Where have you been, Dr. Virago?

OK, that doesn’t scan quite onto “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,” but close enough.

Well, since I last posted in March (!!), the Polar Vortex winter we had here in the Great Lakes continued unabated, giving us an April snow that killed the buds on my flowering bushes and trees. Boo! The hyacinths you see pictured survived, though:

This just isn't right

This just isn’t right

And I finished up my first semester of being Humanities Institute Director with a big talk by a visiting bigwig and a couple more Humanities Happy Hours. The latter seem to be very popular and growing in attendance, so I’m definitely continuing them this coming year. I need to work on publicity, though, especially to draw in off-campus people. I met with a couple of high school teachers this year and they gave me good advice for getting their attention, so that’s good. And I’m collaborating more with local library events coordinators. At the very least, we can publicize each others’ events.

Then after the semester was over, it was off to Kalamazoo for the annual Medieval Congress. I think we did a good job of being more welcoming to newcomers at our annual Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society meeting, and I’m hoping we continue that trend in years to come! If you’re at all interested in medieval drama and are at the Congress in Kalamazoo, please come to our business meeting and find out what we’re about!

Speaking of medieval drama, then I took a long weekend trip to NYC over Memorial Day weekend to see The Mysteries at The Flea Theatre with another medieval drama aficionado and to hang out in Manhattan and Brooklyn with my sister and one of my best friends from graduate school. It was a *gorgeous* weekend, so my sister and I walked the High Line (where I think I was too stunned by the crowds and the thing itself to take pictures) and I spent a day strolling through Brooklyn water-front parks and walkways with friends:

Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

I also did a dumpling tour of Brooklyn’s Chinese neighborhood, Sunset Park, went for drinks and dinner in Red Hook, strolled Williamsburg, saw the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and had a mostly Brooklyn weekend (well, except the day and evening in Manhattan). When I left NYC in 1994, that’s not something I would’ve done back then (except that I did have a friend who lived in Park Slope and did a walking tour of Brooklyn Heights back then) — Brooklyn is a whole new world compared to then, so it was like visiting a whole new city. (Even Sunset Park, which was a Chinese neighborhood back then, too, was much sleepier back in the day, as I recall.) And the High Line neighborhoods in Manhattan, too, were largely new to me — I don’t think I’d ever gone over that far west before in that part of Manhattan. And, of course, the skyline of lower Manhattan has sadly changed since I last lived in NYC, too.

And then in June, I went to Hong Kong for the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes annual meeting. It was kind of a weird conference, since, as scholars, we all work in different disciplines and subfields, but it was very interesting and largely pretty fruitful (though I would like more practical panels and sessions), and hey, it was in Hong Kong! Given the location and the theme (performative humanities), we were treated to performances of Cantonese opera and traditional music, and a poetry reading by a contemporary Cantonese poet and his translator. The reading and music performance also happened to take place during the 10-course opening feast of Cantonese food, which was *included* in the registration price. Other conferences have a lot to live up to! The conference was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in the New Territories, so many of the rooms reserved were at the Hong Kong Hyatt Regency Sha Tin, right next door. Best. Conference. Hotel. Ever. This was my view of Tolo Harbor (which you could also see from the bathtub because one wall of the bathroom was also a window — though it had a shade if you wanted privacy):

Wish I could have taken this view home with me!

Wish I could have taken this view home with me!

I also wish I could have taken any of the charming Buddhas from the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (really a temple; not a working monastery) home with me. This shrine, nestled in the tropical mountains just steps away from the Sha Tin MTR stop, was such a peaceful respite from the city and its equally busy suburbs that I went there twice. Here’s just a taste of it. I wish you could hear the deafening sound of the cicadas and the chattering of the monkeys, too.

One of the over ten thousand individual Buddhas, each with their own personality

One of the over ten thousand individual Buddhas, each with their own personality


Nearing the very top

Nearing the very top

The ultimate Buddha

The ultimate Buddha

The view from the very top.

The view from the very top. See the red fences at the bottom, to the right and in front of the buildings in the center? That’s where I started! (The pagoda on the far right is not part of the 10,000 Buddhas monastery, but a cemetery/ancestral hall next door to the base of the monastery entrance.)

These are just a few of the over 700 pictures I took in Hong Kong, and only one of the sites I saw! I had about a day of free time before the conference started and two and half free days after, so I went to the top of Victoria Peak via the tram, visited the Hong Kong History Museum (really great, and new since I was last in the city in 1992), watched the Symphony of Light in the harbor, got a tour of the Chung King Mansions by an asylum seeker from Ghana (arranged by the conference), took a Star Ferry across the harbor, rode all the way up the “Mid-Level Escalators” (outdoor escalators! neat!), visited the Man Mo Temple (where I lit incense sticks upside-down! d’oh!), walked around SoHo and various other mid-level districts on Hong Kong Island, rode the “ding ding” tram car just for fun, and visited Lantau Island, where I saw the Big Buddha, had a delicious vegetarian lunch at a real, working monastery, wandered around the fishing village of Tai O (and felt miles away from the city), and took a boat to see Chinese White Dolphins. And the conference also organized a quick visit to Macau, though the bus tour concentrated too much on the casinos and didn’t give us enough time in the historical parts.

And *then*, in July, I went to Reykjavik, Iceland, for the New Chaucer Society Congress. Owing to a weather-related delays and cancellations of flights, I got there a day later than planned, and only had one truly free day, but also a day and a half of excursions organized by the conference. And I played hooky for three sessions. So I still got to see a lot, though I took fewer pictures because I was often in company. (I take more when I’m alone, as I was in Hong Kong.) I fell completely in love with Iceland and so intend to get back there with Bullock in tow next summer or maybe the summer after (for a 5th wedding anniversary/belated honeymoon of sorts).

My favorite parts of the Iceland trip were…well, everything! But especially a) soaking in cheap public hot tubs at public swimming facilities (no pictures of the hot tubs themselves, alas, just the sign for them); b) riding Icelandic horses in the mountains; c) spending a gorgeous day spent at Thingvellir, an awesome site of historical, political, and geological significance.

Not "bacon sitting," but hot tub soaking!

Not “bacon sitting,” but hot tub soaking!

Foreground: Saga, my horse. Yes, that was really her name. Background: a horse with a fabulous mane!

Foreground: Saga, my horse. Yes, that was really her name. Background: a horse with a fabulous mane!

The hidden waterfall to which we rode. The elf got cut out of the picture, alas. :)

The hidden waterfall to which we rode. The elf got cut out of the picture, alas. 🙂

The horses at rest while we explore

The horses at rest while we explore. Saga is in front right of the group in the center.

Thingvellir National Park, featuring the Almannagja rift, the eastern edge of the North American techtonic plate, and the "logberg" or "law rock" (the white flag pole), the site of the earliest parliamentary meeting in Europe, the Althing, founded in 930

Thingvellir National Park, featuring the Almannagja rift, the eastern edge of the North American tectonic plate where it meets the European plate, and the “logberg” or “law rock” (the white flag pole), the site of the earliest parliamentary meeting in Europe, the Althing, founded in 930

But now I’m home in Rust Belt, where I seem to have brought the cool, gray Icelandic weather with me. So where are our public hot tubs?!

Oh, and by the way, I presented a successful pedagogical paper at New Chaucer Society, which I want to write about in part soon. Now that I’ve settled back into a groove here, I will try to get back to regular posting!

>In which I am teh lame

>I’m back from Kzoo and I had a really lovely time. But I also completely crashed by the end of it and couldn’t bring myself to make it to the dance. My headache was just too raging and my energy way too low. So I played Trivial Pursuit on my phone with The General in our hotel room.

That’s reason #1 why I am teh lame.

Reason #2: I completely forgot about the party for Bonnie Wheeler. Forgot to RSVP. Forgot to go. Forgot it even existed, until I read about it on blogs today. The invitation is still sitting on my desk here in Rust Belt, under a pile of other stuff I’ve neglected this semester. D’oh!

My excuse for my lameness is in the post two below this one. It’s hard to be on top of social things when you’re barely on top of all the rest.

But I have to say, I’m in a much better mood post-Kzoo than I was pre-Kzoo, thanks to all of you whose company I shared this weekend, however briefly!

>You might be an academic grown-up if…

>…you go to a major conference in your field and no longer care about whether people are looking at the affiliation on your name tag because you and they are too busy actually engaging each other in conversation.

… and you have no anxiety whatsoever in the book exhibit.

… and while there you talk to a big-shot about hir work, and ask if ze’s read such-and-such work obviously related to the project, and ze hasn’t. And you realize you know something ze doesn’t.

…and you ask a smart, useful, ‘big stakes’ question of another big-shot at hir panel…and then get invited to lunch afterwards, where the conversation continues with the panelists and others.

…a different big shot asks you to read hir work in progress.

…you hear yourself cited and quoted in *two* different papers (OK, granted, both speakers are friends…but still).

…you feel confident in turning down another big-shot’s dinner invitation because you have other plans.

…you give a paper and afterwards numerous people from the fully packed audience tell you that you’ve changed the way they understand the subject.

…you have a moment of raging envy when you find out you lost the big book prize in your field to someone who wins everything, but then you pick up hir book and realize, yeah, it’s pretty freakin’ impressive.

And that, my friends, was my Kalamazoo.

And in a related subject: you might be a blogger if…

…people know they know you but want to call you by your nom de blog.

…and your dogis mentioned in a paper. (Yeah, no kidding. Pippi got cited at her first K’zoo. Took me six of ’em to reach that stage.)

>Things for which I am grateful at the moment


  1. I am grateful that I have a draft of my K’zoo paper. It’s 13 pages long and thus needs to be cut, but I’m sure there’s a bit of repetition in there that can easily come out. And 2 pages are a long passage of primary text that I won’t be reading but referring to. I get a whole stack of final papers from both my classes tomorrow, but I can handle editing and grading at the same time.
  2. I am grateful for my friends across the blogosphere and the academic world.

>Shhh…K’zoo paper-writing in progress

>I’m having a heckuva time concentrating on shaping my K’zoo paper. I’m now convinced it’s kind of dumb, but perhaps I’ll cycle out of that stage in a day or two. But anyway, the writing process, followed by grading jail starting on Thursday, means that you might not hear much from me this week.

By the way, if you missed, Another Damned Medievalist is the host of the blogger meet-up for this year’s K’zoo, and it was decided to do the same early morning official meet-up as last year, with some unofficial, less rigidly organized go-out-for-drinks meet-ups throughout the conference. Here’s the post where she discussed this.


And because I could use a dose of levity around here…You know how purebred show dogs all have ridiculous long names, starting with the name of the breeder (I think), and then also have a family nickname that may or may not be suggested by the formal name? Well, over the course of the last month and a half, here’s what I’ve decided Pippi’s full name is:

Longstocking’s Pippington Gertrude Cottontail McLovin, called “Pippi”

Ok, back to work I go!

>Need a roommate for K’zoo?

>Hey, is anyone looking for a roommate for K’zoo? These days I usually try to stay in one of the cheaper hotels because I’ll have a car and can easily get to and fro. I’m willing to play chauffeur at the beginning and end of each day. I don’t discriminate on the basis race, national or regional origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, discipline, subfield, institutional affiliation, rank, or sartorial style. However, I do prefer someone I’ve already met IRL.

>K’zoo preview

>Now that all the last-minute abstracts for K’zoo papers are in, and panel organizers are making their decisions about who’s on their panels in May, I know for sure that the panel I’ve co-organized is a go, and also that I’m presenting on another panel. It’s not the first time I’ve worn two (or more) hats at a conference — at MLA one year I was presenting, presiding/organizing, *and* interviewing job candidates as part of a search committee — but it’s the first time at the Zoo. And my co-organizer is doing the same. Let’s hope they don’t put our panel on Sunday morning or we’ll be exhausted!

Anyway, just wanted to give y’all a heads up because this means that someone else will have to take over any blogger meet-up festivities. You don’t have to decide now, but just know that I’m not really the best person to do it this year.

But that’s not until May, so we don’t have to worry about that just now.

>K’zoo report #2: Breakfast of champions

>While the dance sometimes makes me uncomfortable, blogger meet-ups RAWK! This year’s event was almost twice as large as last year’s, and I have a feeling that the breakfast time is what made that so. Sadly, that might mean that this non-morning person will have to drag her ass out of bed and be groggily social again in future years. (Side note: if anyone else wants to take over organizing it next year, feel free. It’s not onerous at all, but it shouldn’t always be me or else it will become my thing instead of a group thing.) It also might mean, sadly, that Eileen Joy will never come, because she told me later that she is simply not able to get up that early (I think she’s definitely someone who works as well as plays into the wee hours). So perhaps it should be a movable feast.

Anyway, there were so many people there that I didn’t even quite figure out who was who — in real life or in the blogosphere. Among those I could identify with their blogs were J. J. Cohen, Karl Steel, The Cranky Professor, Another Damn Medievalist (Blogenspiel), Scott Nokes of Unlocked Wordhoard, Michael Drout of Wormtalk and Slugspeak, Medieval Woman, Mary Kate Hurley of Old English in New York, New Kid on the Hallway, Dr. Moonbeam, Tiruncula, History Geek, Holly of Hollyism, S. Worthen of Owlfish, Lisa Spangenberg, aka Digital Medievalist, Elisabeth Carnell, Eulistes, and bloggers and friends associated with Making Light. If I forgot anyone or didn’t quite meet you because you were at the other end of our trio of tables (grouped in an appropriately medieval trefoil/clover leaf/trinitarian kind of way), let me know. My apologies!

I was really pleased that this year there was a real mix of people in different stages of their careers, and also a better gender mix. I think it says something about the status of blogging that we had such a mix, and that bloggers from all those stages of career were willing to come and meet other bloggers. In other words, blogging is becoming less of a sub-culture and more of a mainstream culture. It also says something that there was also a mix of pseudonymous and non-pseudonymous bloggers, and that if asked, people generally revealed their pseudonymous blogs. Somewhere someone noted that when rounds of introductions were made, we didn’t identify our blogs, but I think in my case it was more a worry about our voices carrying to tables of non-bloggers. I still worry about non-bloggers’ attitudes towards blogs. Who knows if we have an Ivan Tribble among the medieval crowd. But one-on-one I don’t think people cared that much.

On that note, Karl mentioned that when he was still “Karl the Grouchy Medievalist,” he was more prone to live up to that moniker than he is under his own name. Likewise, I often think that since I’m easily identifiable if you already know me (if you’re my friend, colleague, or student), I try not to write things that I wouldn’t want associated with me. That may explain, too, why everyone seemed so darn nice in person (on which, see more below).

I met a number of these people last year, and at least one of these bloggers is someone I knew in real life before I started blogging (though it was amusing to both of us that we only just figured this out because of this breakfast!). And many of them have been blogging or real life friends with some of the others for many years. So in many ways the breakfast was a reunion for many people. (I hope that didn’t put off too many of the bloggers who were completely new to each other. There are some tight and deep friendships in that group, but it’s also a really friendly and welcoming group.) But there were still delightful new real life acquaintances to make all around. I hope this can be an annual, informal event.

There were some conspicuous absences. As mentioned, Eileen Joy is not a morning person. And though Sir John Mandeville was at the conference, he wasn’t at our breakfast as far as I know. And LLCoolCarlIII of Got Medieval reserved a copy of Christine Chism’s Alliterative Revivals before I could (damn!) so I know he was at the conference, but apparently he’s too cool for breakfast. 🙂 Or also not a morning person. And if Geoffrey Chaucer was at the conference, I wouldn’t have expected him to come to the meet-up, since he’s a shy man who generally “lookest as [he] woldest fynde an hare,” and who “evere upon the ground…stare[s]. ”

Speaking of staring, JJC does indeed stare intently at you when you speak (see Liza’s comment here). It’s a neat trick because it gets people to babble things they wouldn’t otherwise say. I recall at one point Jeffrey asked me something about whether or not as a graduate student I was super-anxious in my presentations about being potentially revealed as a fraud, and I replied, at first, that I wasn’t all that anxious as a grad student (and though I didn’t say it, I thought that maybe I’m more anxious as a prof, actually). And then he stared and I felt compelled to say more. And I did, but not anything of substance. And then I worried that I must sound like an idiot. And then I started to get anxious, at which point I thought, “yup, definitely more anxious as a prof.” It’s like he’s my therapist or something! How do you do that, Jeffrey?! But other than that moment, I wasn’t the least bit anxious or intimidated by Jeffrey or any one else at the table. As people have been commenting around the medieval blog world, people you might expect to be cranky or prickly or intimidating in real life, because they construct themselves as such in their writing, or because their writing is just so damn smart and authoritative, even on their blogs, all turned out to be…well, for lack of a better word…nice. Really, really nice. Smiley and friendly and kind and easy to talk to. Take The Cranky Professor, for example: in real life he’s not in the least bit cranky, but rather cheerful, especially for 7:30 am! We were two of the first people there and had a funny moment of suspicious eyeing of each other until I saw his name tag and recognized his real-life name, at which point we both said, “Are you a blogger?” It was hilariously cloak-and-daggerish.

Other things I learned either at or because of this breakfast:

  • Apparently I look like Scott Nokes‘s grandmother circa 1930. Since I also get told I look like my mother in the ’40s and ’50s, that didn’t suprise me. Faces have fashion, too, and certain people have looks that evoke other eras. It may also explain why I get hit on by older men a lot (not just at K’zoo). Scott — any Swains or Gaylords in your family tree? Maybe we’re distantly related.
  • Rumor has it that Ivan Tribble is a woman!
  • The French Revolution was fought against the Germans, and England invaded the Free Colonies of America, thus starting the American Revolution. (This was from a delightfully so-bad-it-was good final exam someone had just graded.)
  • Medieval Woman looks very modern in real life and not at all like a grumpy kitty, Karl Steel doesn’t look anything like a breakfast food (which I already knew, but that picture cracks me up), Mary Kate Hurley is not a landscape, and Jeffrey Cohen‘s hand is not permanently placed in front of his face.
  • We might need a bigger place next year! I do like the convenience of Mug Shots, however, especially for those without cars.
  • Next year I really should get up and mingle instead of sitting in one place the whole time, so I can meet and talk to people at the other end of the tables.

Well, that’s about it. A fun time was had by all, I think, and I hope this becomes a K’zoo tradition.