tokyo storm warning

Yes, I know E tries to keep television stuff off PTSD but since she's away for a week or so, I get to take over.

Here're the Hugo Award nominees for this year. But, like me, I know yous are only interested in this*


1. Battlestar Galactica: "Downloaded" (Writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. Directed by Jeff Woolnough. NBC Universal/British Sky.)

2. Doctor Who: "School Reunion" (Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by James Hawes. BBC Wales/BBC1.)

3. Doctor Who: "Army of Ghosts and Doomsday" (Written by Russell T. Davies. Directed by Graeme Harper. BBC Wales/BBC1.)

4. Doctor Who: "Girl in the Fireplace" (Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Euros Lyn. BBC Wales/BBC1.)

5. Stargate SG-1: "200" (Written by Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Carl Binder, Martin Gero, and Alan McCullough. Directed by Martin Wood. Double Secret Productions/NBC Universal.)

Fingers crossed for "The Girl in the Fireplace" on my part. Yes, I enjoyed "School Reunion" but that was more for nostalgic reasons than for a coherent plotline. The final two-parter tried to do too many things all at once (did we really need Cybermen and Daleks there? And the ending normalised the often-confusing and always-entertaining world the Doctor usually lives in. Not a good ending at all, I reckoned).

I've never seen Stargate SG-1 and yous know my feelings for BSG.**

* I'm assuming you are interested.

** Though it perked up a bit in the final episodes of this season. It's just that it's oh-so-predictable and, often, rather full of itself.

living in a (dis)connected world

It's social networks day for my class tomorrow and I fear it will be time for them to go to sleep while I ramble on about ties and nodes and centrality. The thing about SNA is that, while I've found it fairly useful and am well-aware that it is one of the "cool" fields in terrorism studies these days, I find it difficult to muster up enthusiasm for it unless I'm the one doing it. I guess this can be said of many research styles but SNA more than most.

If I'd been more prepared, I'd have asked my kids to do this:

An experiment in which they replicate one of the original social networks activities. Ask them to send emails to someone they knew and so on until they reach the target. This person's chosen someone in Fargo*.

I was thinking this would be a great idea and then other thoughts came into being. Would I have to restrict the target to within the United States? If I picked people I knew, then my target would have to be someone overseas.

And then it occurred to me. I actually do not know anyone who doesn't live in Washington, DC. Well, apart from LilSis2 but she's family. Apart from her, I know no one in this great country who I could pick as a target. No one.

After four years here, that's a sobering reflection. At that time in Australia, I knew people in all the states (and territories). I'd stayed in some of their houses. But here, nope. None.

* And I've seen the film so I knew where it is.


and although this is a fight i can lose

A list, because I'm a lazy blogger, *and* I'm supposed to be packing my suitcase right now.

1. I'm not sure what the methodological theory is behind this:

From the APSA Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered (LGBT) in the Profession:

Dear Colleague,

The American Political Science Association is studying the relationship between
sexual orientation and professional life. We urge all APSA members -- regardless
of their sexual orientation -- to complete this questionnaire, which should take
no longer than 10-12 minutes. Anonymity and confidentiality will be completely

I'm both encouraged that the issue is coming up at all, and wondering what happens with this information. Is there a plan here? Or did somebody wake up one morning and think, 'gee, queer theory is hot right now. We need a survey'?

Also, when did we get a committee for this? I've got to start going to those planning meetings.

2. Possibly the best gift I've ever gotten: a bobblehead moose and somebody willing to spend the afternoon buying stickers and printing photos of actors. Plus dinner bought so that I don't need to cook.

3. I will send out my syllabus today. I'm seriously not getting on the plane tomorrow if it hasn't gone out, because this is getting ridiculous. It's not rocket science.

4. I have nothing packed. The panic should set in any minute now.

5. It is a beautiful day in DC. I'm sitting indoors and working. Life is hard.


now we are used to this confusion

I try to keep the television stuff off this blog. I really, really do. That's part of why Priya's been carrying the bulk of the load here recently. Because you guys really don't want to know what I think about Eddie Izzard's new show, and the ways in which it problematizes nomadic ethnic groups.

But sometimes, sometimes I have no choice. When I find things like this on my rss reader:

I think it was Qualitative/Quantitative research methodology porn, actually.

Honestly. That sort of thing is designed to be shared by the entire internet. Plus, the more people I tell, the less I'm disturbed by it.

Something like that.

good news for people who love bad news

I have come up with a clever, if dastardly, plan:

If I give no assignments to my students,* then I'll have absolutely no grading to do.


Considering my past few weeks have been spent in pulling out what is left of my hair** while I grade and grade and grade some more, I think I am on the verge of what may well be a major breakthrough that shall revolutionise teaching forever.

* Assuming I get to teach again next semester.

** Hair tends to start thinning once you approach the third decade mark. I'm rapidly getting there so my hair has started to get the message too.


not quite another brick in the wall

Here's a review by Joe Queenan, in the Guardian, about schoolchildren who face redemption and learn all sorts of things (ballroom-dancing, for one, as who doesn't need to learn that?) through the fortuitous arrival of an idealistic young educator.

In Queenan's words: "In the world of film, nothing is more terrifying to inner-city children than the unexpected arrival of the radiantly charismatic white schoolteacher. Already contending with poverty, rats, vicious gangs, crack dealers, overburdened social workers, emotionally blunted cops and inept parents who are only slightly older than themselves, inner city kids in contemporary films are increasingly confronted by messianic white teachers with fabulous cheekbones who have selflessly volunteered to sacrifice everything in order to improve the lives of their charges."

Go read the rest of it (especially the last paragraph). It's funny and there's really not much other amusement to be had on a Sunday morning.


not mercenaries but musicians chasing cars

I've been reviewing one of my old essays for potentially flogging off to unsuspecting editors in high (well, low, actually) hopes they may find space in their publications for my writing. It's a comparison of Thomas Hobbes and Alexis de Tocqueville's views on freedom and my point (and one that has been made loads of times before, I'm sure) is that these two have a fairly similar view of freedom (that there should be limits placed on it) and a fairly depressing view of human nature. Being French, Tocqueville is convinced that human beings will withdraw into themselves and be fairly well-pleased at a repressive state and it (with "it" being the historical progression of a state) will all end unhappily with people quite pleased to be oppressed. The democratic condition, therefore, is likely to lead to misery and sameness and Tocqueville is not in favour of this sameness.

But, he does provide a way out: while wallowing in this desire to be all introspective and withdrawn and apathetic towards a despotic state, one way to avoid all this misery and overcome the desire to curl up in a foetal position and hum Ave Maria in a loud voice is through being taken out of oneselves. Now, despite how that sounds, it is a very practical advice on Tocqueville's part. Instead of sitting indoors and watching the telly or playing WoW on one's computers,* he urges getting out and about, doing things, and just interacting. In this, one becomes aware of one's differences and manages to still get along. And that, as they say, is that.

Well, that's pretty much what I ended up doing on Friday. I did scam a ticket for Snow Patrol and let good music, a great singing voice and the presence of other people take me out of myself--Tocqueville would have approved, I reckon. Dodgy living conditions (housing and immigration), lack of finances, discovery of other people doing similar research to mine and a strong desire to go home for summer (and the realisation that this is just not possible) were all temporarily forgotten as an Irish lad with a great voice chatted and sang for 1.5 hours. I've been to better concerts but none that were just right with regard to timing. The thing about concerts (or watching sports) is that you have to concentrate and enjoy watching or listening so there's no time for self-obsession and worrying. Especially if Gary Lightbody is the bloke singing.

So, thanks Snow Patrol--you were fun and cheeky and the girls' swim team anecdote was rather amusing but it was Run that made the concert spot on. Singing along while loads of other people, who didn't know each other, sang in unison. As Tocqueville would have put it (and did, actually), I was taken out of myself. I've even been grading papers today without wanting to tear out my hair or feeling tempted to write sarcastic remarks about the art (act?) of doing scientific research. So, yes, make this go on forever, please.

* Though WoW probably counts as interaction?


in lieu of an analysis, i present to you...

1. It's World Water Day, people. A cause we all should be rooting for. After all, despite having all those snow-melting-off-Himalayas and glaciers melting due to global warming scenarios, Nepal's not big on having access to water.

Even in the city, we haven't had a regular supply of water for the past decade or so.* The way it works is like this: people call up a number, a big tanker comes by and fills your water tanks with water. You pay the tanker people. But, wait, you also pay a monthly fee to the government department that is supposedly supplying you with water (despite it not having done so for as long as you can remember). The process is almost Terry Pratchettian in its absurdity.

And, that is the city. So, yes, it's World Water day. Help build wells everywhere. Or, at the very least, if someone in your class this week attempts to start a discussion about whether "Third World people" should or should not have wells in their villages, throw a water balloon at them.

Keep in mind it's not just the "Third World"--in Northern Australia, too, water is scarce and, like the anti-terrorism posters about here in Washington, "save water" posters used to be everywhere. Things have probably changed by now--after all, water is so unsexy compared to fantatical, evil terrorists. And, if the terrorists get us (as they surely will), not having access to water will be irrelevant.

2. Taught the kids in another section of my class on Monday. It was AnotherProf's class** and it was rather fun seeing the different dynamics among the kids. It was the session in which they talked about their ethnographic experiences. Turns out that (this being TUWSNBN after all) between that class and mine, over half the students went abroad for Spring Break--Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Costa Rica being some of the places mentioned.

Thankfully, there were a few who did mundane things like rode the Metro (for the first time, for one kid), watched 300 (and hated it), and ate dinner (and wrote about it).

A memorable moment? When one of the kids blithely mentioned "Oh, we all know things are like that in the Third World" (when talking about a fairly annoying transportation issue). Ah, the Third World--what would we do without it to make us feel better?

3. The usual story in Nepal (killings and a curfew-but in the south this time) and my mind boggles just thinking about this*** (a film about Ian Paisley is being planned) in Northern Ireland.

After all, if the big man reckons line-dancing is a sin (and, let's face it, don't we all secretly think that?), he should have strong views about himself-on-film.

4. Match-fixing allegations and the murder of a popular manager. Doesn't sound the least like cricket (but it is).

5. Less than two weeks left to the new Who season. I am excited.

6. In other news, I flunkie-d while E attended a BigImportantWorkshop (aka BIW) on Wednesday. I am still hoping for a last-minute ticket off a tout for the Snow Patrol gig tomorrow and the private contractor and/or mercenary post will be up some time this weekend. Really it will.

* Not to worry, dear PTSD readers. We happen to have a well in our backyard. Loads of other folks are not so lucky (though if this dissertating racket falls through, I'm off to sell water to the neighbours).

** AnotherProf's wife has had a baby, as E wrote about earlier. Said baby was born on the same day and the same time (well, ignoring geographical changes) but nearly 3 decades after I was. I suddenly feel quite ancient--soon, my hearing will go and my joints will start creaking.

*** Read the comments too, especially those which speculate what the film should be called.

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all this and a crowded house reunion too

Go read Wonkette on how the United States is providing funds for the "War on Mordor".


of marvellous minnows and menacing mercenaries

It's St Patrick's day and Ireland beat (world no. 4) Pakistan! Bloody marvellous! AND Bangladesh beat India!!!

Days like this remind me why I actually rather like cricket.

I'll write more about my evening, which involved going downtown to see the journalist James Scahill talk about his new book Blackwater (an unauthorised version). I'm still thinking about how to write it all up.

Really--Ireland AND Bangladesh. Who'd have thought?*

* Rhetorical question as I think hardly many PTSD readers are cricket supporters.

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dreaming of days in the sun

Surprisingly, I've reverted to childhood (young adulthood?) and started following the cricket world cup.

Listening to the commentators describe the settings (sunny, trumpets and music--it's being played in nine countries in the West Indies this time around), the people (especially the unusual ones that seem dotted around every cricket ground) and the different accents of the commentators who come from all parts of the Commonwealth makes me think this would be a great way of describing (post)colonial identity-formations but, why bother?*

Instead, turn on the radio or get thee to a pub and listen or watch. Rainy days, commentary on the radio (except it's online instead of short-wave transistors these days) and lazying about drinking hot (and cold) beverages. It's just such a relaxing pastime.

And, really, I miss home at times like this.

Go here for text commentary and here for audio featuring New Zealand**

ETA: I've been told to add that another reason for supporting New Zealand is that they have Daniel Vettori, who is probably one of a very small number of sportspeople (not just cricketers) to wear glasses while playing. A rather dangerous activity for a cricketer, since being hit by the (wooden) cricket balls is quite common. As a fellow spectacled person, this is another reason to support the Kiwis.

Also, in what other sport commentary are you likely to hear words like these: "[name] has just pulled his trousers down...and is readjusting himself after that [being hit on a sensitive part]...making sure everything is as it should be down there."

* Or, rather, leave that for the next BNC.

** The family's rooting for West Indies (no realistic chance of winning but a lot of hope--rather like Liverpool really) and New Zealand (5 team members are from LilSis' city though they probably have even less chance of actually winning).

I just know the New Zealand matches are broadcast since I'm at work today and listening to England vs New Zealand. I've not actually checked for other matches since yous can watch them live at various pubs (and some restaurants) around Washington. Usually, in the company of people from that country/region. That's one of the best bits about living in Washington, I reckon.

Take your computer (as I do) and sit around and work while watching cricket. It's almost like being elsewhere and, as I'm stuck here for the foreseeable future, it's the closest I'm going to get to being home.

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you leave the length of the road behind

1. I think there's something seriously wrong with my ankle this time. As in, it's got a funny shape to it, and after 10 days I still get shooting pains when I step on the outside of my foot. This is maybe not good.

2. Good friends of ours called from the Joe tonight, to brag about getting free tickets on the goal line. As good friends do.

I hate living in DC.

3. I am sitting here staring at a paper that's done, but not quite how I want it. I know I need to send it out, but I can't quite bring myself to hit upload.

4. Updating my syllabus should have taken an hour, but I'm having trouble figuring out what to do now that I've lost a three hour block of class time. I suspect I'm making this harder than it needs to be.

5. A prof at TUWSNBN became a parent this week. He and his wife are going to be great at parenthood, I'm sure.

I can be terribly pleased for other people when they have children without having any real desire to have them myself.

and some more about the BNC...

Yous thought I'd forgotten among the detours to local events and jingoistic nationalist trumpings, didn't you? Oh, how wrong you were. Part III of BNC musings...(again, avoiding actual "terrorism" panels since no one except me would probably care about those). Oh, and just some "highlights" this time around.

SecuritisationGuru actually (and repeatedly) invoking Waltz to defend his "theory". Not just once but many times. The closing off of argumentation by pointing out that a) Waltz does it, b) I interviewed Waltz and that's what he said, c) it's a theory, I'm not supposed to explain everything while not actually engaging with the critique was brilliant.

Disturbing, considering I thought the whole "speech acts" approach was a (semi) revolution against Waltz's neorealism and now they are calling upon the same types of arguments (and on neorealism) to defend their theory but brilliant. Am strongly tempted to be all pretentious and quote the French but will resist.

The argument about Welsh versus English versus Paris schools of security studies. Oh, and the continuing argument about the different strains of the Welsh school. Really?

Advocating Torchwood as a research source. Yes, it's a terrible show but it's entertaining and stylish and it's all about first contact as threatening and about a department of homeland security which deals with that.

A non-moosehead scholar pushing DecentredPostie to admit states remain necessary in the International System. Pretty revolutionary that.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Realising the world of "Critical IR scholarship" is actually a small world, after all.


I used to think you people were like leprechauns

Seriously. Go watch The Riches. You'll thank me later.

needed: authors for a new constitution

With not much fanfare (not that there is ever fanfare about Nepal), Nepal is now a federal state.

Not quite sure how Federalism changes things. According to my parents, foodstuffs, especially veggies, are rather scarce in the big city as protests and transport strikes by people in the southern part of the country (where the crops are grown) continues.

Though, as my Mum put it, "Thank goodness, there're always potatoes".

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whatever happened to Diver Dan?*

I dragged IntLaw to the opening of 300 today. Some thoughts:

- Turns out (spoiler alert to those who, like me, had no idea that the "300" lost): the heroes lose. Was told by IntLaw that "everyone knows that". Well, duh. So, what's the point of all those trailers then? I feel rather cheated.

- Blokes in Speedos should be encouraged to fight as long as possible. Ideally while showing off their physiques in said Speedoes. Who knew the Spartans had Speedoes (and leather Speedoes at that)?

- Which leads me to my other observation: The main Spartan was a Scot (with a strong Scots accent). Various other Spartans were Australian and Welsh. Is this some sort of meta-comment on the post/anti-colonial revolution?

- The "everything is eventually about IR" moment: idealists fight and lose, realists are pragmatic. There's even a monologue on Idealism vs Realism.

- It's always a bad idea to stop and congratulate each other on the battlefield.

- Where's Vinnie Jones when you need him?

- Xerxes (evil Persian type) is played by a Brazilian with an American-ish accent. He also has tweezed eyebrows (since we all know EPTs are big on threading) and wears eyeliner. He owns slaves and make them carry him about in a gigantic throne. He also uses them as steps. He's very obviously against Freedom.

- In case yous have not gotten the message, Spartans are for Freedom.

- It's a good thing we have two eyes since we can then easily afford to lose one.

- Spartan females are strong and powerful and full of Spivak Chakraborty-style speeches about speaking on behalf of those who are silent. Asian/Persian females swank about half-naked, snog each other and sh*g deformed blokes.

- Really, the Spartans do not win.

- Hunchbacks should never be slighted. In a very obvious move, they will be seduced (see above about the role of Asian/Persian women) by the enemy and betray you.

- Enduring image: Gerard Butler, in his leather Speedoes, running up to throw a spear at Xerxes. That alone was well worth the price of admission.

* He turned into a one-eyed chronicler of events and future battle commander of the Spartans. He also did a lot of training and looked pretty damned good in his leather Speedoes.

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you have to bend

I'm so excited that one of my favorite bands is taking advantage of the possibilities of new tech. At some point, I really should post about how much I love intertextuality.

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“Feminism is the belief that women are as valuable as men.”

Have I mentioned that I love Chicago? I’m thinking yes. And one of the things I absolutely love (over and beyond any number of experiences that I’ve detailed elsewhere on The Interwebs) is an independent shop on Broadway named Unabridged Bookstore.

This is about feminism. Feminisms. I’m getting there, I promise.

So. Unabridged is my quintessential bookstore. When I think of a bookstore, the kind that encourages browsing and hanging out and asking questions and finding new and fantastic things that I didn’t even know I needed, this is what I’m thinking about. It’s the closest thing there is to a Platonic bookstore, to a Weberian ideal type that coincides with the term.

Yes, I realize there’s no such thing as an ideal type in reality. Trust me, this comes pretty damn close. If Weber had written about shopping, and had been to Unabridged, his theory would have been very different.

As would his notion of dour Protestants, but that’s another story.

Given the number of times the store shows up on “Must See” lists about Chicago, I can’t be the only one who feels this way. This is a bookstore in the traditional sense—no coffee shop, no music section, no dvds taking up the space that should be given over to bookshelves.

No racks of gourmet cookies, a recent bookstore addition that, quite frankly, baffles me. Because eating chocolate and turning pages are not activities that mix easily.

People go here to buy books. They do it using lots of methods, including browsing the wonderful children’s department (sunny windows, bright colors, lots of stuff you don’t find elsewhere that’s been selected by people who love kids and love reading) and finding out what particular volumes are suggested by the employees and the owner.

And, not for nothing, but the section on queer theory and gay/lesbian themes is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere. The folks who run Unabridged know their audience, they take the time to really think about what they sell, and I make time every visit to shop there, even if it’s only for an hour.

This week I put aside an entire afternoon. I needed the break, after encountering gentrification gone awry in Rogers Park, and there’s nothing more soothing than a walk around a Chicago neighborhood, window shopping and people watching and stopping into a few of the places I used to love to spend entire days in.

It was a bit weird not to be there on the pull, but whatever. Different kind of fun.

And I meant it when I said this was about feminism. Because, for all that I love it to an embarrassing degree, and for whatever commercial reason, the one place that Unabridged falls flat is when it comes to books on bisexuality. One half-filled shelf is not encouraging, and when I couldn’t find the actual book I was looking for, I came close to giving it up as a lost cause. Surely, if they didn’t have a copy of Baumgardner’s new book, that was a sign that I was not the intended audience for their otherwise awesome choices. Which would be sad, and a little strange given how much money I’ve spent there over the years. Were there really more transgendered people than people who were interested in bisexuality? Or was it a function of something else?

Luckily, it turns out that I’m just a bit of an idiot when it comes to book shopping. I’ve bought so much stuff online that it no longer occurs to me to check the new books section for, well, new books.

Right. So. Shiny purchases in hand (Anthony Rapp’s autobiography, a collection of mid-19th century Great Lakes stories, Ed’s top book of 2005, and the aforementioned Look Both Ways) I bid adieu to Boystown and headed off to find a restaurant. With coffee. And a lack of tourists.

And sat down to read and think about the spaces that are left out of politics and feminism and queer theory and any number of things that are supposed to be inclusive but which, in many ways, aren’t. It shouldn’t be so easy for me to mess with the assumptions of the guy sitting next to me on a plane, because the connections between “bisexual” and “slut” are unwarranted and yet ubiquitous. The flag on my laptop shouldn’t lead to rolled eyes and snide comments about growing out of it. My wedding ring shouldn’t dictate whether I’m really queer. I didn’t check my sexual preferences at the altar, any more than I discarded my education or my gender.

And yeah, maybe sexuality isn’t political, maybe it’s something private. But I get so tired of coding my beliefs to fit the assumptions of the people around me. I get tired of doing work that isn’t part of mainstream IR, and having to look for panels that stretch the boundaries of what is considered academic, only to have them canceled without notice—in this case, replacing queer theory with the vaguely interesting issue of activism and academia, and whether the two are mutually exclusive.

(I also get tired of the disciplinary actions of those who attend conferences, but that’s a rant for another post. Let’s just say that, if you’re going to intentionally refuse to make introductions or allow conversations, it’s nice to make some sort of effort to disguise it. Seriously. If I can tell I’m being excluded, than it’s probably passed the line from obvious to downright rude. And I wouldn’t care, except that the assumption of the other people in the conversation is that there’s a reason for it. And that reason is either that there’s something wrong with me, or that you’re a dick.

Either way, it reflects rather badly on both of us.)

Anyway. Baumgardner’s book is angry, and funny, and thoughtful, and owes a lot to another book I purchased this weekend—Anecdotal Theory—and it pisses me off. It makes me absolutely furious that every other sexual orientation is decided based on the stated preferences of the people involved, while bisexuals are determined by the orientation of their partners. It annoys me that my experiences are, from the stories that she shares, the norm rather than the exception.

And it makes me sad that feminism, which is such a big part of my identity and of the things that I’ve been able to accomplish and the spaces that have been open to me, has no real way to deal with this. That in some ways, feminism doesn’t solve much of my real issue with the world that I live in, which is that so much of who I am and what I believe to be true is located *between* the places that people (or women, or theorists) are allowed to reside.

The more I think about it, the less surprised I am that campus, and conferences, and academia in general are uncomfortable spaces for me. Of course they’re uncomfortable. I don’t fit into any of the slots that have been created for me, and until I decide whether I’m willing to change what I do and who I am to fit, I’m bound to experience some cognitive dissonance.

And I suspect that I’m beginning to feel the same way about feminism. That the wide open spaces I thought I saw aren’t really open or all that wide. And that’s both a failing of feminism and an understandable result of the ways in which women have been only partially successful in creating spaces and equalities. It’s another place to seek change, a place that is ignored and glossed over and denied space for speech. It’s a case of feminism (perhaps with some reason) acting in ways that it accuses the patriarchal system of behaving, and it’s something that, for all today is meant to celebrate women, needs to be talked about.

so that's where he went to?

A headline in today's Beeb: "Snape aids England preparation."

It turns out it's the Leicestershire captain Jeremy Snape who is teaching England's cricketers do something or the other. Not Severus and his potions.

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what do they really mean?

Well, prepare to have your names jotted down and Big Brother (in the form of lovely old Rupert) breathing down your necks, probably.

Another "I really wish I could go" (wait--it's in the evening. Maybe I can go) event at Busboys & Poets downtown.

March 13, 2007 ( Tuesday)
6:00 - 8:30 AM (Busboys Lounge) Myfoxdc.com and FOX5 News want you to join their blogging community. They will be on hand to show you how at the first ever Blogapalooza at Busboys & Poets -- FREE COFFEE FOR ALL WHO ATTEND!!!!

The four exclamation marks may have been placed by the Busboys & Poets folks. Or, it may well be Fox news encouraging us all to make our way down there so we can revel in having access to free coffee.

Btw, my flunkie gig also gives out free coffee but I don't think they are having a "Blogapalooza" any time soon.


more memories of panelling...

Yes, I'm going to milk BNC for all it's worth. Actually saves on having to think up stuff to write on.

So, the "Critical Scholarship" panel:

CoolSecurityGuy waves glasses around and is told off by a woman who is trying to read the speakers' lips. She also has a notetaker, who has set himself up right at the back of the room, thus being unable to hear most of what the panellists and the audience are saying. Since most of these critical scholars are all about space and division thereof, why didn't anyone think to move this kid up to the front before the session started? Sometimes, I wonder about academics and their instinct for practical things.

CoolSecurityGuy automatically becomes ISA 2007 Person of the Convention (for me, not for all of yous) when he quotes the same few lines that I included in my diss proposal. It's all about language and materiality and about not being able to separate out one from the other. I'm strongly tempted to stand up and cheer but restrain myself since a TUWSNBN professor is sitting next to me and it'd be unseemly.

ActivistScholar quotes Marx (eeek). Really. Then she says how all human actions occur with and through words. In true Leftist Academic fashion, we hear a lot about how much of the world's poverty is created by Americans. That may well be true but what has that go to do with critical scholarship? She calls for a "human ontology". But, doesn't "being human" mean different things, depending on where you are? Isn't that a useful process to research? As usual, I remain silent.

Not so a gentleman in the audience who comments that the failure of IR folks to prescribe policies is shocking to him. He goes on, at great length, about his own students who "can't read English" and berates the "critical scholarship panel" for not being responsible enough to provide guidance. Or some such. He also quotes Michael Jackson. People fidget as they are not quite sure how to respond.

But, before that, ActivistScholar says "I wanna change the world" and "practice discourse ethics". I'm really not sure what either of those two things are about. But, I'm habitually confused so that's nothing new.

Then, North&SouthScholar claims she is "totally intimidated" by technology and talks about "statecraft". For some reason, that sounds like spacecraft to me and I'm off in my own world, (re)imagining spacecrafts and alien landings. In the meantime, TUWSNBN Prof has detailed a list of security studies people for a "Cool-arsed security project" (or, CASP, for short). I rather like CASP. We're on the cusp of CASP?

By now, N&SScholar urges us not to be implicated in the project of statecraft. I realise, rather depressingly, that I am already implicated in it since I am doing state-making and terrorism. RandomBloke walks in, walks around to where the panellists are, looks bewildered and leaves. It breaks the flow of the intense self-reflection a bit and provides much needed space for thinking how this whole "don't be implicated in statecraft" business might be worked out when most of us are funded by (various) states. Hmm.

N&SScholar is now telling us to "write like poetry". If I wanted to write a poem about terrorism and death, I'd read others who have done it much better and leave it at that. But, then, that's me. Depressingly practical.

Somehow there is the sense that talk is priviledged and "being there" (in the physical sense) counts more than looking at text. This is also not good news for the Priya Dissertation Project, which looks at a lot of text (visual and written and suchlike but still...text. I'd, of course, argue the whole world is textual but apparently N&SScholar disagrees. This is too bad since N&SScholar is one of my favourite IR peeps).

But, she says, "Go there, hang out, get a feel for what's happening, suck it into your psyche". This is just so wrong. My psyche revolts or would if it knew what it was being told to do.

PostieSecurityScholar is on next. She calls for more emphasis on methodology and talks of what a methodology of reading and research design should look like. Shows off her own book, tells people where to get it and suchlike. Love this self-promotion. Maybe in a couple of years, I can do it too.

She stands up and waves her arms about a lot.

Says methodologies have theoretical implications. Well, of course they do.

Finally, it's BeardedStudentType turn to speak. He claims that PostieSecurityScholar's book is "an ideal gift for that special someone". Not many people laugh. I think it's pretty amusing, especially as humour is lacking in this panel so far.

Discourses of legitimation differ according to context.
Mixes up "axis of evil" with "coalition of the willing"--> Freudian slip?

Illuminiate conditions of dominance--marginalised voices (apparently) provide possibility of doing so. For "non repressive deliberation". No idea why this is any better from "repressive deliberation".

But, he doesn't talk for too long.


There's the one I previously mentioned--the RamblingCommenter. The one about "not doing theory" and having people who don't speak English. My students don't write English. What has that got to do with anything?

Someone says we should start with practice and "can't we bring methodology in afterwards?". I hear WeberMan going on the warpath somewhere and wonder this person is not automatically whisked off to some sort of Methodology Training Camp. She isn't though and goes on for a while while trying to make this point that practice should take precedence.

There's some talk of "policy relevance". Also mention of "I don't do empirical work, I do theory". Not quite sure how that applies. We then get to "Gender, sex and death in World Politics".

The "Masters' House" metaphor is dragged out again. It's then flogged a fair number of times. Where does this come from? Is the Masters' House similar to His Master's Voice? The one with the dog? We used to have loads of those records.

CoolSecurityGuy makes a joke. It's lost by the time the sound reaches where I am sitting (at the back, as always). He says the policy community is not much worried about methods and rigour. Can't talk about Foucault and Derrida to them--different audiences. (Why does such a simple thing not get said (and practiced) often enough?). CoolSecurityGuy is cool.

RamblingCommenter berates panellists as "IR elites". He says "you are the Masters". [Btw, yous did read that the Master will be back this season, right?]. Get image of that Master and miss part of his monologue. Something about "the masses are not here" and repetition of "you are the elite". He's obviously not been a poverty-striken postgraduate student in the Capital of the Free World. Or, even working in IR for too long if he thinks that lot are the elite.

Asks for an emancipatory spirit. I'm really not sure why this is a necessity. Who(m?) are we freeing? Do they want to be free? Do we care?

ActivistScholar identities with RamblingCommenter by saying they are both "activists" and that "we cry, we sing, we dance". I'm not sure what she's on about and reckon we've definitely been attending different BNC's. My BNC has a lot of formal modelling and conflict resolution--no crying or dancing, mate. I shall save yous from having to read about the panels I went to, especially those about the beauties of game theory, as one of the Terrorism folks called it.

There's more repetition of having to "go there" (where?) to get new perceptions. Yes, I'm well aware I'm screwed since I'm not really going anywhere.

Spivak is quoted. Someone makes the point that "we can't do everything. We are only human".

Only human. If yous made it this far, I should warn yous there's (okay, only one) more to come in the next post.


if only i didn't have to teach on friday...

Jerrold Post*, the author of such groundbreaking books such as The Psychology of Political Behaviour, The Mind of the Terrorist, and Know Thy Enemy (I promise I'm not making any of these titles up) is speaking at the Shakespeare Theatre here in Washington this Friday. Here's the full info:

Via today's Washington Post Express:

Dr. Jerrold Post, director of GWU's political psychology program, joins the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Ken Adelman in analyzing "Richard III". Post spent decades getting inside the heads of world leaders for the CIA. "We'll compare Richard to Hitler, Stalin and all the terrible people we've seen since Shakespeare's time," Adelman told Express.

The Shakespeare Theatre, 450 7th St. NW; Fri., noon, $10, lunch included; 202-547-1122. (Gallery Place-Chinatown)

I'm not sure whether to be amused, horrified or just plain disappointed I won't get to go (and heckle).

* In the interest of showing my hand (yes, well, poker terminology lingers), I have a rather large section in my dissertation, criticising the "let's figure out terrorists' psyches" approach to studying terrorism that is now in vogue. Dr. P happens to be a bit of a proponent of that particular aspect of studying terrorists.

You just can't stay

My old apartment building has been turned into (presumably, given the price range) luxury condos.

That's disturbing in a way that I didn't expect. I knew that the neighborhood was being gentrified. it used to be one of the most diverse places in the country; my neighbors were from everywhere and anywhere. It made for some interesting laundry room conversations. I knew, sort of, that things were changing. But I didn't expect them to change so fast. I think expected everything to look the same, but even the people walking around look different. Suits and cell phones.

This is apparently my weekend for feeling underdressed and scruffy, I guess.

Not only my building, but every building on the street has a big sign out front advertising open houses and period fixtures.

Which, yeah, they were. But at the time they seemed more along the lines of "old and slightly decrepit" than "classic art deco." I bet they don't have the giant forest photomural in the lobby anymore.

The diner where I ate breakfast on the weekends, the one with the cranky waitress and the coffee that tasted like motor oil, has been turned into something called the Descartes Cafe. And while ordinarily I'd appreciate the humor, and approve of the independent spirit of the thing, at the moment I'm mostly annoyed that I'm eating down the street in the trendy cafe. Which is named, and I'm not making this up, Ennui.


I'm slightly molified by the vanilla almond tea and the free wireless. But not much.* And I'm a bit afraid to cross the street and find out if the bodega has become some sort of stealth Whole Foods.

*Every time I eat here, I order the veggie chili. And every time, I get it and it's very spicy and I think to myself, "Next time I'll get a sandwich." And yet here I am, eating chili. One of these times, I'm going to remember what not to order *before* I order it.

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memories of panelling....

I'm not sure this will not kill off my non-existent career but thought I'd put it up anyway

Panel 1: Should we or should we not mainstream pop culture? (and where's the mainstream when you want it?)

mainstreaming may marginalise popular culture even further—lose nuances, even when teaching.
Create a canon—this is negative. (because a negative canon fires backwards?)

one of the panellists says pop culture folks should make themselves relevant to mainstream. Gives Enloe's Bananas, Beaches and Babes (is that the name? BBB sounds better) as an example of being "relevant" to the mainstream. Pop culture as pedagogy (but a very narrow view of the role of pop culture as directly mirroring things in the world). Another example is of army folks watching Breaker Morant.

Is against intertexuality. Says it's “free floating” (ahh...the voice of the mainstream)

Sovereignty woman says she's heard all this many times before--feminism, neorealism (really? neorealism was marginal at one point? I feel a warm glow at that)

Fellowgradstudent, who also does pop culture, and I are passing notes—where's E when you need her? Actually, where was E during all the pop culture stuff?

Quotes from Roddy Doyle's A Star Called Henry. “I have to distance myself from all the words in that question”. Gives example of Jewish museum. Disruption from story and theme--having to make one's own stream. "modes of thinking create subjectivities”. Need to understand history of universities to understand IR history. We have a series of expectations—they establish norms.

SovereigntyWoman (stands up)
visual versus the verbal
concept of “remediation”: shift the political point of view...people laugh when she reads the 9/11 Commission report. Talks of “intention” a lot.

I write “practical stuff?” for FellowTUWSNBN student. He writes back “media as politics”. Neither of us makes that point.

I made a comment about meanings of pop culture texts changing in different places, different classrooms (re: my Doctor Who gig)—was ignored/misunderstood by political science guy. Later, other folks come up and talk about this, so it was good I think? The alien guy from the sci-fi book comes up to chat. Oddly enough, none of these folks are as scary as I always think they will be but are, instead, easy to talk to and rather fun. We decide the mainstream is scared of losing control of the classroom.

Panel 2: Canadian security panel: Resistance in a time of terror.

Chair: leather jacket, dark hair, dramatic—I think she does stuff on Foucault? Should check. She's not Canadian though. I suppose everyone doesn't have to be?

1st bloke: Looked rather like Shane Warne. Kept on expecting him to sound Australian. Talked of how there was “no discourse of home-grown terrorism” in 1985. But, what about the British? They had plenty of resources for talking of home-grown terrorism. Ah, Canadians! Said HGT was a “theatrical category”. Talked of why HGT has been securitised while school shootings are not? Hmm...historical understanding—school shooters have been traditionally classified as a problem of youth? Racial characters (and why does no one actually just SAY that—the kids who got arrested were all immigrant (Muslim)-Canadians; the school shooting kids are usually white). Talks of the “visible collective” project—that actually sounds interesting.

2nd bloke: Says securitisation theory is a theory of silence. Analyses resistance to the PATRIOT Act. Apparently librarians are the resistors. Who knew? Thought librarians were too busy getting their knickers in a twist about scrotums. Ends with question about “desecuritisation or fight the conception of the threat?”. I think those two do NOT go together—don't they work on different assumptions about how to understand insecurity?

PhD student: Talks...and talks...and then talks some more about Foucault, Schmitt, Agamben, etc. Goes on and on and on. People in the audience start fidgeting. Goes on. Reads and re-reads her work from the page.

AirportSecurityGuy was the discussant: wiry, thin, regular gear. Makes slightly odd point (I thought) about how 9/11 was Critical Security Studies' “1989 moment” and says “we didn't predict that”. But...but....but...since when were we supposed to predict things?

Talks of “sleeper cell” (the TV show) after I “pimped” Torchwood out to the first bloke. V small audience—five or six people. Had to say something.

The movie panel (with real movies!)
Saw films about zombies and a Bosnian one about personal/public. The first made a good point—zombies with agency instead of the “usual passive zombies”. The second was about a man who made a film. The film was accepted at a festival in America but he couldn't get a visa in time. For Nepali folks, that's really nothing new—and the idea that we are talking about in at BNC, in a tiny room packed with people, is quite amusing too.

CoolSecurityGuy's genealogy of visual images made the excellent point that we should be looking at what these do, rather than tracing their antecedents or noting connections or condemning the use of such pictures. CoolSecurityGuy is actually a good speaker--easy to follow and making all his points well.

More in Part II: BigIRFilmGuy and CoolSecurityGuy return but there're also appearances by someone completely different (when isn't there?)


ballad of the homeless grad student

1. At my second BNC, I have moved on from the quietly awed girl to the girl who pushes popular culture on everything and everyone. Good points? Got to meet pretty much all the authors of this book and chatted (oh, yes, really--I'm in shock too, mind) with BigNameFilmandIR bloke who was lovely and discussed some good tips about teaching and visual media.

2. In case yous think this is all about "oohhh...what fun famous IR people are", also met up with new folks from unis across the oceans--British, Danes and Chinese. Considering doing linked terrorism panels for next year. Will probably be too lazy, when the time comes, to do it but we'll see. In any case, it's all about building communities of people to talk with, so we can overthrow the formal modelling, defining terrorism types. I live in hope (but not with bated breath).

3. Putting pop culture in everything is actually a great idea--people are amused and yet intrigued.

4. Planning to stay at a hostel and then realising said hostel only has a bed in a 10-bed dorm available (and one loo to share!) leads to playing musical chairs with the hotel rooms. Also leads to being homeless on the last night and having to kip on a couch in the lobby (from where this posting is being written so I am a productive homeless person and not a blot on society--yet).

5. On that note, avoiding the hotel cleaning staff is more difficult than yous would reckon...

6. Running into the supervisor for my Masters thesis on the lift late at night (on the night when I'm homeless). Chatting to him, a Canadian, making me realise I miss Australia.

7. Giving up the chance for dinner with "ImpIRPeeps" to hang out with a mate I'd not seen in months. Walking around Chicago and catching up with stuff and just bludging.

8. Getting loads of free books and wondering how I will a) take them to Washington, b) carry them about when moving.

9. Chatting with 2 out of 3 members of my committee and having oddly similar conversations with very different types of folks.

10. BNC 2007 Lesson? A charged phone is a necessity in life.

Off in search of a shower...I hear (more) cleaning staff about and should probably vacate my sofa before they venture past again.


Friday? Already?

1. Lots of people want to use science fiction to teach IR. Everyone who doesn't apparently places those who do in the category "geek."

2. For some reason, every time I'm in Chicago, I end up at the same cafeteria-style restaurant. I'm never the one who thinks to go there. It's odd.

3. For the record, stretching to push in a tack is the same motion as stretching to grab something from a high shelf. Both are not good for my back. That little popping sound? Definitely a bad thing.

4. Academic bar conversations are a hell of a lot funnier when one is on muscle relaxers and a schedule three narcotic.

5. Q: How many academics does it take to find a pizza place in Chicago?
A: One more than we had last night.

6. I have one hour to finish a presentation for a paper that's so bad I couldn't bring myself to send it to the discussant ahead of the panel.

It's possible that WeberMan was right. Four papers at one conference is not a good idea.

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