The upshot: Scatology

I'm slowly recovering from last week's academic earthquake and putting it in perspective. Today in the library, looking for a few good texts about performance (the newly figured comprehensive exam area), I began to get excited by the topic and I can definitely see how it all fits together with the other two topics and with my own motivations for this thesis. Everything will be fine and in fact improved by a slightly longer comps period and with this recent restructuring. Phew. I'm just denied two months of summer. Ah well.

So what is the upshot I mentioned in the post title? In the library, while reaching for PeggyPhelan's Unmarked, my eyes caught the title of the next book: Fecal Matters in Early Modern Literature and Art:Studies in scatology. Yeah, go ahead and read that again: Fecal Matters in Early Modern Literature and Art: Studies in scatology, by JeffPersels and Russell Ganim . The collection of essays outlines how and why feces, urine, phlegm, and other bodily grossness featured in everyday life in Early Modern Europe and made their way into visual arts and literature. The editors/authors claim this topic was the final taboo and needs to be more closely examined for contemporary scholars to better understand the relationship people in that era had with their (and others') bodies.

You're wondering why this book appeals to me and why I did actually check it out for three months? I've had an abstract accepted for a Toronto conference in October that I'm really excited about. My paper will be about the gross aspects of sustainability efforts that turn people off pro-environmental behaviours, things like highlighting waste processes in new green buildings and grey water recycling in homes and businesses to reduce water waste, or even vermicomposting with red wrigglers. I think a clearer perspective on why we react to gross things as we do will have a positive effect on how we communicate the need for behaviour change for a sustainable future. Make sense? Like, why do we squeal at the site of wriggling pink worms and why do most people in Western society cringe at the sight of human feces when both of these things can positively affect composting and gardening to shrink our ecological footprint. I'm really excited about the paper and am disappointed that I have to stall working on it because my comps will be so much later than expected.

Besides, who can resist a book with the following Table of Contents:
  1. The ‘Honorable Art of Farting’ in Continental Renaissance Literature - Barbara C. Bowen
  2. ‘The Wife Multiplies the Secret’ (AaTh 1381D): Some Fortunes of an Exemplary Tale - Geoffrey R. Hope
  3. Dr. Rabelais and the Medicine of Scatology - DavidLaGuardia
  4. ‘The Mass and the Fart are Sisters’: Scatology and Calvinist Rhetoric Against the Mass, 1560-1563 - JeffPersels
  5. Community, Commodities and Commodes in the French Nouvelle - Emily E. Thompson
  6. Pissing Glass and the Body Crass: Adaptations of the Scatological in Théophile - Russell Ganim
  7. Scatology as Political Protest: A ‘Scandalous’ Medal of Louis XIV - Jeanne Morgan Zarucchi
  8. Foolectomies, Fool Enemas, and the Renaissance Anatomy of Folly - Glenn Ehrstine
  9. Holy and Unholy Shit: The Pragmatic Context of Scatological Curses in Early German Reformation Satire - Josef Schmidt, with Mary Simon
  10. Expelling from Top and Bottom: The Changing Role of Scatology in Images of Peasant Festivals from Albrecht Dürer to Pieter Bruegel - Alison G. Stewart
  11. Tamburlaine’s Urine - Joseph Tate
  12. ‘The Wronged Breeches’: Cavalier Scatology - Peter J. Smith
I intend to have a few visuals to accompany the paper when I present at the conference. If you'd like to join the mailing list I promise to send you the slide show when it's completed. Limited space - Join Now!


aw gawd

Yep, it's been kind of a long day. I had a committee meeting today where the agenda included going over my proposed reading lists and collectively brainstorming questions the committee might pose as my comprehensive exams, to be written in the third week of May.
The agenda did not include restructuring my three topic areas with significant implications in the reading lists and a major reconceptualisation of the timeline.

Ah well, give an academic an agenda and he/she will do all she/he can to thwart it.

I'm not writing my exams in May. I might write them in June/July and I definitely won't be defending them until the last week of July.

This means two more additional months of heavy stress, additional readings since the third comp area has now been completely rewritten, and probably a change in exam criteria that I will return to the committee. Sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo, doesn't it? Tell me about it, yo. You tell me about it.

After the meeting my body was doing very strange things. I saw a friend and tried to fill her in but I kept bending over and rubbing my face. Really odd. I was also laughing/crying without really the crying but the impetus to cry was still there. I'm feeling pretty messed up. It will pass. I already am of the opinion that these changes we devised (it was a team effort, after all) will be good and I'll have a better product at the end of it, but still, I was sure looking forward to offloading a tonne of stress on June 1st. Now the earliest that can happen is August 1st. Donald, we can probably still work something out for your visit. I intend to write on weekdays and take weekends off, so give me a call and I'll reassure you that your hunting trip is still ok. Mom, maybe my request to join you on your Alaskan cruise was premature. Yep, it was.

aawwww gAWd I might, very almost, be done. Done. Like dinner. It's been a hell of a couple weeks.


Thoughts of the moment

My thigh is twitching; it feels like it is bubbling. If I was a potter, I would feel the need to thump out the air lumps in my leg. How annoying!

Theodor Adorno was in the Frankfurt school of philosophers and his work may be useful in my comprehensive exam areas. So Supervisor John thinks. I think I have enough on my plate, thank you very much.

Vietnamese food is good and I might just make a steaming pot of vegetarian Pho for dinner. Yesterday this same plan arose but was not consummated. 'Consummated' is very close to the word 'consomé' and they are both in this post about soup. How clever.

The new Globe and Mail print layout sucks.

Youtube has some very weird shit:


SF successes and mishaps

Quick update on the San Francisco adventure:

  1. Road trip: excellent. Quite fast and very easy with my travelling companions. We visited Eugene (amazing little place, very funky), stayed in Canyonville (even more cool and hip though itsy bitsy), and made it to San Francisco on time, as planned. Ultra chill.
  2. San Francisco is beautiful and we've had fabulous weather - sunny and blue skies. Haven't done anything ultra touristy yet except walk around Fisherman's Wharf, walk down the crookedest street in the world (Lombard St.) and visit Telegraph Hill (didn't spot the famous parrots). We did go to the Mission district for a famous Mission burrito last night. Holy crap. The BEST EVER. Ok, that's actually a fair amount of touristy stuff.
  3. Conference: The San Fran Five delivered an excellent panel yesterday, if I can say so myself. We had an audience around 20 at its peak and 10 by the end (that's normal). I thought everyone was confident and presented very well.
  4. Mishap 1: I lost Rocco's digital camera when leaving our session. Suffice it to say that I'm feeling immense guilt and have been harassing the hotel Lost and Found regularly.
  5. Mishap 2: While searching for the missing camera I managed to also miss the conference session that included Nigel Thrift, a professor I've been really looking forward to meet in person. The room was packed well beyond capacity and there was no way one more person was getting into the space.
  6. Mishap 3: I ran into the co-supervisor of my Master's in an elevator and asked if she would like to find time for a quick coffee. We had been e-mailing amicably lately and promised each other some time at the AAG. She shut me down point blank with a simple "No." I then rode an extra 17 floors of elevator time with her and her partner because I didn't realise the elevator was headed up when I climbed on. Awkward, humiliating, etc. She's now Number One on the blacklist of the San Fran Five. My co-presenters have a plan to humiliate her in return this afternoon by attending her presentation and loudly, rudely, walking out in a huff when she begins to speak. Ha!
  7. Mishap 4: Maybe this is less of a mishap and more of a regular disheartening event, but I just got news of my latest round of SSHRC applications and I've been rejected, again. No moola for me. I should maybe quit this academic bullshit now to protect myself from more weeks like this one.
Feeling kind of low, as you can imagine, but I'm planning some shopping therapy to revive myself. We have reservations at an awesome-sounding restaurant tonight, all veg all the time. I'm looking forward to that and to the accompanying wine. Also planning a run with two friends this afternoon that will include running back and forth across the Golden Gate Bridge. Yay!

Call me manic for this week has already been a rollercoaster.


Lasse Gjertsen, The Human Beatbox

A Norwegian animator with a taste for the absurb and the awesome!

Patterns of bad behaviour

Congratulate me, I've learned something about myself. I've realised that when reading a conference call for submissions, I get super excited and motivated to produce something awesome, clever, interesting, and manageable. It always sounds manageable. Then, eventually (since sometimes the call for papers goes out almost a full year before the conference is scheduled to occur), I work myself up into a mouth-foaming frenzy of self-hatred, experiencing the confidence level of an eight-year-old with a bed-wetting problem on his/her first sleepover. Awww yikes.
Essentially, I fret about the paper or presentation without doing much work on it for weeks and weeks, setting myself up for the inevitable 4AM writing session the day before the conference, or in this case, the day before we leave for the road trip to the conference.

I organised a panel to present at the American Association of Geographers meeting for their annual get-together in San Francisco, April 16th-21st this year. Yep, organized the whole panel. There are five of us from my department going down to strut our stuff, hopefully attracting some attention to the department and also generally going for a good time. The AAG Annual Meeting is massive - last year they had nearly 4000 attendees. I've sabotaged myself again this time around and have completely revised the entire topic of my presentation from the abstract I submitted last November. I am confident about one thing, that almost no one will show up to attend our panel. We're a group of nobodies with no big names to get bums in seats and we're not affiliated with any of the sub groups because we didn't fully understand the system when the panel was being submitted.

There are two big honchos that will be attending/presenting at other conference sessions, and since I want to chat with them professionally, I've had to contact them ahead of time to let them know I'll be there and to schedule a time to meet. Since I was able to look them up in the directory of presenters, they could certainly do the same to me. Would they choose to attend a lowly presentation like our panel when they have at least 10 other choices in that time slot? Probably not. But damn, knowing my luck...

Anyways, we leave at the crack of dawn on Sunday in a rented minivan. The road trip is going to be great fun, but I sure hope I'm not desperately charging my laptop at every gas station just to be able to fiddle with the PowerPoint presentation some more. I wanted to have it all done by tonight to give me time to revise, rethink, etc. Does anyone actually do that? Seriously? Who are you people?

One final note: if anyone has any tips of what to see/do around SF, please fill me in. In the pressure-cooker of trying to get the paper finished, I haven't given much time to researching San Francisco. Besides Alcatraz, what else is not to be missed?


I've got worms!

This weekend I started a vermiculture that will live in our kitchen and eat our garbage. Yay!
Vermiculture (or worm composting) is an easy way to deal with the majority of your organic food waste without the need of a backyard compost pile. When the culture is healthy and their environment is not too wet or too loaded with food scraps, there won't be any odor and the culture is contained by the bins so there shouldn't be any leaking or grossness. The very best resource for vermiculture construction and care is Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. To get started, you can follow the plan here or devise a bin system that will work in your space and with your level of waste.

Here's what you will need (besides about 1/2 lb of red wrigglers): two plastic storage containers, around 30 or 40L, one lid to the container, screen door mesh, duct tape, a power drill with a 1/16th" drill bit, a utility knife for cutting the plastic container, old newspapers, a bucket.

First, use the utility knife to cut some vent holes in the bottom of container A. These holes will allow extra moisture to condense and run down into container B. The liquid is quaintly called compost tea, and can be used to fertilise your houseplants and garden. Place the holes in the lowest parts of the container, not the raised areas, and cut small squares of mesh large enough to cover each hole. Duct tape the mesh to the inside of the container, leaving no little spaces for worm escapees!
Using the drill, make lots and lots of small holes all around the top of container A, within 2 inches of the top of the bin.
Make lots of holes in the container lid as well. All these holes are for establishing adequate ventilation so the vermiculture doesn't get too wet. If you're like me and a little paranoid about that, you can also cut a hole and cover it with mesh in the bin lid. Only do this if the lid isn't going to receive direct sunlight where you intend to keep the bins.
So far all the modifications have been done to container A. Now grab container B and drill a few small holes in the sides and ends, about an inch from the bottom of the bin. These holes will allow more ventilation to come through container B and up through the bottom vents in container A. Now, sit container A into container B.

Sorry but I don't have pictures of the next step. The worms need bedding and luckily old newspaper makes a superb environment for them. Tear mounds and mounds of newspaper into strips then into small squares that are no bigger than 1"x1". Briefly soak the torn newspaper in water, squeeze out any excess water, then separate the squares as much as possible as you add them to container A. The moist paper should fluff a bit, leaving air and room for the worms to crawl about. The bedding should fill about 4" of the container all around so it really is a hell of a lot of tearing, soaking, and fluffing. Be prepared for ink stains up to your elbows, and I recommend watching something dumb like Dancing With the Stars while tearing, ripping, and tearing some more.

Finally, you are ready to add the worms! With a handful of dirt, since red wrigglers need a small amount of grit to digest their food, scatter the worms across the bedding. Voila!

To add your food scraps to the composter, open the bin, pull aside the layer of bedding in a corner or along a side, and place the scraps in the pocket you've created. Cover the scraps completely with bedding before closing the bin as this will help keep down fruit flies and slow the rotting process. Vermicultures like fruit and veg scraps, egg shells, stale bread, and even coffee grounds and tea leaves. They don't like oil, dairy products, meat scrap, or animal scat. The acidity of the culture is very important so people say to avoid giving them too much tomato or citrus, and to avoid 'spicy' food scraps like onion or garlic.

I'm really excited about this - my first foray into home composting. The compost tea will be very useful in the fire escape garden, and I won't have to feel so guilty about all the organic waste we produce in our 1.5 vegetarians household. I built the composter Thursday and have held off looking inside until today (Monday) to give the worms time to settle in. I've obviously got something to learn about the system because it appears that whatever scraps I put in on Thursday have sprouted and are making for the sky! I don't remember putting in any seeds but maybe a couple slipped in from the red pepper or something. Bah! Now I have to get in there and root them out. Well, live and learn... or maybe that should be worm and learn!