Saturday, May 31, 2008

You did NOT just say that...

A new friend and I wanted to go for drinks today after our day of meetings. So we went to the Congress beer tent, figuring, hey, since we're here, why not? As we walked into the tent area, the security guard greeted us (as "girls," I noted). We found that the beer tent area was about the most depressing place either of us had ever seen and decided that we'd rather poke our eyes out than sit there for drinks, so we would leave UBC and go to an bar downtown. We turned around and I said to the over-interested security guard on our way out, "We changed our minds."

Said he, unironically: "That's okay. That's what women do."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh god. What a stressful day! Try as I might, I cannot relax. I'm just one big stress and adrenaline ball. You don't need to know the details, but let's just say that my traveling to Congress in Vancouver was a highly stressful experience, one that I am still trying to come down from, 4+ hours after I arrived at my hotel. My M.O. for decompressing is to sit here drinking a bottle of wine I bought at the store next door.

I was delayed by the time I got here and incredibly keyed up on stress-related hormones. I was so late that I didn't have time to do anything but throw my bags into the hotel room and rush out again to have dinner with someone - someone I'd never met! I was meeting one of the people who is contributing to our co-edited volume, who is also here at Congress. So I was meeting a colleague, essentially. And I didn't have time to change before I left, so I looked like a beach bum in clamdigger jeans, and a faded black shirt with a button missing, and some kumbaya-ish sandals. Agh!!! And I was meeting her at a swank place, too, that I'd suggested - to which I had to walk-run in order to be on time, adding to my lovely stress-sweat. I feared a disaster. After all, this wasn't meeting a blogfriend, with whom I know we're already in a register that understands stress and looking like you've just come back from a beach party. Maybe this person would be all uptight and business-like and want to be Discussing Work in Serious Ways.

Anwyay. She turned out to be lovely, and totally down to earth - she didn't seem taken aback by my appearance or my stress-y energy. And you know what she told me? That she had quoted me in a grant application she wrote! Long before responding to the CFP for our book...It is so weird for me to think of people even reading my work, much less quoting me. Weird - but good. She feels that it was very serendipitous to have been accepted to contribute to our volume, for this reason. She also says that being accepted was one of the highlights of her academic career!!! My goodness - wow, is all I can say about that.

Anyway, I am going to finish my glass of wine and focus on de-stressing...tomorrow's going to be a long, Congressional day...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A few pictures

How about some photos of my trip to France? I don't have many from Paris (besides photos of old documents), but I do have a couple...

Look, it's Pierre Bourdieu's grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery:

On my free day in Paris with R, we stopped in at Printemps department store to sit in the restaurant under the stained glass, Art Deco dome, drinking wine and eating ice cream in the middle of the afternoon...such a thing you only do on vacation. R took 30 photos of us sitting there. Here's an obscured one of me that gives a sense of the place:

She began to experiment with taking pictures of the mirrored tabletop...still-lifes, as it were, of my wineglass, her coffee cup, empty ice cream bowls - and the stained glass:

On the night before we left Paris, we had a walk through Montmartre so I could locate the Adolph Loos building, and we took a series of photos of architectural detailing on one particularly stunning street.

Then we travelled to Lyon, where I lived seven years ago. I lived there because I loved it - I love it more than Paris. I think it is the city I've fallen hardest for of any I've ever been to. I'm not quite sure why it's such an under-appreciated and forgotten city, given how fantastic, how beautiful, it is. I hated the small French city where I was studying during a year of my PhD, so I moved to Lyon. It was an emotional experience, a little, going back to this place. Mostly good. Here is part of the Roman ruins - the city was an important Roman one called Lugdunum 2000 years ago. These ruined amphitheatres take my breath away, I must say.

Oh, there I am, looking out contemplatively over Lyon, with its red-roofed white buildings...the very thing that gives it the aerial quality that gets me so...

Here's a hilarious dog sleeping in the upstairs window of this restaurant in Old Lyon.

This is the window of Bernachon on Mother's Day (on the 25th in France). Bernachon is considered to be one of the finest chocolatiers in the world. When I lived in Lyon, I happened to live ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM IT. Naturally, we purchased chocolate there. There was an incredible lineup that day, of folks buying cakes and pastries for mothers, presumably.

And these!!! We ate these in Old Lyon. They were like drugs...Oh my god, this may have topped my list of lifetime pastry experiences, it was so good. I worship it:

Home again

I arrived home last night after a sickeningly long 24 hours of being in transit from Lyon. I am now crazily jetlagged and anticipate an exhausted blur over the next couple of days.

It feels great to be back here, in my own space. You know, as much as one loves travel, it is tiring living out of suitcases.


I feel energized for a summer of very hard work on this book. Doing that research was just the right thing to bring me fully into the project. My finds were pretty delicious, and I feel fairly certain I can make something important of them - and that nobody else is doing the same thing right now - probably because they think it doesn't matter. I'll show them it does! Too bad I have other things to do before I really begin to write the manuscript (2 conferences, conference paper, a visit from M.) though all of the things to come over the next few weeks are good ones.


That said, the fact that I am turning around in two days to go to Congress in Vancouver is a little wearing. I just would like to be HOME for a while. I'm not sure what I was thinking, when I planned this portion of my life back in the fall. But Congress awaits, with its myriad of friends and acquaintances, and the panel we have planned, which is sure to be poorly attended, given the overall dire numbers who attend everything in my association, and the fact that the panel is the last of the conference. Although the fact that Congress is in Vancouver this year is sure to boost numbers. But anyway, it shall, I think, be a social whirl, beginning on Friday night when I arrive. That can be a fun thing, certainly. A little exhausting at the mo', but good.

And I've decided that instead of just whining about the national scholarly association I belong to (which I have done here before), I will get involved. I'll attend the AGM and see about getting on a committee, or something. That'll make me feel better.


The only sad thing about coming home (apart from saying goodbye to R) was that Diamond, who was staying at my friend's cat-strewn home, freaked out last night and didn't want to come home. She was terrified of me, when she saw me. She bit me as I was trying to get her into her carrier - and wriggled away and hid under the couch. So she didn't come home with me after all. This was a bit painful - I am already very attached to her, and I was so looking forward to snuggling up with her for a long sleep last night. Also, it was embarrassing - you'd think I torture her, the way she acted with me. On the contrary - I dote on her and we had formed quite a bond. But I guess a house full of other cats trumps a boring apartment populated only by a single human, even if that human loves you very much. She's coming home today - instead of me going there to frighten her and pick her up, my friend will bring her here. Sigh.


Okay. Off to do my laundry and stumble around in a fog. And write to one of you, blogfriends, whose work I read while I was away - and LOVED! Oh dear - I had a number of Important Things to write about - I had planned some blog posts - but I can't remember what they are, now!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Turning tables

Wow. This is a sign that things have changed:

I regard my PhD supervisor, as I've noted before, as a major Force of Good in my life. We have an excellent relationship, which is by now a friendship - I'm pleased to be one of the large network of friends she likes to get tipsy with at conferences and on Home City patios in the summer. But it is largely about me calling upon her as a mentor, of course - I've hoped and assumed that it would always be that way. I call upon her for advice, often. She is godlike in this regard.

So that is why, when I got an email from her two nights ago, requesting my advice about something, I was floored. Granted, this was because I know the person in question. But still - it was my advice she was seeking on a question of professional and quasi-diplomatic importance! How can this be? Wow - times have changed. I don't know what to think of that...I suppose I need to adjust myself to the fact that I have a real position in this little world...I think that adjustment will take years.


We are leaving Paris tomorrow morning - for Lyon, for three short days. I was lucky to finish with my research yesterday, so could take this day as a free one - I worked really hard this week in an effort to do that. We went for a run - as I have done almost every morning since I've been here (miracle of miracles - it is the world's biggest struggle to get me to go for runs first thing in the morning, at home), and ate pastries (food of angels) and I went to see Goya's etchings. Wow, people. Wow. That's all I can say about that. If any of you happen to be in Paris in the next few weeks, get thee to the Petit Palais to see them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Library research hasn't been going as beautifully as it did last week, but I am chugging along...we're in needle-in-haystack territory here, but I feel productive, still - so that's nice. I continue to be enchanted by the library, as well. Even the cafe, where they give you tea in a china pot when you order it - at the cafeteria!

R and I had a GREAT weekend with S. S and I - we are such friend soulmates...Though we never see each other anymore now that he lives in London, there's that ineffable something between us that we've had for 20+ years, and that makes our relationship different from any other. This weekend went a long way to repairing some of the weirdness that came of our last time in Paris, in February of last year. It was pure fun to be together, and THRILLING to be in the company of this person who gets my sense of humour so psychically. And the three of us were a good little group, with S keeping R and I very, very amused.

There has been some yummy food, too (of course) - we've stuck really close to the little apartment in Montmartre for meals out, and there are some great restaurants here off the tourist track. Yum!

Off to the library I go, soon...then R and I will meet up for good, cheap Middle Eastern food and a drink...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So I've been working away, very hard, and leaving the museum and library exhausted, my brain a muddle. Which is great! I'm finding all kinds of great stuff. I've finished with my appointments at the museum - there was enough time, in the end, to look at everything I needed in three mornings. Can I just say - thank the gods for digital cameras in research!!!! What would I do without them...there's no way I could have gotten through even a third of what I did, without being able to take photos. Though 1 euro per photo does add up...

In the afternoons and into the evenings, I've been at the Bibliothèque nationale. I haven't worked there before. I must say that I'm pretty entranced by its incredible size and scope, and its technological efficiency, compared to the only other big research library I've really worked at (New York Public Library). It kind of blows my mind, the incredibly sophisticated system they have in place there. Good lord. Though I also recognize that there's something sinister about it - what surveillance! Thus I shouldn't be so in love with it, but I am. I spend a lot of my time there pondering its coolness while I transcribe text, which only requires half-attention.

In the evenings I've just been stopping on my way home for a drink, and then coming home and making a wee dinner of salad and bread and cheese. I'm conserving my going-out energy - and money - for the rest of the trip...R arrives tomorrow morning! We will be here in Paris together for eight days - I'll be working during the days while she explores - and then going to Lyon for three days before we leave. I lived in Lyon in 2000-01, and haven't been back since. It's full of fraught emotions for me - much as I adore it - so this will be an interesting trip...

This weekend my best friend, S, also comes here from London. Some of you may remember our time together in Paris last year, which was really hard in many ways. We have stayed more distant than we ever were before he moved to London...I never expected this kind of distance between us, never. But these three years have changed things. Anyway, though, he's coming for the weekend, which is grand...there will be lots of fun to be had. But I do worry a little about putting his very lax approaches together with both R and I. You remember, this was a bit of an issue last year...And R is that much more together than I am, and has even less patience for people who don't have their shit together. Historically, as much as they like each other, R and S have clashed in this regard. And of course it is my nature to take on this shit, to try and manage it. I don't want to spend my weekend feeling as if I have to mediate...But already, S hasn't replied to my email asking him to confirm where I'm meeting him when he arrives tomorrow...this is exactly what I'm afraid of. Oh well, we'll have a LOVELY time, I am sure.

Blogging may be quite light until the end of this trip, as I suspect R won't have much tolerance for me spending time on the Internet while we're here together...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Research update

I had my research appointment know, the one I had been able to secure with the formerly very lovely person who suggested i look at these special resources...and then was quite rude to me when I requested some time to do so. She was as lovely as I remember her to be. And she gave me two more blocks of time - the next two mornings. I sensed that she is harried. There have obviously been cuts and changes at the place. They have gone down to seeing people for six hours a month! When I was there last year they had a much more open schedule. There were about ten people crammed in there today, whereas last time, there was nobody else at either appointment. So she's obviously under some stress about this. I'm very grateful to her for giving me these appointments outside of the usual researcher hours.

I managed to get through about a quarter of the things I need to look at there. I'll hope to be able to speed up a bit so I can get through all of it in my two remaining appointments. I have some strategies!

I also got myself set up at the Bibliotheque Nationale today, and will spend the rest of my time there. I have learned of a resource they have there that I didn't know existed - I've never seen a mention anywhere - and am very excited to see sounds as if it could prove VERY germane to my project.

I love doing this kind of work...I wish I could do it more often. I need to think hard about framing the project, this summer...I can build in more of this kind of work, but would need to have money for it. I need to think about whether I should apply for the SSHRC again - with a low success rate - or for a more easily obtainable (from what I understand) internal grant that would be enough to fund another trip, of greater length if I wanted...Sorting out these thoughts will be on the agenda for the next few months. Should I do it because I like it? I mean, it takes me in another direction. The jury's out on whether that will be a very successful direction!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I am in Paris...I arrived yesterday. It is really hot here...full-on summer. Quite gorgeous - though I wish I'd brought more playing-in-the-sun clothes...

My tiny studio in Montmartre is perfectly lovely and functional...very basic, but it'll do just fine...and gets lots of light and has a mini-kitchen so that I can eat in sometimes, thank god. It is also somehow incredibly close to the Sacré-Coeur - like, a two-minute walk - and yet pretty quiet (except, as I learned last night when I tried to sleep with the window open, when it's 1:30 on a Saturday night and the invisible bars are letting out dozens of drunk, shouting patrons). Some things that make me happy about where I'm situated: all the stairs, which enchant me; the fact that the nearest tiny little corner greengrocer is one of the best I've ever seen in France; the fact that I'm on another side of the hill from the awful over-the-top tourist aspects of this area; the rues Lamarck and Caulaincourt, which have captured my heart, the latter for its trees.

My feet have swelled with the heat (and the travel, probably), and I have the most god-awful blisters. It did not help that I wore a pair of sandals for the first time since last summer, or have been wearing a very comfortable new pair of shoes that I thought would never hurt my feet - guess I was wrong. The blisters are so bad right now that walking is a painful chore...but I'm hoping some blister band-aids will clear that up first thing tomorrow...

I wish I could say that I was heading into the library tomorrow...but alas, I am not because it's a holiday (Pentecost). I didn't, of course, even think of this when I booked this trip. I should know better, having lived in France, than to book work trips without checking into holidays. Oh well - it gives me an extra day...not that I want an extra day, considering that this is a relatively short trip.

So, with the bonus day of tomorrow, I shall go on some excursion outside the city (IF I can get my blisters under control) - maybe to Versailles - er, no, the palace is closed. Well, maybe somewhere else...Fontainebleau? And then, come Tuesday, I shall get to work finally, including at the Locale of Disappointment, since the one appointment I could get there was for Tuesday afternoon. Fingers crossed that I will be able to secure a couple more!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I have been doing a hellish, hellish task.

The recruitment office here gets faculty members to call admitted students to try to sell them on the place and encourage them to come here. In a soft-sell kind of way. There was a fair amount of pressure to do this, so I signed on. Gawddddddd. It is the worst thing ever. If I'd wanted to be a telemarketer, I wouldn't have done a PhD. Every person on my list has been admitted here by is nobody's first choice. It is fucking gross to be calling these kids and positively breathing desperation. The worst is when I leave messages with parents or on the answering machine so that parents might hear...because twelfth-graders might not know that this is desperation, but it must seem positively pathetic to parents.

And I just don't have the personality for this. Basically, I do what I'm told, i.e. call and say "Congratulations, Katie, on your admission to Scary City U. Do you have any questions for me?" Only one of the dozen students I've talked to so far has any questions at all. Which is incredibly awkward!! The info packet says that while that students might not have questions, they might enjoy hearing about research I or my departmental colleagues do. What????? Can you imagine? That is precisely telemarketing - foisting your self-interest on uninterested people in the pre-dinner hour!! And, on a more practical level, how do you seque into that??:

Me: I'm Prof. Hilaire from Faculty of X at Scary City U., and I'm calling to congratulate you on your admission and see if you have any questions.
Kid: No, I'm good/No, I'm hoping to get into Y/No, it's not my first choice.)
Me: Well, let me tell you all about ME!!!!!

So needless to say, because I won't do this, I am getting absolutely nowhere, and it's just a big fat bloody waste of time. Next year, no way. I just don't have the personality for this. Nor do I believe in the "brand" of Scary City U, which I think you need to do if you want to do this convincingly.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Do you feel marked by your own training? I do.

What I mean is that I feel so intensely as if I am a product of the period in which I took my BA. The early-mid '90s. I can't escape it. I'm imprinted. I just wrote this conference paper and I kept wanting to move into another discourse/register. Because I just started writing and waited to see what unfolded - always my writing style, for better or (more probably) worse - it felt as if I was watching myself be carried, against my will, back into this framework I was trying to move away from. I know I am making it sound as if I have no agency in the process, and of course I don't mean to suggest that. But I must say that I do find it fascinating, the way my "knowledge," or more accurately, my academic socialization, trump my wishes to turn my scholarship from X into Y. I have a strongly conditioned way of knowing, and working outside of that proves to be very difficult. I think I'm going to have to just live with that. Especially since my attempts to move into another register fail. I suspect I shall forever be defined by a kind of wispy abstraction that I both semi-deplore and am also seduced by. Ah, well.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Writing as cure

I'm writing a conference paper right now.

All I can say is, I should be writing every day. Even for fifteen minutes, brainstorming. This is what I've been telling myself since 2008 began, bringing with it an enormous amount of new reading in relation to my book project. I kept thinking, "I should sit down and process this glut of reading by writing about it - just writing random notes, just generating thoughts, since I think through writing and not through reading or talking or anything else." I never got myself to do it, though - which is bad. I just kept on ingesting, without ever working through.

But now I'm writing again - the first time I've written something new in about six months, and I see how much comes of it. I should be doing it all the time. Because, a) it brings me pleasure, and b) it seriously lessens my anxiety about productivity, tenure, etc., etc., by showing me I do have thoughts and I belong in this place and that, oh yeah, actually there is enough in my brain (and the material I'm working with ) to write a book.

I must remember this. Writing as tranquilizer.