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I am presenting at the NeMLA (that's "Northeast Modern Language Association" for those not in the biz--and, yes, I just used "biz" to mean "dorks who read books all the time but like totally professionally") at my alma mater, Rutgers. My paper is utter and complete drivel but, oh well. If the humiliation doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger....right?

My paper is about deception, Darwin, detective fiction, and women. It was vastly under-developed at 25 pages. Now I have to pare it down all the way to 9. And I just wrote four new pages when I was supposed to be cutting. Whyyyyyy am I epic fail?

I feel like this cat is my spirit animal right now:
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I finally have funding to go to the conference in my home state! I will be at my old undergrad university too...and will be able to take a fabulous friend home to meet my dear old Da (who got a PhD but couldn't find an academic job back in the 70s and is totally happy in his job now as a copyeditor at Sports Illustrated (because then he can be nerdy about sports and grammar at the same time) but who, deep down, loves the opportunity to waffle on about literature/theory). The friend in question is particularly fabulous and my Da has been getting lonely now that he lives alone most of the time. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to have vibrant conversation all over the house to cheer him up. Maybe bake some bread together. My dreams are limitless.

I also do not feel quite right without a sojourn to New Jersey every couple of months. I don't get attached to places, really, because I love moving and starting from scratch....but I still need a NJ fix. I just love Jersey so very, very much.

So. NeMLA, here I come!
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I am waiting in the grad lounge for the last of my students' final projects. The majority have come in already--only two haven't.

But I am working on my own paper while I wait and guess what I found in the May 22nd, 1860 issue of Harper's Weekly? A column about the Japanese delegation to the US written in crazy dialect. I kid you not. Enjoy a sampling:

"While we wos a waitin' I spyd wun ov Mr. Harper's artists a sketchin' away like phun, makin' a pictur ov the yard, and ov the peeple, and ov the white-washed plank-walk for the Jappyknees to cum ashoar on, and the sogers, and the stemeboat we wos on, Jappyknees and awl, includin' me. But awl at wunst he seed sumthin' on the bote, and stop'd drawin', and begun to larf like phun. I looked tew see what on airth he was a larfin' at, and thair was a Jappyknee oppositioner a sketchin' away like phun tew. I deon't wundur Mr. Harper's artist was kinder knocked aback tew see this feller, and I would like tew see the tew picturs, side by side, jist tew see which feller was best."

"Littel Count Videpocke worn't know where, and he sed, seys he, “Sare, I sink se Japonais be von gr-r-r-r-and hoombug!” I thort tew myself, but didn't say so, “You're a little humbug, and eklips'd, young forrynur.”"

And--the pièce de résistance--this gem of irony:
"He's a sort of Brigaid-Major tew the Prince ov Boozy and the crowd, and spekes English sort ov tollerble well."

I honestly don't know what to do with this. It is going in my paper--obviously--but seriously. WTF. I'm just asking.
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So I am a dutiful sister or whatnot so I will actually be doing what mine told me to (sleep) soon (no really, I so totally am gonna sleep)....

....


BUT FIRST.

HI.

I have been working non-stop ALL DAY--that's, like, a gaZILLION hours of serious!face bizniss and my brain has MAXED OUT. No joke. And I tend to make weird internet choices in the middle of the night (it's 2:30 AM) ...


....


BUT. I now have sufficient material for my presentation tomorrow. And I will only have to say, "Oh, wait, that's not written yet" .... a couple dozen times. BUT IT'S OK.

BECAUSE I WILL HAVE EXCITING PICTURES. AND AN MP3 OF A WALTZ WRITTEN IN HONOR OF A TEENAGER WHO WAS PART OF THE DELEGATION TO JAPAN IN 1860 THAT IS CRAZY!PANTS.

It is a three minute mp3. WHAT.

I WIN.


NOW SLEEP.
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My sister says I am required to do two things tonight:
1. Eat something.
2. Sleep some.

It's like she knows me or something.

Have been panicking allllll day about the presentation for tomorrow. Have drunk MUCH coffee. Have not made much progress.

My sister tells me that is untrue. She says I have made significant progress and it is only my panic that is making me think I am still drastically under-prepared.

I think she may be full of shit but she's awfully nice too.

New idea: write about 1860 Japanese delegation to America. This is funtimes for several reasons:
1. I still get to talk about Edward House because he writes his first couple of articles about Japan for this event.
2. I found a footnote that says this: "One analyst suggests that Ta-uen [a character from a short story by House] symbolizes the never-married House's struggle with his own sexual identity, concluding that House 'probably realized that he was a homosexual.' Though occasional remarks in letters suggest that House was sexually active, I have found no evidence to either support or contradict this claim." The "analyst" is probably a grad student, btw. God, I LOVE crazypants footnotes.
3. Whitman wrote a poem to commemorate the New York leg of the visit.
4. There was a surprise breakout star: "Tommy," a teenager in the delegation party, attracted throngs of adoring middle-aged women. He told House he was looking for a wife and House, in a later column, says he met with heartbreak. There are TONS of drawings and photographs of this dude.
5. Both countries lost interest in each other soon after because they went into civil war.


Problems:
1. There is, like, one aspect of this whole thing that is literary. And I am supposed to be literary all the time.
2. I have nothing to say about any of this. Just, "oooh! lookie!" which, as I have oftentimes told undergrads, does not a thesis make.
3. I am panicking alllllll over the place.


My solution is simple: I will make a slideshow. I will pause languorously to do "readings" of every photo, every drawing, everythe only poem....I should be able to speak slowly enough to take up 15-20 minutes, right?

GOD, I am the WORST grad student in the history of EVER.

Conclusion: I should eat. Eating is good.
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Still working on the same paper...I just read the six billionth (fourth, my god, B, you are so very hyperbolic) newspaper article by Edward H. House about Japan. I have to make a paper about them fast because I accidentally volunteered to go first on Monday in our presentations.

It was an accident like this:
I have a tag for my weird life choices because they are so weird )

BUT YES. Back to my point. The PAPER I am writing for this Transatlantic Print Culture and Race in the Nineteenth Century course is about...almost all of the things in the title. Just a different ocean. So it's about House's articles about Japan for American readers back in New York and Boston. See how I did that?

Race? Check.
Print Culture? Check.
Transatlanticpacific? CHECK.


House's articles turn out to be pretty fervently anti-British and anti-Catholic. I called my sister--a medieval and Renaissance grad student--and asked her WTF.

"I get the anti-Catholic stuff in Britain," quoth I. "What's it doing here when the guy is also anti-British?"*

* I was raised atheist--stringently atheist-- and quasi-hippie so I say shit like this out loud and then people give me weird looks. I just. I don't get most religious stuff. It is ALL foreign to me. Also. I once had a history teacher in high school who taught the same two pages of the text book every single day for a year and then skipped to WWII. I am missing CHUNKS of history.

"You're stupid," she said (but nicer) and then explained the Puritans. In the five minutes she had to spare before she continued to fete her hubby for passing his prelims. (She has been feting him for about a week now. I called the other night and they were drinking champagne and eating burgers. Even I would not do that. They were, unsurprisingly, sick afterward.)

I'm still mostly confused and very much unsure of how this all relates back to the Reformation. She assures me it does. So I guess I'm writing my paper about re-staging the Reformation in Japan via America?

...that is so stupid. Now my head hurts.

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August 2012

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