all it needed was us to link arms and sing Kumbaya

Spent all day today in an Irish pub, watching Sri Lanka play Bangladesh in the cricket world cup final (played in Barbados). The place was packed with folks from South Asia, the Carribean, Australians and the English.

Highlights? A TUWSNBN professor (who bought all our drinks so is rated pretty high now) singing songs and other folks joining in. Realising later on that he didn't actually understand what the words meant but still knew them perfectly well.

The Australian cricket team--most of whom I remember seeing from over a decade ago--winning their 3rd World Cup in a row.

My being the only person on our side of the pub supporting (bloody annoying but rather endearing at times) Australia.

My usually quiet (Kiwi) flatmate pointing out the flaws of Aussies overseas by saying: Oh, I thought I only got annoyed with them when I was at home but they are equally annoying overseas too (very true with the lot who were at that pub)

Being given a bottle of Scotch by the Sri Lankan ambassador. Really.*

Came home to discuss said match with folks at home in Nepal (whom I've not seen in person for two years and miss them, dammit) who watched the same match, sitting at home in Nepal and catching it on a) BBC World Service (Radio) or b) Star TV (cable channel owned by Rupert Murdoch).

Yesterday night, heard Nepali being spoken on the crowded train. Introduced myself and realised the kids were friends of my sister (the one in Kiwiland) and had gone to the same school. Now, what are the chances of that?

Before the cricket, watched Liverpool lose, while sharing memories of Michael Owen from ten years ago with the only non cricket-watching person at the pub.

* I wasn't the recepient but our entire table of people was. For the loudest cheering. Though I think they may have given it to us just to stop the singing.


$39.00 to ship a box of potato chips? Would be totally worth it.

Last week, my parents brought us Ballreich's chips, three cans of chili dog sauce, two packs of Packo's hot dogs, white fudge oreos, and a jar of pickles no peppers.

There is hockey on my television, and has been almost every night for the past two weeks. Tomorrow we are going to see The Invisible and then coming home to watch the Wings play the Sharks.

If I had a bottle of faygo or a can of fresca, my life would be complete.

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accentuate the positive

So, remember that post on mercenaries ("private security contractors" or whatever we are calling them these days) that I never wrote? Well, the bloke who wrote the book whose reading I was at* was on the Daily Show last week. Watch him and John have a chat here.

Turns out the bloke has a few stories that he repeats--Blackwater as the "Praetorian guard", his tale of seeing BW folks in New Orleans and some others. Oh, dear boy, you look good and the scruffy beard is very emo but repeating most of your tales at various gigs isn't very helpful. It just makes one wonder: It's a thick book that you've written. Didn't more stuff happen that you can tell us about?

* did yous follow that? I nearly didn't.

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songs from the south

Today's "experience of the day":

Went into the local BigNameBookstore to buy Coraline as a pressie for a kid I know. This is (not verbatim, of course) what followed:

Me: Umm...I'm trying to find Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Would it be in the Young Readers section or with the rest of the fiction and literature?

Bookstore person (BSP): Never heard of it. Who did you say it was by?

Me: Neil Gaiman? He writes comic books and wrote Anansi Boys and Fragile Things?

BSP: Oh, you mean like what-they-call-it...manga?

Me: No, it's not that. It's a proper book* with illustrations. It's supposed to be for older children...younger than teenagers...

BSP: I know people read those. But, I've never let my children...Maybe you could get her one of these? These are very good stories...(points towards books that are filed under "empowering girls" and seem to feature a lot of pink covers)

Me: No, thank you. I am not too keen on empowering her.

During all this, we've both been looking through the shelves. I actually find Coraline in the young adult section and pull it out.

BSP: Oh, it's Caroline! Why didn't you say so before? It's pronounced "Ca-ro-line"

Me: Coraline.

BSP: Well, I'm from Texas. There, we call it Caroline.

* Ah, disciplinary power! As soon as she said "manga" *sneer*, I automatically defended the book by calling it "proper". Didn't even think, really.

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oh the places you will (not) go...

It's been a Dr. Seuss kind of weekend. First, there was the absolutely brilliant GBS concert, about which Elizabeth has already written. I first heard them in Australia, through a Canadian student who used to live on my floor in the dorms. He used to blast their songs at all hours of the day and night, especially during exams. If you've had "Marie-Mac" and "Rant and Roar" played at you, while you're trying to finish up that blasted Econometrics project at 3am, you'll realise GBS songs are something that stick to mind. On Friday, they played lots of their old songs, I knew the words to (almost) all of them and some random kid bought me a beer (which cost $6). These things never happen to me at regular concerts.

Then, yesterday, I found out that I got accepted to this Symposium thingy that I had given myself about a 5% chance of being accepted. Before you say, "Ah, that Priya. She's so modest", let me point out that a) I'm not modest about my work since I rather think I'm good at the whole research and teaching bit (not at writing, not at all) and b) this is a Symposium at a BigNameUni and over 200 people applied for a total of 30-something spots and c) see b) and remember that I do "odd" stuff, not the usual terrorist-y things where all "we" are trying to do is get rid of those pesky buggers.

Really, the likelihood of my being accepted was about the same as Nepal qualifying for the next (cricket) World Cup. But, law of averages and probabilities aside, I got a letter saying that they had decided I should join them this Summer. Good news, yous say.

Well, no. Let me clarify.

For once, I had a plan for the next few months. I'd planned to move out of my place of residence when my lease ran out (at the end of May), gather up LilSis2 (who will have finished exams in her place of learning and will be visiting our glorious city) and wander up the Northeast Coast of the USA, stopping at various places along the way. After about 10 days or so of this, LilSis was to have returned back to her place of learning in the wilds of the Far North and I would have crossed the country (not on foot or car but by train) and ended up in sunny (or, as people keep telling me, foggy) California, just in time for my two-month coralling the hormonal youngsters gig. Yes, well, I had it all planned.

Now, the Northeast's out since I have to be here for the Symposium. I have nowhere to stay (since my lease runs out) and no bludging around Massachusetts, as planned. In a fit of what can only be called temporary insanity, I also volunteered to present a paper at this gig and have to have said paper ready by 25 May. I didn't feel like telling them that I didn't actually have a paper. After all, they are mostly academics--they should know that, right?

I am still hoping my train-across-the-USA trip will come through since if I have to fly to California after all this, I will be deeply disappointed (if not quite terrified).

Well, tomorrow, it's Workshop-ing and Student Presentations time for my class. The ones doing "scientific research" go first. I'm sure yous want to know how this will go so I'll keep yous updated.

Franzen takes the ice

I'm beyond pleased that Calgary's asinine strategy to throw the Wings off their game didn't work out.

That series of shots in Game 5? Cheap and unworthy of an otherwise strong team. I wanted to like the Flames, but that was right up there with the Game That Made the Avalanche Worthy of Undying Hatred.

That Franzen is the one who took the winning shot tonight made me cheer in a terribly unbecoming manner. Good for him, and I hope whoever called that play with McLennan gets his ass fired. You don't pull that kind of shit in hockey. It makes everyone else look bad, like they're some kind of thugs.

Violence in hockey is a carefully regulated technique. They should have known better.

Canucks vs. Stars tomorrow night to finish this round in the West, so you can guess what I'll be watching. And who I'll be cheering for.

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One of these days, I'm going to follow through.

The interesting thing about concerts in DC is that, like the residents, almost no one who plays a show is *from* here.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. As you may have noticed, Priya and I (separately, although we did meet up briefly a couple of times) went to tonight's Great Big Sea concert at the Warner.

GBS are not from DC. They are (big surprise to those of you who know me) Canadian. And their show was possible the best one I've seen since moving to the city.

I say that even though I saw BNL (no, I don't know why Canadian bands give themselves long names and then shorten them to initials. Must be something to do with curling) here a couple of years ago. I love Ed and Steve, but this show? Was better.

However, that is not the point of this post. Other than a not-at-all subliminal message to go see them and to eat more poutine, I'm not talking about the concert.

What I learned tonight was that my inability to talk to people I think are completely brilliant at what they do (see previous whining about conferences and such) extends to bands. Even bands I've been listening to for a very long time.

Perhaps especially those bands.

I sat with a friend just two tables away from the guys from Great Big Sea, drinking beer and not-so-covertly watching the band (Great Big Sea, people. Not BNL. Try to keep up), and was totally unable to think of a way to walk up to them and say anything about how good the show was, and how I spent the week getting my parents properly hooked on the music so that I could bring them along (because the other option was to leave them at the hotel, since I wasn't going to miss it). For an hour. An hour, people, and I had on great shoes and a great top that did very nice things for my cleavage.

My hair was endearingly spiky, too. I was in rare form, and if ever I were to introduce myself to random people and offer to buy them a drink, it should have been tonight.

I wanted to ask for a photo, but every time I thought about it, I also thought about how much I dread running into students outside the campus setting.

For a musician, I would expect that the need to have something (like dinner or drinks at a local bar) that didn't involve an audience would be much, much greater.

So I didn't walk over, and I didn't buy a round of drinks (although the waitress presumably got a pretty good tip from us, because I also don't seem to have picked up my change from the table before we left) and I didn't tell anyone about my Stan Rogers fixation.

Because you all know how well that went last time.

Now watch. As with many bands I have loved, they're going to promptly become famous (which would be wonderful) and start playing big venues and I'll have missed my chance to meet them.

Although I did manage to joke around with one of the guys working to get the bus loaded and parked up the street. So I suppose the sum total of my interaction with Great Big Sea amounts to snarking at a roadie.

And it was entirely my own fault.

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of irish winds and old gentlemen and german others

I seem to have a little time on my hands. I'm in between grading and I've sent my (only a creator could be fond of and even I am not too keen) draft to be read. This is almost twiddling fingers time for me. So, that means there's time for quite a few things--updating yous on the state of my teaching and telling yous about the films I've been watching. So, here I go (in the form of a list, of course):

1. Discusssed a reading with an undergrad. Had an excellent time debating different themes in said reading, backing up seemingly-odd views* by referring to the text and spent nearly 2 hours doing this. Reading? Beckett's "Krapp's last tape". Student? LilSis2.

2. Tuesday's class, as usual, went totally against plan. Technology, as usual, failed to operate. YouTube video, as always, failed to work on demand. Students, as is their wont, became restless. Felt like sending off a "beware. students are restless. what to do. advise" alert but resisted. Then came THE QUESTION. "What is the difference between objective and subjective ways of doing research?"

(Have decided will be very good in crises from now on and should consider training as a volunteer emergency person)

Brain kept saying "football, football". Ignored it since that is its version of "wave white flag and capitulate and go to happy place".

Instead, asked the kids to say something. Anything.One kid responded by "ohh...the pressure". Others laughed.

There you have it: objective/intersubjective (and, really, there's no "subjective" research in IR. If stuff's in my head, you can't get to it. Nyah. Unless I tell you--then it's intersubjective. The statement and the laughter = intersubjective. Voila!)

Got them to also talk about football as example of obj/intersubj difference. Worked well, I reckon. Kids seem more animated than usual. Could be due to it being a cold day and it also being (I believe) Free Ben & Jerry's ice cream day. But, I shall take it as them being absolutely enthralled by the discussion.

3. Saw (the film, not a peep show) The Lives of Others (aka The Loo). The Loo was not half bad but a bit too laddish for my taste. The (only) woman-with-a-major role betrays her lover, shags an official and then dramatically ... Really! These sorts of women were being written in the '60s and '70s by Fleming, MacLean and Co. Apparently, they were still around in East Germany in the 1990's.

The LOO's main character, a secret service officer, is a marvellous actor but it's a bit difficult believing the playwright who works within the state system, his lovely pill-popping, MP-shagging girlfriend, the disgraced theatre director who tops himself and the thick secret service folks who can't find a loose floorboard being anything more than caricatures. The ending, however, is excellent. Good job, that.

The scary bit? The constant surveillance by the state, the suspicion, the betrayals of each other, the continuous need to be on guard about what one said and did, and, yet, from watching the LOO, East Germany wasn't too bad, really. No guns, no overt violence, fairly good food to eat (especially if you were part of the artistic community, like the "others" were) and so on.

And informers apparently did quite well. Got ciggies and pills and all that. Definitely not the case in The Wind that Shakes the Barley. There, informers were shot. By their own folks, no less.

Surprisingly, the Irish film made by an Englishman has more well-rounded characters (including women). But--oh all right--not the British who are invariably warmongering louts who shout at the top of their voices and ask the Irish to take their kit off. They--the British that is--also pluck out nails. Not those made of iron and not using hammers but the keratin ones and using pincers.

TWTSTB the film does a good job of pointing out the circular nature of violence, the constant redrawing of lines about who belongs in the community (and who doesn't), the need for (and existence of) fairly unsavoury alliances for strategic means, the compromises made by the pro-Treaty folks and, ultimately, the changes in people. The pragmatic young doctor going off to practice in London becomes a committed socialist promoting public ownership and while his brother undergoes a (reverse) change from IRA member to Treaty-supporter.

In the end, both films are about maintaining order. What the state does to maintain order. How it combats chaos. The alliances it makes to maintain its legitimacy. The constant surveillance (backed up by military means) and the categorisation of people. The fear of being flung back into a Hobbesian state of nature (in the case of TWTSTB, the British returning). On the part of the people, the need to live in fear of their lives.

I'd recommend watching both in a darkened theatre, preferably in the afternoon when not many other folks are there. But, if you can only see one, watch TWTSTB. The details do it, for that one. The stumbling run as the doctor tries to get to an injured colleague; the despair of the older brother who says something along the lines of "if we don't keep order, the Brits will come back" as his men, in turn, commit acts of violence; the old woman who refuses to leave her damaged house, saying she had lived there since she was a child; all these could be cheesy caricatures and, yet, in the hands of these actors, they aren't.

In the end, The LOO distances its viewers--this is what we were like, it seems to be saying. This is where we were. The binary identity constructions--the remote, ruthless secret service bloke "discovers" his humanity; the loving, famous actress is having a sordid affair; the suppression of numbers on large-scale suicides by the (seemingly) squeaky clean state--all those are thrust into the viewers' attention as if to say "Look this is how we were". The added implication is that we (Germany and us, the viewers) have moved on.

Ken Loach and TWTSTB don't do any of that. In TWTSTB, the mechanisms of violence continue, even when the actors change. Here's where we were/are/will be. Violence is central, violence is lurking everywhere and we will have to become them to exist in our world. Difference is not eliminated or absorbed but, the "Other within" is a violent, bloody stubborn and potentially destabilising force.

I'm ever so scared of discovering the Other within me, after watching these films. Yes, I was told to by, among others, this lot but I'm not sure my Other(s) are quite ready to be found out. This Other is not a pleasant sight (or activity), really.

* went against most of what was written about the piece.

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and every day you're in this place

My parents will be here tonight. The maintenance guys just put a sizable hole in my bathroom ceiling. And took the fan with them.

I'm not sure when they're bringing it back.

So let’s talk about research. Specifically, let’s talk about how, after drafting and redrafting and editing and rewriting my prospectus draft, I’ve now chucked it completely. Again. For the…um…fifth time.

Because it sucked. And it’s not fair to inflict that sort of thing on my overworked committee members.

Over and beyond the fact that I don’t want something that I *know* is going to get rejected to have my name on it.

I just can’t seem to figure out how to put this thing together. Major problems:

1. There’s very little literature in my discipline that uses the methodology that I want to employ. Less than ten major works, a double handful of articles.

This could be a good thing (hey, look! New directions in IR research!) but I suspect that the reaction will instead be, ‘if it worked, wouldn’t someone have already used it?’

2. The literature in disciplines that *do* use it isn’t readily analogous to what I want to do. The only thing that I know can transfer over easily is work in public health and epidemiology. And that tends to use it for particular situations, not generalized historical analyses like I have in mind.

I’m not good at avoiding problems of scale.

3. One of my committee members is going to want more theoretical detail. Another will want more detail in the parameters for my analysis. The third will want more about how this is important for the discipline.

The fourth is…well, I haven’t quite got the fourth yet. This is, surprisingly, a relatively minor problem. But I’m sure that person will wanting something else—a justification for why this is IR and not public health, probably.

All of this has to fit into a very short document. Very short. Much too short to fit everything.

4. I’m not even sure that what I want to do is possible. And that comes through in the draft I just tossed. That I don’t know if it’s going to work, let alone give me useful results.

5. Honestly? I’d love to say that rigorous qualitative research is just as difficult as this. But it isn’t. Neither is the usual quantitative research we do in IR. I’m sort of terrified of my own dissertation project. That can’t be good.

Meh. Think I’ll go sit in on someone else’s research presentation. Maybe that will make me feel better.

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was the loudest thing I ever heard

Someone asked me last night why I say "my carpets need cleaned." And it's because they do, over and beyond the fact that the carpet needs swept, but the question was about the grammar. So I replied, at length, and then I got curious about it.

Wikipedia has this:

  • like, need, or want + past participle (Murray, Frazer and Simon 1996; Tenny 1998; McElhinny 1999; Murray and Simon 1999; Montgomery 2001; Johnstone, Bhasin and Wittkofski 2002; Murray and Simon 2002; Wisnosky 2003; Johnstone and Baumgardt 2004; Johnstone, Andrus and Danielson 2006).
Examples: “Babies like cuddled”; “The car needs washed”; “The cat wants petted.”
Further explanation: More common constructions are “Babies like cuddling” or “Babies like to be cuddled”; “”The car needs washing” or “The car needs to be washed”; and “The cat wants petting” or “The cat wants to be petted.”
Geographic distribution: Found predominantly in the North Midland region, but especially in southwestern Pennsylvania (Murray, Frazer and Simon 1996; Murray and Simon 1999; Murray and Simon 2002). Need + past participle is the most common construction, followed by want + past participle, and then like + past participle. The forms are "implicationally related" to one another (Murray and Simon 2002). This means the existence of one construction in a given location entails the existence (or not) of another in that location. Here’s the implicational breakdown: where we find like + past participle, we will also necessarily find want and need + past participle; where we find want + past participle, we will also find need + past participle, but we may or may not find like + past participle; where we find need + past participle, we may or may not find want + past participle and like + past participle. Put another way, the existence of the least common construction implies the necessary existence of the two more common constructions, but the existence of the most common construction does not necessarily entail existence of the two less common constructions.

And I am pointing this out because

1) The article is wrong. It isn't just a Pittsburgh thing, it's a construction that runs all the way from central Pennsylvania to Iowa, at the very least. I don't know if it goes further west because I haven't been farther than that. It doesn't seem to go south of the Ohio River or north of the Straits. Mackinac (pronounced with an "aw," if you please.)

2) People in Chicago say "like + past participle" and I had never heard that before I moved.

2a) I was apparently less successful in banishing my dialectical (heh. Little social theory joke, there) roots than I hoped.

3) I'm intrigued by the progression here. If there's "like" there's always "want" and "need." If there's ""want" there's always "need" but not always "like." If there's "need" there may or may not be "want" or "like."

It seems like there should be a story in there somewhere.


and at length we stood two cables away

So it turns out that I rather fail at reading calendars. An example: my parents (oh, yes. My father has decided to make his yearly visit, too) are coming to stay with us. Next weekend. Thursday, in fact. Or perhaps Wednesday. They haven't decided yet.

I'm not completely panicked about what I'm going to do to keep them entertained for four days in April. Not completely.

Just mostly.

I'm falling back on some old favorites (the gardens at Dumbarton; the Cathedral; 2 Amys) and adding in some new must-see stuff (the Air and Space museum at Dulles, which is utterly brilliant; Bugaboo Creek in Germantown).

My mother is bringing her camera; my father will probably bring a book. Or three.

I've even found a concert to attend, because the universe loves me and is bringing Great Big Sea to town on Friday night. At the Warner.

Canadian Celtic music and sea shanties are a point of convergence in our musical interests. And the show is at a great theater, near a metro stop and with actual seats for my parents to sit in.

This is surprisingly important to them.

So I seem pretty well set, right? With entertainment and sightseeing and such?

Except. For reasons known only to them, they want to stay in a hotel. With an indoor pool. And a hottub.

Shut up. I don't want to think about why, okay?

But I do need hints for hotels that don't cost an arm and a leg. Preferably in suburban Maryland or NW. Any hints?


well, if this is "anti-corruption"

In terms of discourse analysis, this is just highly amusing*

In Mr. Wolfowitz's defence, I'm sure if I had a partner whom I really loved and I controlled lots of money, I'd give him a good raise too. After all, it would raise our (joint) standard of living--it's the most rational choice to make.

* Well, maybe only to those of us who grew up in countries where people depend on aid from the World Bank. Also, during my stint as a paid worker, I had to suffer through seemingly unending and countless presentations about how governments, officials and people of "developing countries" have to be constantly educated about the dangers of corruption. Perhaps, Mr. W should have gone to a few of those himself?

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so, what's the point of all this, then?

Tomorrow, I've set my class an assignment. I've told them to read the day's reading (a task that has to be repeatedly emphasised since they have a tendency not to and I have a tendency, which will surprise those who know me, to talk a bit too much) which is Roxanne's Doty's 1993 article on United States counterinsurgency policy in the Philippines. For an article that was written when most of these kids were kids, it remains one of the best examples of why we do discourse analysis and what discourse analysis "brings to the table" that most other, more traditional, ways of doing research in IR don't.

Why am I talking about this now? Well, one of my students asked me, during my session on genealogy on Tuesday, what the point of doing discourse analysis was. Coming at the end of a long series of questions, this one threw me. The only thing I could think of doing at that time was to ask the class why no one had asked me what the point of doing scientific research (or even interpretive research) was during those sessions. There was silence.

Then, I went on about how we find some ways of doing things (and knowing) commonsensical and how they just make sense to us. Well, discourse analysis emphasises these "normal" things and asks why that is the case and how we think some ways of doing research are "normal" and others are odd (or senseless). I'm pretty convinced that it all sounded like I'd thought this up on the spot which I had since, really, I didn't expect the whole "why do discourse analysis anyway?" question at all. I presumed that, since I as the instructor had told them this was a research style they had to learn, they'd better get on with it. I want to get back to this in tomorrow's class, especially since there were also other questions about how discourse analysis was a "cop out" as it remained agnostic (or atheist?) about the nature of reality.

The assignment, though, is not just to do the reading. It's to do discourse analysis. I picked the recent incident in which a few British sailors were held captive by Iran for a couple of weeks and asked my students to describe different ways in which this incident was represented. I made it easier for them by dividing them into different groups--Britain, Iran, the Sailors, the Media and the People--and told them to identify discourses, trace out identities and list a few common themes/frames of representation.*

I'll let yous know how it goes. I'll also have a bit of a ramble on various German and anti-German films I've been watching lately (The Lives of Others and Valiant) and another couple I plan to see soon (The Wind that Shakes the Barley--and call it research--and After the Wedding). I'm sure yous can't wait to hear of my views on films that none of yous will most likely ever be interested in (though I'd recommend both TLoO and Valiant, if only because, for the latter, how often do you get to watch a film with pigeons as heroes?)

* Yes, we've had the "each research style has its own (bloody awful) jargon" talk already.

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dialed another number on the wall tonight

As some of you may know, I'm part of a weekly writing group (completely unrelated to the still-theoretical-dissertation) that meets in Cleveland Park. So I was sitting there tonight, listening to our conversation, and I figured out one reason that I'm moving so slowly on the phd.

It's because, for all that I love my research topics and teaching students and writing about political science, when it comes to having fun, there's no comparison.

Eyeless dinosaurs under Chicago, and the rhetorical stylings of Beowulf, and Raymond Chandler reworked into iambic pentameter. Trying to name all the Audrey Hepburn movies in order. The way that the fourth draft is utter shit, and the fifth is suicidal, and the sixth is good. Better, at least.

The weird beauty of Paul Gross singing about rottweilers and pickup trucks and bondage while quoting Hamlet. How Jennifer Lopez is sort of terrifying and inescapable. Kinnie Starr and two-fours.

These are things that never come up in my real work. But when someone mentions them on a Thursday night, no one even blinks.

On the other hand, I also wonder what the people at the next table must have thought of us. Probably best we didn't ask.

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three papers I wish I had the time to write

Well, it's not all concert-going and being amused by the rest of the population (and myself--I was the one standing at the back, holding a puffy jacket and trying to create some space around me. Also, add "making awkward movements which resembled dancing not at all" to that) but work often raises its ugly head. Well, today while grading the Interpretive Research Proposals produced by my students, I took some time off to think about paper-writing. Instead of dissertating (or doing another revision of another paper), I would like to start writing these:

1. The Critical Security paper. Yes, most of yous have heard about this but how about a paper that explores what this whole concept of "Critical security" means and how "critical" is being used differently by different groups of people?

2. The Private Security paper. Mercenaries. 'Nuff said. Or, large groups of people have been fighting as (and for) mercenaries throughout the past however many years. Large numbers of Nepali people have been (and are) mercenaries/private security operators (or "Private Military Contractors" as the US Army calls them) for decades. It's seen as a legitimate, honourable career goal. But why is there massive publicity now and what does that mean to international security? I could use my "insider's knowledge" of visiting YouKnowWhere (place whose symbol is a Bear claw) for this and I always wanted to write a proper ("academic") article about that experience.

3. This whole British sailors-in-Iran issue. Especially now that the sailors have been given permission to sell their stories to the media. Read the comments on the BBC (and keep in mind that this is the BBC so "offensive" comments are automatically "moderated" aka removed) for the fairly strong feeling there seems to be about this issue. The shift in public opinion from being supportive of these kids to thinking "oh, well, selling your stories to the media is just not cricket" (but in stronger terms than that) is telling. As is the silence on the part of the Iranians now that they have released the sailors.

Again, what about security here? I suppose we can all say that the sailors' tales will not be focusing on the spiffy suits they got when released (well, except the one woman who obviously got the Iranian bag lady's hand-me-downs) but on the trials they had to undergo.

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i predict a riot

Predictable, yes. Fun, absolutely. Since E's sick (and so I had to watch eps 1 and 2 of Season 3 by myself but, most importantly, without any sort of foodstuffs OR peeps. No peeps, people. Why did E have to be sick now during peeps season?*), here's a brief review of what I was up to earlier tonight (Saturday):

I wandered downtown, in freezing temperatures for April, to catch the Kaiser Chiefs show at the 9:30 club. Some highlights:

- After much debate, decided to go for the Australia (dark blue, with the line drawing of a Koala) t-shirt over the Nepali (bright red, with Buddha's eyes) one. And jeans. And black boots.

- Realised it's been nearly 3 weeks since I was downtown and I supposedly live in this city. Between flunkieing and teaching, there's barely enough time to have a life outside my 'hood. Sad, that.

- The opening bands were both very good. A lot of kids left after the first band. Later, I overheard a chap talking to his mate about how that is the "new DC thing" (teenagers showing up to concerts and leaving after the first opening band). That seems like an incredible waste of money to me but then if that's what floats their boat...

- Got stamped on the back of both hands while entering the club for not having a proper ID**. Being stamped on both hands was what those under 21 had to suffer through. Both the gatekeepers were not convinced of my sanity in actually wanting this while I (obviously) looked a lot over 21. The second bloke kept on saying "are you sure? I can wait while you get out your ID" and (when I insisted I was not drinking) "well, you cannot change your mind later or you'll be thrown out"***

- The funny members of the crowd:

-- The bloke a few lines in front of me who kept on jumping up and down like a lunatic all night. Without a break. All night.

-- Two of my students, whom I ran into. Both were quite embarrased to have to say "Oh, hello Professor" in front of their mates. Little did they know that I'd have been happy if they'd just not said anything. Maybe I should announce this in class next week--if you see me outside of our usual setting (aka uni), feel free to ignore me if you want. However, that's no guarantee I will do the same.

-- The guys on the train on my way back home (just now, at 2.30am. The show started at 10.30pm) who kept comparing the Kaiser Chiefs (and "all British bands") to the Clash. I was strongly tempted to jump in and make a (sure to be unfortunate) comment but restrained myself.

-- The kids who got into a big fight during the first opening band and had to be thrown out by the bouncers. Nothing's as fun as seeing that happen, as long as one is not involved.

-- The guy next to me who knew all the words of almost all the Kaiser Chiefs songs and insisted in singing them (in a fairly loud, though quite good, voice).

-- The large number of people with Northern accents in the crowd. But, alas, none of the Christopher Eccleston variety. The group I was originally standing next to were like Ant & Dec, multiplied ten times and were garbed in pastel-coloured shirts with medallions glinting among their chest hair. A younger Tom Jones would have been proud.

I do hope that's not the in look among Northerners since it would destroy my fantasy image (nurtured over repeated readings of James Herriot and the Lake Poets and, of course, viewing the Ninth Doctor) of the rough, taciturn individual who would never be seen in public with anything shiny glinting among the hair on their chests.

-- The Washington DC crowd, usually staid and reserved at concerts, jumping like yo-yos during the encore. Oh, and seeing well-off students and government employees repeatedly shouting "We are the angry mob". I mean, if a real angry mob showed up, most of us there would be quite keen on leaving (and avoiding said mob) at the earliest op.

-- The lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs being completely mental. I think, in the course of a fairly long set, he managed to surf the crowd, stand up on top of various wobbly contraptions, urge people to sing along to him and also stood on the bar (but he did not take his kit off. Probably a good thing since he was built more along Robbie Williams' lines than Clive Owen). He also repeatedly leapt across the stage at very short intervals. Imagine, if yous can, a rather chubby (but muscular) gazelle, except with two feet and a rather good singing voice.****

Overall, a good night out was had by your intrepid blogger who survived a rather amusing train trip home. On the train, a slightly worse for wear chap insisted on introducing himself to everyone in that part of the carriage (two blokes and me) and asked us our names and where we were from. The two men gave what seemed like their real names and parts of the counry from where they were from (Maryland and Massachusetts). I, as I had been doing throughout the night, said I was from Bethesda. Bloke then kept on asking "Born and brought up?"--Ah, Tocqueville. Hundreds of years after you wrote about it, Americans are still interested in origins. Since I wasn't feeling up to an explanation, I kept on insisting that yes, I was from Bethesda. He then said he was from Texas and again asked me where I was "originally from". I was strongly tempted to say "my mum's tummy" but, as always (though probably for the best in this particular case) kept my mouth shut.

On that note, Happy peeps day to yous. Have a couple of those sugary confections on my behalf.

*Yes, I know there's some sort of religious association involved and folks (well, just one bloke) supposedly rose from the dead but I've seen Life of Brian. All I wanted this weekend were peeps.

** For those who know me (and know I usually don't have ID), I did have ID but it was in an inside pocket and I was too lazy to get it out. Besides, as I was repeatedly telling the people at the door, I wasn't going to drink. After selling my soul for the Snow Patrol tickets and this one, I really couldn't afford the $7/beer price.

*** Bloke at the door had to come back and intervene at this point and explain that, really, I knew the options and I had "chosen not to drink". Sheesh. Do I look like an alkie-in-training or what?

**** So, nothing like a gazelle at all, really.

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walk you through the corridors

I'm rather glad we didn't throw a holiday dinner this year, or that Doctor Who viewing that Priya and I planned. Because I've come back from Boston sick, and I mostly want to sleep until I can breathe again.

Should be any day now. I hope.


don't mention the GWOT

No more "Global War on Terror" (but hold your hurrahs for now)

The Military Times headline today says, "No more GWOT, House Committee decrees". It goes on:

The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.

This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee’s Democratic leadership doesn’t like the phrase.

A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and “avoid using colloquialisms.”

But, wait for the best bit:

If you are a reader of the Harry Potter books, you might describe this as the war that must not be named,” said a Republican aide.

Language and IR, folks! And, Harry Potter

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i predict a riot

This was from yesterday but the writer claims it's not an April Fools' joke:

Announcing: Second Annual Movie-Plot Threat Contest

He writes--Your goal: invent a terrorist plot to hijack or blow up an airplane with a commonly carried item as a key component. The component should be so critical to the plot that the TSA will have no choice but to ban the item once the plot is uncovered. I want to see a plot horrific and ridiculous, but just plausible enough to take seriously.

Make the TSA ban wristwatches. Or laptop computers. Or polyester. Or zippers over three inches long. You get the idea.

Your entry will be judged on the common item that the TSA has no choice but to ban, as well as the cleverness of the plot. It has to be realistic; no science fiction, please. And the write-up is critical; last year the best entries were the most entertaining to read.

Full entry here.

So, dear PTSD readers, go and play. Enjoy yourselves and don't forget to let us know about your entries.

Hat tip Boing Boing


you can leave your brain off

Two things:

1. Season Three of the Doctor's back on the Beeb. Yous can, of course, read all about it when I get around to watching the first episode (some time this week). I have been trying to avoid reading about it but might well give in by mid-week.

2. E gave a shout out to the Riches. I'm here to give another one to Robin Hood (BBC America, Saturdays) for those of yous who want fluff with their Saturday nights.

There're a lot of things wrong--casting for one, with Guy of Gisbourne being far more "traditionally heroic"* (cool accent and seemingly more capable of lifting those heavy bows and swords) than the bloke who plays Robin. In fact, if I had time, I would do a post on how the man himself has changed through time and what this says about a) the Beeb's viewpoint about its audience, b) who is the target audience for the show, c) the shift in how a "hero/leading man" should look like through the decades.** In this version, it's as though the Killers (or any other "indie" band) had suddenly decided to become outlaws. I expected Robin to start singing a song about lost loves and the long road home or something.

And they're all so clean. Shouldn't living in the woods without any sort of public conveniences have made them dirty and grotty (and smelly)?

If you're looking for historical accuracy, don't bother watching. If all you want is a fun hour on a Saturday night, then might as well turn it on since there is nothing else on at that time.

ETA: I've been reminded that there was a Walt Disney (cartoon) version of Robin Hood, with various animals as the characters. It has a rather good soundtrack.

* He was the hero in North and South, an excellent Beeb adaptation even though it changed the ending of the book on which it was based.

** A confession here: my siblings and I grew up watching the old series of Robin Hood, courtesy of our local British Council library. We also had the Disney version on VHS (these were pre-DVD days).