The Twilight Hours

I am currently in the twilight hours of my time at Georgetown. I am writing the last paper I have before graduation. While I am excited about finishing, there is no real sense of finality: this might be my last paper with CCT, but in reality, it’s one of the first papers of my career. That’s right, at 25, with no “real” work experience, I have a career.

When I graduated from George Mason with an English BA in 2008, I could not find a job. I wasn’t even able to find work in retail, not even selling coffee or books. It was an incredibly depressing year, and the worst part: it was just a stepping stone between BA and MA. Getting into Georgetown was an absolute dream come true, getting to go back to school was all I wanted. Just before Fall 2009, and during my first semester at CCT there were voices of dissent, that what I was doing was some kind of joke, not “real”, that graduate school was a cop out, that it was easy and unimportant, that it indicated some immature, incapable element in my character.

Graduate school is no fucking joke.

On the 20th, I’ll graduate with 80-some other CCT students who have done incredibly interesting, innovative, important and difficult work for their degrees. I’ll graduate without ever having having had a full-time job, health benefits, and never having seen a cubicle or 9 to 5. I will however, graduate with a career, a 122 page thesis, innumerable papers, 3 conferences, a TA position, a personal archive, a vocabulary (which enables me to actually speak a secret language) that you would not believe and the knowledge that there really are 21 functional hours in a day, everyday. I will graduate having thought about and written about difficult, complicated things, things which are playful, powerful and yes, have stakes. Most importantly, I’ll graduate knowing what I’m capable of.

I cannot truly express how impressed I’ve been by the people I’ve worked with in graduate school, how much respect I have for people who take on academic work. Everyday of the last two years I’ve watched my peers and professors take on things which do not even touch the lives of most people, things which require a level of devotion and focus, thought and intensity most people will never see. Some of my CCT class will go onto jobs, some to Phd’s, and some to an indeterminate future (I am in that third group for the moment.)

What matters, though, is that I’ll graduate with a pretty good idea of what I want from my life, and while there is no promise of a job, and the security it brings, there is the promise that I found a place to belong, a space to work. I’ll take my year off, and have a look at “real” life and then I’ll go back to where I belong –

As far as everyone who before I began, and while I was in graduate school, raised their eyebrows, and treated me like a child playing a meaningless game because I didn’t participate in the “real world”: my world is very “Real”, in fact, I question your ability to even conceptualize notions of the Real to a degree which would allow you to question what I have done, and quite frankly, I do not care what you think, and I never will.

I have learned so much from my classes, and more so from the people I’ve interacted with at Georgetown. On the 20th, we can graduate knowing we’ve achieved something important, personally and beyond ourselves. We have every reason to be proud of ourselves, in fact, we have every reason to be smug.

So, on the 21st, I encourage you all to take a deep breath, and then to look around you and try not to panic as you are confronted with a “weekend”. This thing is called a “Saturday”, and as I understand it, people in the “real world” get it “off”. Just slip some Deleuze (or whatever you poison/security blanket might be) into your bag and keep your head about you as you take all that you have learned into the world.

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Queer The Weekend

It is currently spring break for students at Georgetown. Some of my thesis-writing friends and I have thus retired to a cabin in Virginia to focus our minds, bond with our books and get a lot of new words down in the woods.
The cabin is a cute little thing, filled with every possible necessity, a sweet handful of harmless bugs, and a myriad of food items.

Jack, Julie, Lakshmi and I (The Queer Collective) have decided to name our adventure “Queer the Weekend”. We’ve so far been here since Saturday evening, we’ve cooked two complete meals, made one impromptu trip to the local WalMart, played in a hot tub and reconciled ourselves with having considerably less cell phone service than we’re used to. We’ve also made s’mores, and Coke floats.

However, the driving purpose of the weekend is to work. Thesis is the order of the day, much of the time has been spent in long quiet stretches, writing. Alternatively, walking aimlessly from room to room describing our ideas to each other. We set little goals each day and valiantly attempt to complete them. I bustle around cleaning in a compulsive way, and make sure the doors are locked before falling asleep about 4 times, things are very normal.

Yesterday it rained all day long, which was really quiet and lovely, we got to experience rain and hot tub simultaneously. Today the sun came out, and Julie and Pixel went exploring. Tomorrow, I expect we’ll foray into further sandwich pyrotechnics (Jack + Colva + Frying Pan.) and probably go back into town, as it’s a way to get out, and we’re woefully low on marshmallows.

It really is wonderful here. I feel as if I could stay for weeks, and when the time comes to pack up our little car, I expect to be quite saddened. Just being an environment where we’re able to get away from distractions, and away from the chaos of “real life” is an amazing break. It’s also amazing to be around people who are really good at what they do and be able to work together. There’s almost no coordination required, somehow we just seem to work together.

Also, Charlie Sheen and his ubiquitous hashtags are providing a welcome framework on which to identify our successes. #winning, #tigersblood and #planbetter are the order of the day.

Excuses, Excuses.

I used to update this blog all the time, I feel excessively guilty that I haven’t been. Sadly, my life is full of a million different things. Of all of these things, the one which is preventing me from blogging in a regular way is my thesis. Ah, my thesis. I’m currently in a mood where I am telling myself that my thesis is pretty excellent regularly. The reason for this is that I am writing the first chapter, which I am not altogether sure is any good.

My thesis is about horror movies (surprise!), specifically, it’s about recent extreme, gore, and torture films. Torture porn. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure when I developed all these strong thoughts and feelings about torture films. It happened sort of accidentally. I guess I always thought I would write about vampires, but alas, vampires feel so overplayed these days, that despite the fact that I am “into” vampires, and know a lot about vampires – it didn’t seem like a worthy thesis topic. So somehow, while muddling through things I found myself making some off-hand, and probably off-color (if anything can be said about this thesis, it’s that it is often rather off-color. I use words like “erotic” is VERY off-color ways.) comment about Saw and 9/11. I’m not sure how it became a thesis, but it did. I just started talking about it one day, and spent the whole of last semester talking about it, talking and talking. I ended up talking about it for hours a week, to my thesis adviser, who I do not think was my adviser at the time, in fact I think it was probably a pretty weird thing to start randomly talking about, whatever.

Well, I’ve talked about it a lot, I’ve discovered I am chock-a-block with opinions about torture, and bodies, and blood, and gore, and ratings, and politics (?) and sex, and France, and America and so on. Now I have to write all of this down, in a sensible, coherent (not in the manner that I use to review films.) style. This is really difficult. It is more difficult than I ever would have imagined. But, regardless of these difficulties it now must be done. Some days I am so excited about it, I want to sing about it from the hills, tell all the world about things like the erotics of torture, and some days I wish gnomes would come in the night and write it for me. I hope the gnomes do a good job, and read what I already have as to mimic my off-color, metaphor-heavy style. Though, frankly, if gnomes come I won’t read what they write, I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to question magical gnomish writing.

An Ode To My iPhone.

Once upon a time I had an iPod, and I had a small, red, Samsung flip phone. It was my senior year in college. I had returned from a trip to Africa and on the flight home, I had dropped my iPod. It had careened down the aisle of the plane. It would never turn on again. A couple weeks later, I sat in a bar on campus. I balanced my little, red phone precariously on the top of a slim-line beer mug. A friend said, “that phone will fall in.” It did. I panicked. I got beer all over myself. The phone never recovered.

On March 6th, 2008 – I wrote this email to my Dad.
“Hey Mom and Dad.
got phone looked at. water damaged beyond repair.
spent money, got iphone.
is beautiful.”

This was the day my love affair with my iPhone began. Since then I have described the time I’ve had it as being anywhere from 3 years to 9 million years. The time has been so beautiful.

It has been the iPhone that time forgot, old and clunky. Indestructible, dropped many times. The light was bright and charge stayed strong.

About two months ago my phone began to behave…unusually. It was dropping calls, slowing down, failing to get texts, crashing. I would reboot it, restore it, speak kindly to it and nightly hope that these were not signs of terminal illness. It began to have occasional seizures, I would patiently stroke it back to functionality. As time has gone by it has slowed down, refused to get internet, the sound comes in and out, service is spotty at best. I began to hold it to my ear, listen to the sound of its tiny hard drive whirring into eternity. I can still hear its little iPhone heart beating, but it is dying. I know I could just use it, tolerate its breakdown, tantrums – but I know what would happen. I could come to hate it. I would hate its slowness, its crashes. I would come to resent my little companion.

Today I decided I would not let that happen. I went to the Apple store in Georgetown and bought a new iPhone. A 8 gig, 3Gs. I don’t need more than 8 gigs. Today I stood on the corner of Wisconsin Aveune and M St and watched the service bars drop. No Service. No service ever again. No calls, no texts, no twitters. He will still get wireless, and still plays music. I will let him fulfill these roles until he can quietly and peacefully go. I just finished syncing him for the last time. Preparing him for a quieter life, a retirement.

I made the first call on my new phone to Paul. I’m happy it sounded clear, worked well. But it was not a happy occasion.

I learnt so much from my iPhone. I could text more, make friendships fast, I met a lot of people through this phone. I sent the texts that have built my relationship, saved me during all-nighters, I’ve found directions, I’ve been able to sit in airports and bus stops and just be online – learning all the time. I don’t think I would have thought to go to CCT if I hadn’t been so connected to this little piece of technology.

You will live a peaceful life, little iPhone, and even once you have passed into the great beyond – I will keep you close by.

Film: The Last Exorcism

I went this weekend to see The Last Exorcism. I was really excited about this for a few reasons, firstly, I like movies about exorcisms, secondly, I have a crush on Eli Roth and will see anything he’s remotely connected to. I was actually really impressed with it, usually I have my reservations about horror films with PG-13 ratings, because I like my movies very bloody.  What I do not like is hand-held camera shooting. I find it irritating and disorienting and it makes me want to punch the character holding the camera. There were some really good examples of why I hate this form in this film. Right, so the person with the camera in the film is a guy named Daniel. Daniel is 1/2 of a film crew making a documentary about how one gifted preacher from Louisana’s whole exorcism routine is a fake. Mostly, I am completely fine with this premise, however, amoungst all this hand-held faux doumentary style there are random scenic establishing shots of the rural Lousiana environment. Now, this, makes me wonder, why, in their moments of terror and difficulty would good old Daniel take time to go and stand in the rain and take creepy establishing shots of the house, the barn, the cars?

The other thing that this film really drew my attention to is Demon Logic. It was not a real flaw of this film, or of any demonic or exorcism based movie, but more of a question as to how we have constructed the manifestations and behaviors of demons and in turn, the demonically possessed. I am not totally sure why any demon, possessing the body of a young girl (because apparently all any self-respecting demon wants is to be inside a young girl…make of that what you will.) would use their time the way they do in these films. Let’s have a look into the demon day planner, shall we?

Sundown: immobilize victim, frighten family – 1 hour.

8pm: Spasms.

8:45pm: Froth at the mouth, roll eyeballs around.

11pm: Go for a creepy walk.

11:10pm: Stand creepily in the garden, possibly with arms outstretched.

11:25pm: Gruesomely slash up some livestock, watch Law and Order.

1am: Contort.

2:34am: Take another creepy walk.

2:40am: Stand creepily in living room.

5am: Withdraw.

I don’t want to  be negative here, but exactly what is the point of all this? Why, if you are a demon, don’t you just, you know, defile some flesh, get a good soul grip and be on your merry demonic way? Why all this standing around, and frothing? It’s not really accomplishing anything. Like for example, I’ve never really understood why that whole pea-soup, upside-down-stair-walk was even happening in The Exorcist. It would make sense if the demon in question was killing people, or livestock or making  brownies, but all this gratutious demonic showmanship seems at best, unrealistic, at worst, a real fault in the demonic behavioral structure. I’m just saying that if I were demon, I wouldn’t spend so much of my time standing around creepily and contorting.

That said, The Last Exorcism is excellent, well produced and suspenseful. It’s suitably graphic, and shocking considering it’s mild rating and does a good job of really using it’s setting. Like many horror films, it benefits from the rural Louisiana countryside and the spirituality smorgasbord that is the deep American South. I was particularly impressed with the possessed, Nell. She straddled the boundary between innocence, malevolence and unnerving sexuality well.

The film also does a good job of bringing the nature and location of evil into question. I think the most effective horror films are the one’s where we don’t know who or how to trust. One’s where it’s difficult to figure out whether the monstrousity we’re looking at is a supernatural, Satanic manifestation or whether it’s an evil emerging from humanity and human nature.

I’m also delighted to see a smaller, less gratutious horror film, like this doing so well at the box office. The promotional work has been excellent and it deserves it’s success. It’s not only a triumph for the filmmakers of this work, but for the genre as a whole.

In mildly related news: I found that I has neglected to ever tell my two best friends about The Human Centipede today. I had forgotten how entertaining it is to recount first sequence. Also, my friend Seana, who is a nurse, seem confounded as to why the Doctor didn’t intravenously feel the centipede segments and give them ostomies from which to defecate, thereby eliminating the risk of infection and starvation – but also compromising the link gastrointestinal system. How differently medical professionals think.

The Vogue Way

Today I had people over to my apartment for a thesis-research exploration session (Mind Meld). It was a bit of a first for me, having people in my apartment – I tend to be strangely nervous about how people will percieve the space I live in and usually it’s just me and my boyfriend. As the conversation progressed I glanced up from my note taking to see one of my friends flicking through a Vogue which had been sitting on my coffee table. At first I didn’t think much of it, but then was suddenly very aware of the pile of Vogue’s on my coffee table, the two in my bathroom, the years of back issues on the bookshelf in my hallway.

Being in a graduate program and so often discussing issues of gender, sexuality and the issues of modern media and male priveledge I have become more aware of the latent, institutionalized misogyny swirling around the world of consumer films, books, TV and indeed, magazines. I’ve definately looked at women’s magazines over the course of my life and really wondered about the kind of messages they send and the sort of the images they promote. I’ve deinately found Cosmopolitan to be less than savoury when it comes to messages directed at young women. However, I suppose I’ve always found something to be different about Vogue.

My mother read Vogue through most of my childhood, there would be copies in her office, next to her bed. She’d flip through even old issues to look for ideas for dresses to make or creative ideas. As a little girl, I remember sitting on the floor of guest bedrooms at relatives houses and hotels flipping through the pages of a glossy Vogue. The first thing I did when I graduated from undergrad was purchase a subscription. Even though there isn’t an outfit in the magazine I could fit in to, or anything much I could realistically buy apart from Dior mascara and Chanel lipstick. Despite this, the magazines glamorous, highly polished finish speaks to my desire for grandeur.

It might be silly of me to assume that there’s anything different about my favourite magazine compared to dozens of other magazines on the rack at CVS or Barnes and Noble, but to me, Vogue has always been different, it’s always been about fashion. When it’s not about fashion is about more valid and pertinent issues than magazines like Cosmo. While Vogue might be fairly candid about sexuality, it’s not going to tell any 20-something exactly how to conduct herself in the bedroom. While many fashion magazines pimp trends to women, Vogue decides those trends. Often the outfits ensconced in it’s pages are too much, too cumbersome, or simply haute to be wearable, sexy or even have marginal saleability. This is where trends are born.

There seems to be something different about the women in Vogue, they aren’t usually wet, and are invariably dressed. Very very dressed. The value in the magazine is heavily placed on clothing, accessories, beautiful expensive things. While I’m not saying it’s right to assume the alternative to blatant, sexualization for young women is Cartier and Botox, it does seem more pertinent.

It seems when it comes down to it in a fashion magazine, a little bit of sunscreen and a lot of book reviews go a long way.