..what did you say? Baldy?

(and...in another part of the marvellous country, a country where heads of state played tiddlywinks with their favourite advisors and called their senior advisors “Guru” and “Boy Genius”)

King: What about this man down there? Does he know what he’s doing? Can we say he was just playing around with his mate?

Edwin: I think we should phrase it this way, my Lord: Without fornication, there is no marriage; and without marriage, there is no diplomacy and, as we all know, we are now fighting a war on terror. We need diplomacy for that. Our man down there was just helping the cause because, if you don’t vote for us, you are casting a vote for the terrorists.

Also, there a numerous doe-eyed females in his congregation. He was doing his duty to not disappoint them by claiming to fancy the company of men.

King: Oh, but so do I. Note whom I have around me—men and women who appear to be as men.

Edwin: No, no, my Lord. I mean, the…you know intimate company of men.

King: You don’t mean…like the Rev?

Edwin: Yes, my Lord. Actually, that’s where I came in on this conversation.

King: Good job, Edwin. Now, the second item on our list. How do we win this global war on terror?

Edwin: Well, my Lord, I hear Rummy wants to move his WMD Cabinet closer to Pyongyang, as a diversion. Also, it’d be good to give some arms to those people since they obviously can’t hit their target and neither can he so maybe he can lead the charge?

King: We did get the BigEvilOne’s verdict in time. I can’t believe I had to spend nearly seven hours playing Xbox 360 for that timing to work.

And why are they still shooting at us, over in Persia? Just because we took a few shots at them first…I thought they would be happy to see us.

Edwin: I believe it’s called Iraq, now, my Lord.

King: Whatever.

(abruptly curtailed as I have to go perform to earn money for my keep)

* Yes, nicked off Blackadder. As is most of the rest of this post. Some liberties were taken--upon the alphabet, not upon any persons.


to determine where you are

Last week in random numbers:

7 hour train delay
23 stores
4 neighborhoods
6 museums
3 days of visitors
5 loads of laundry washed
8 books purchased
4 books read
2 Tragically Hip and
3 Manic Street Preachers albums imported
903 songs loaded onto the iPod
8571 NaNo words written
4 blog posts begun
2 blog posts submitted
9 pages of Doctor Who paper revision
13 episodes of television
3 haircuts


working for the man every night and day

Both halves of PTSD have been on a bit of a hiatus lately but I, for one, am back. Small Regional Conference awaits next week, my paper for it remains ready to be typed out on my way up there and, oh, should I mention to my Chair that I have not only changed the title of my paper but that I'm going to give the discussant an entirely new paper, one which bears no resemblance to whatever I wrote in the abstract? Probably not and the discussant, being a seasoned IR-type, should be used to this type of thing, I suppose.

However, that's not the subject of my post for today. I want to talk about a film I just saw--Flushed Away. As with most Aardman productions, it was laden with beautiful detail and, of course, it was all about nationalism(s). Someday I want to write about the constructions of identity in Aardman films as compared to Disney but, for now, this will have to suffice. Due to a serious sleep deficiency, I am even less coherent than usual*, so here are some thoughts in no particular order):

The sly commentary of the casting of an Australian (Hugh Jackman) as the voice of the very posh English rat, Roddy. I can only think it was a (rather pointed) dig at England especially when, just before the final climax, Roddy starts the mayhem by saying "England's winning! Anything's possible!!"

The anti-monarchist sentiments that are quite obvious in Doctor Who** were also evident here. The main villain, brilliantly played by Sir Ian McKellan was a formerly-beloved pet toad flushed down the toilet by Prince Charles.

The construction of American national identity as depicted by a loud, obnoxious tourist couple(E, the man came complete with a Hawaiian shirt and camera and hat), a toy soldier whose lines included "Come and get me, enemy of freedom"*** and numerous excellent songs, including the one from which the title of this post was taken.

The French as suave and sophisticated (and with Jean Reno playing "Le Frog", what else could they be?) but also drawing upon (English) stereotypes--the French take five hours to eat their food and at one point when told to "get into action", Le Frog's henchmen (henchfrogs?) drop their weapons and surrender.

The English as obsessed with football (the plot hinges on potential chaos during the World Cup final, where England and Germany face each other) but also losing matches on penalties***. The class-division of Roddy's posh accents contrasted with the Cockney accents of the sewer rats (though Hugh Jackman's accent often slipped into Australian, especially when saying words like "permission"). The recurring trope of the plucky little hero(ine) overcoming adversity and helping out her family and the (lonely) hero who is wealthy but has no friends or family to hang out with are both present and accounted for.

Before I forget: an example of the attention to detail--there's a cockroach who lives behind the stove in the heroine's family's kitchen. When on screen, it is shown reading Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

I do have more I could write about the constructions of (national) identity but I shall probably revisit this theme when I go watch the latest version of James Bond in a couple of weeks' time so yous will have to wait till then.

* Though I did finish the paper I'd socially-constructed out of existence for the past few weeks. The thing about social construction is that it is quite useful when one is examining how the world works but not as useful when trying to ignore something.

** Maybe in a tribute to 2006's Tooth and Claw, Le Frog had a cohort of French ninja frogs to help him in his dastardly deeds. From Scottish ninjas to French ninja (frogs).

*** Which, in itself was quite brilliant as I'd just spent the previous few hours writing about construction of "terrorist enemy" as the biggest threat faced by the "United States and the global community today". In case yous are interested, the toy soldier has his battery taken out (and falls silent). I shall leave yous to interpret that any way you see fit.

**** After having led Germany 4-1 at half time, during which point I was starting to think this was getting rather heavy-handed in addition to being very much wishful thinking, there's a scene at the end of the film of a newpaper headline with "England lose on penalties" prominently displayed on its front page. Things are back to normal, at that point (so the world and England are back on track).


bring on the dancing horses

A couple of days ago I decided, when my network thingy at home decided it would go on strike, that I would let it. Instead of appeasement (reserved for wimps like interwar politicians and those-who-let-the-IRA-run riot), I would try ignoring it. So I did.

E, apart from writing her latest novel, has family visiting. Hence, PTSD postings are likely to be quite sparse in the days ahead. I do have a few things to report on, about my latest class, but those will have to wait until next time.

In the meantime, go watch Borat, come hang out at the DC Utd match (and, if you've an extra ticket, think of donating it to a good cause--me) and enjoy headlines like this:

"Arsenal offer Mao trial" (Full story here)

Arsenal's well-known for their manager's penchant not to see any wrongdoing (fouls and suchlike) on the part of his players, but isn't this taking things a bit too far?


NaNoWriMo update

2673 words down, 47327 to go.

And I avoided saying anything to the reporter that might possibly get quoted in any part of the article he was working on. And sat across from someone who specifically asked not to be photographed. Yay me!

I'll just go back to working on my paper for the Regional Conference now.