Category Archives: Academics

Seeing Ramona, Bucky, and some other things, too

In July I arranged a whirlwind trip to DC and New York so that I could do some research for my dissertation. Of course, I made these plans before Tom’s stepdad died–otherwise I would never have planned to take three trips in less than four weeks. But with a non-refundable plane ticket and hotel rooms already paid for (thanks, Priceline!), I couldn’t afford to postpone the trip. Also, I came down with a cold just before, so I was really dreading going. But I did and I’ll save you the suspense–it was completely worth it!

I left Wednesday morning (I flew Virgin America, by the way. Very early-Jet Blue…) and arrived in DC late afternoon. After a ridiculously long Super Shuttle ride, I checked into my hotel (another Hyatt Regency) on Capitol Hill. I walked to Union Station, grabbed a bite to eat and then went back to my room to crash out.

Thursday was the big day. Or so I thought. I had arranged with a librarian at The Library of Congress to see the only extant reel of a 1916 version of Ramona. Because my appointment was at 2pm I had the morning to be a tourist, so I went to visit the Supreme Court.

It, like much of DC at the moment, was under construction. But I was still excited to go in because even though they’re out of session during the summer, they open the courtroom to the public and hold a lecture in there every half hour. But, of course, frustration was the name of the game that day.

Too bad the modernization project had nothing to do with the actual people sitting on the court right now. Nonetheless, I walked around, amazed at how much sparkle there was in the building.

And did you know there are two self-supporting spiral staircases in the building?

Anyway, the building is quite beautiful and they have some interesting exhibits about the justices, so it was still a positive experience, even if I didn’t see the main event.

After lunch at a yummy local cafe, I went to the LOC to obtain my reader card, the headed upstairs to the Motion Picture Archives. They led me to the area where I was to watch the film, set it up for me and left me to enjoy my film. I was so excited. And then…. imagine my dismay when I realized that it was the wrong film–they pulled the 1910 version of Ramona, I needed the 1916 version. I told the librarian the problem and she went to get Josie, the person I had been in contact with.

I knew there was going to be some difficulty in seeing the film because they are stored off-site two hours away. It was after 2pm and I was scheduled to be on a bus to New York at 8:30am. I began to feel totally dismayed, but the staff there bent over backwards for me and I eventually did see what I went there for. First they offered to send the film to me, which seems crazy, right? Although that would have been better than nothing, I hated to think I came all the way and not see what I had come for. So Mike (Josie’s boss, I think) arranged to personally pick up the film and bring it in early the next morning. Then they got me cleared to come into the library before it opened at 7:30am. I knew I wouldn’t make my 8:30 bus to NY, so I changed that reservation to 11:30, to allow myself enough time to view the reel. I left the LOC a little bummed but somewhat comforted that the staff there was so incredibly nice.

After I left the LOC, I decided to check out the National Botanic Garden and Conservatory, which is really beautiful. While strolling through the medicinal plants section, I came across this cinnamon tree.

I was excited because I’ve never seen one before. I immediately sniffed a leaf, but smelled nothing. I looked around to make sure no one was watching me and then scraped the thick part of the stem with my fingernail. It smelled unmistakably like cinnamon!! That just tickled me and was definitely the highlight of my day. There were other cool things there, too, but I especially appreciated the multimedia display on flowers and scents.

I’m not sure if you can tell, but these are metal sculptures with screens in the center of the flowers. Very cool. There was also an olfactory exhibit with all sorts of different plants to sniff.

I’m not sure what creosote is, but I can tell you that it smells disgusting. They also had on display some globes made out of various materials–this one was made out of seeds.

I like that it doesn’t attempt to be an authentic representation of the earth. Plus, it’s really pretty. And, finally, I love coleus so I was very happy to see it used so well and displayed so prominently.

After touring the conservatory and gardens, I was pretty beat, so I headed back to my hotel to get ready for the next day.

On Friday, I checked out of the hotel at 7:00am and was at the LOC by 7:30. Both Josie and Mike personally met me outside and took me upstairs where they had already set up the reel. I was sooooo excited!! It was only a 12 minute reel but I took my time with it. I watched it all the way through the first time, and then I watched it again stopping it at least once every scene to take a picture of the screen. I won’t bore you with the hundreds of pictures I took, but here’s one from the last scene, when Felipe is dreaming of taking Ramona to Mexico.

It was definitely worth the wait and frustration and would only have been better if the entire film existed. Oh well, you can only work with the materials that exist.

I realized as I was finishing up that I might be able to make the earlier bus to New York. So after I finished I hopped into a cab to get to the bus stop on time. And yes, I was able to get the 9:30 bus to New York! The only drawback was that I hadn’t enough time to grab something to eat so I had four hours of hunger to look forward to. However, it went by pretty quickly–the bus had free wifi and they showed The Devil Wears Prada.

The bus arrived near on 34th St. near Penn Station by 1:30. I got off the bus and started walking towards my hotel on 45th and Madison. I was immediately struck by how crowded the streets were and was surprised that I didn’t remember how crowded NYC was. I picked up a salad at Pret a Manger (the same place I used to get lunch when I worked at Random Walk), walked through Bryant Park and got to my hotel, tired, hot and hungry.

Once rested, fed and cleaned up, I walked to Grand Central, which was right next to my hotel, and caught an uptown train to get to The Whitney where I was to meet my friend, Peter, and take in the Buckminster Fuller exhibit. Peter, who I haven’t seen in years so I was incredibly happy to see him, informed me right away that Uncle Bucky was a close friend of his grandfather and that Uncle Bucky had also studied under his great-grandfather. I informed Peter that I knew his daughter, Allegra; she’s a professor emeritus at UCLA and has lectured in the course I TA’d. With our personal connections to Uncle Bucky established, we felt ready to take in the exhibit. I might write about him a little bit in my dissertation, which is why I wanted to see the exhibit. Peter and I both agreed that while his work is very interesting and thought provoking, it doesn’t necessarily make it exhibit-worthy. Still, it was a fun afternoon.

After, we took the bus all the way down Fifth Avenue to Washington Square so that we could hang out at the bar we used to always frequent. Or that I used to frequent–Peter still goes there regularly. It was very cool to visit the old hangout and have a night much like I used to have when I lived there. And catching up with Peter was lots of fun, too, of course. Also, he mentioned that he is thinking of moving out of the city. He says that since the dollar has tanked, the city has been inundated with tourist–so much more than usual that the streets are way more crowded than they used to be. That made me feel better about my reaction to the crowded streets when I first got off the bus that afternoon.

The next morning, I checked out of my hotel and made my way to the Upper West Side to have brunch with Cat at Le Monde. Cat was a stage manager on some of the shows I did with 3-Legged Dog and we became friends, though neither of us have been very good about staying in touch. Still, it was great to catch up with her and eat at a restaurant that I used to eat at often when I lived there. Sadly, I had to leave much too soon. I caught the bus to LaGuardia and was soon on my way back home.

Though I was only gone a few days–it felt like I was gone a long time because I had accomplished and seen so much. But I was very glad to be home and am happy that I don’t have to get on a plane until November.


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8/3–Conference Day 5

So, as you can imagine, I was ready to come home and was basically done with this conference. But I persevered and attended one more panel on how to publish an article. And it turned out to be a very beneficial panel. The editors of some major journals were there and they told us wheat they were looking for, why articles get rejected, and all sorts of other juicy tidbits like that. I also found out that Theatre Journal is doing a special issue on digital media and the deadline for submissions is next March–so yay for that!!

After the panel, it was time to pack up and head towards the airport. But on my walk back to the hotel I walked passed a couple just in time to hear the man say, “my face.” The woman corrected him by saying, “MySpace.” I giggled to myself as the man replied, “MySpace….whatever…” There’s something about “MyFace” that just exposes the silliness of both names.   🙂

I’ll leave you with this final image. As you may know, Denver will be hosting the DNC in a couple of weeks and every where you turned there was some image or item relating to the convention. This was my favorite, a tee shirt sold in the gift shop in the lobby of my hotel…

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8/2–Conference Day 4

Conference stuff: My panel was at 8:30am but it went really well. It was a roundtable about teaching and researching in the digital age. I was the most technologically advanced of anyone on the panel, so I offered the “digital does not equal bad” part of the discussion. Then I went to my friend’s (the one from last year’s MRG retreat) panel to see her paper. Her work is on drag shows done in the military during WWII–very very interesting.

Then I took a long long break and walked around the Civic Center area. But as I was walking there, someone offered me a bottle of hotel hand lotion. Um, no thanks.

So the rest is mostly pictures, many of them not so great.

Seal sculpture/fountain. This was in the Civic Center park and I thought it was oddly placed.

Then I walked to State Capitol, which has a beautiful golden dome. When I arrived, there was both a nuclear arms protest and a photo shoot of a man in really bad drag.

Also, there was a Christmas Tree planted on the lawn, which seemed very lonely (and out of place).

Just a block away was the Denver art museum which had very odd architecture. Basically, there were three buildings with wildly different architecture linked together. One building is reminiscent of Disney Hall while another looked like a medieval fortress.

Can you believe that the above building and the one below are part of the same structure??

But there was a lot of interesting public art around the area…

And the Public library was just across from the museum. This was attached to the library, though I could ot figure out what it was for.

More art…

Yes, the horse is standing on the chair.

And I strolled by an actual, working U.S. Mint.

I’m including this picture because the tall building in the background is my hotel, to give you a sense of my location.

And as I was walking back to my hotel, I came upon this little event the fire and rescue community was having.

The kids were using hoses to put out “fires.” I’m not sure what the kids were supposed to learn from this except for putting out fires is fun.

But of course, I went to one more conference event–another panel on pedagogy and new media. It was interesting but I was pretty burnt out by then and ready to come home. I did go up to the top floor of my hotel to their bar to watch the sunset over the Rockies, which was pretty beautiful.

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8/1–Conference Day 3

Friday began leisurely because I didn’t have to be at the conference until 2pm.

At 2pm, I went to the plenary session in which six senior scholars were asked to write manifestos on “elephants in the room.” Basically, this just gave them leave to sound off on any issue they wanted to. If you’re interested in reading about some of the issues in the academic world of theatre, then click here. I’ll just mention the highlight(?) occurred when one scholar, who was talking about peace, insisted that the audience sing “We Shall Overcome” with her. Really and truly.

Then I attended a panel having to do with the virtual and the real. One woman gave a paper in which she briefly mentioned Alladeen, but I’m not really sure what her point was. Another man presented on his production of The Bacchae in Second Life. Interesting, but weirdly nostalgic. Luckily, Phil Auslander was there again and berated them, basically, for their lack of sophisticated thinking on the issues. Which, I have to say, they totally deserved.

For dinner I found a great place on the 16th Street Mall, Mad Greens. I liked their food so much that I ended up eating there for dinner three days in a row.

After dinner, I walked around for about 45 minutes. If you threw Manhattan and L.A. into a blender, you’d get Denver. Not really, of course, but it’s certainly my first impression. Lots of old buildings with a walkable downtown that has lots of things to do, but all in a desert setting surrounded by mountains. I loved the old building with the intricate detail. I don’t know why I didn’t take any pictures. Anyway, while on this walk I stumbled across the Story Corps mobile unit that I’ve heard about on NPR has been doing for the last few years.

It was cool to see something in person that I’ve only heard about on the radio. Especially when it was so unexpected.

In the evening the conference held a “micro” Fringe Festival. They used 4 of the conference rooms and had 5 performances in each, from about 8pm until after 11pm. I attended two pieces but left after them because of having to be up early for the 8am panel the next morning. The first piece was interesting—it was a multimedia performance about surveillance and expectations of women. The second piece was not so good—I can’t even tell you what it was about and it was done in a realistic style, so that should give you an idea of its opaqueness. But I thought the microfringe was a great idea for a conference and had fun in that hour.

I’ve neglected mentioning the multimedia elevators at my hotel. Every elevator has a screen in it, each displaying a different image. The images are usually landscapes, deserts, meadows, rivers and mountains, though one image is a black and white image of a drive-in restaurant, and another is of an old country-style house. They are moving images because you can see and hear the flow of the river or the wind blowing in the meadow. Unfortunately, my camera phone is not good at capturing a decent image of the multimedia elevator, but it’s a very strange phenomenon. Finally, I was able to get a somewhat decent picture of the cows on screen in the elevator…

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7/31–Conference Day 2

Today was a long, hot day that stared with a little scare. David, who’s a year behind me at UCLA and was sharing a room with me, forgot to put the coffee cup into the coffee maker and before either of us noticed, coffee was spreading all over the table. The table my computer was on!!! Luckily, we caught it in time and was able to wipe up the coffee from the bottom before it did any damage. What a close call that was.

For me, the conference began by attending a panel on mixed media with Jen and Jason. I met Jason when he was at UCLA finishing his dissertation and I was in my first year. Jason was also the editor in chief of Extensions then (and for which I am now the editor-in-chief), plus our research interests are very similar, so he’s been sort of a sign post for me of things to come.Anyway, he gave a paper and then Jen gave her paper and then the excitement began.

Sitting in the audience was Phil Auslander, one of the most important scholars writing about mixed media issues. And he’s got many bones to pick. Mainly, he thinks that the live and the recorded are not fundamental opposites but different stops on the same spectrum. So he immediately busts Jason and Jen for talking about the live and the recorded as separate entities. But Jason and Jen held their own and it was a great, albeit slightly heated, conversation. I especially appreciated Jen who said (and i’m just paraphrasing here): “you’re right, Phil, but if we just accept your argument then there is nothing else to talk about and we all go home.” She argues that we need to keep talking about multimedia performance because it’s woefully under-theorized. Go Jen! So that was a fun panel for me to attend and certainly was one of the highlights, if not the highlight, of this conference.

Afterwards, I decided to go find free wi-fi. Let’s just say that after be directed to three places that were supposed to have free wi-fi and being disappointed each time, I was very frustrated. And it’s really hot here—so walking around trying to find an internet connection was not fun. So I broke down a paid for T-Mobile pay as you go service.

Later I went to the panel that David was on to hear his paper and ran in to a friend of mine who attended that MRG retreat I did last year in Davis. Then I was supposed to meet with the people who I’m doing the roundtable with on Saturday, so I went to the lobby of the hotel and waited and waited. Turns out that I was waiting in the wrong spot, which is not like me at all to make that kind of mistake so I felt really dumb, but they were all very nice about it. But while I was waiting for them in the wrong spot, I ran into a woman I went to State with—it’s been 14 or 15 years since I’ve seen her. I was her assistant director for The Abdication so there was a brief moment in time when we spent lots of time together. Anyway, we spoke only briefly but she’s teaching at a college in Pennsylvania.

The conference ended that evening with a keynote address given by Augusto Boal. It was cool to see him in person but he wasn’t saying anything compelling, so David and I left to grab dinner. It was nice to relax after a long day.

After, we walked around a little bit and came across this interesting piece of art/charity solicitation:

I must admit that I was surprised by the sizeable homeless population in Denver. Having lived in three of the major cities in this country, I felt that I have seen the worst of homelessness. But I honestly think Denver was worse than any other city I’ve seen. So the parking meter re-purposed for donations was not the surprising to me. In fact, I thought it was a little glib in light of the major problem it clearly is in that city.

Also, my hotel was across the street from the Denver Convention Center which has this interesting piece of art:

It’s like he’s peaking in wondering what everyone’s doing.

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7/30 Conference Day 1

I arrived at LAX 1.5 hours before my flight’s departure time, as recommended on Southwest’s website. Even with this early arrival I barely made it to my gate on time. It’s hard to believe that arriving at 4:50 for a 6:20 flight would not be ample time, but I have truly never waited in longer lines at the airport before. I’ve been hearing that travel will get worse this summer because of fewer flights with more travelers—I guess longer lines are a side effect of this change. Still, I thought that Southwest, which is unique among the airlines due to its continued expansion, would not have these problems, at least not to this agree. So, travelers, be forewarned (especially those who are checking bags)… 2 hours is the new 1.5 hours.

Luckily I made it onto my flight and even got an aisle seat. The flight was uneventful and went be swiftly. I was too pumped up to fall asleep, which I’ve been paying for all day. Arrived in Denver at 9:30 and it was already hot. For some reason I’ve always imagined that Denver was temperate because it’s so high up, but it was 97 degrees today. The landscape, at least between the airport and the outskirts of the city, is desert. It looks a lot like California, but when you get to downtown it’s a much more vibrant and alive scene.

I arrived at the Hyatt Regency well before check in and was lucky enough to get a room right then. At least then I could relax and get ready for the rest of the day. By the way, Priceline rocks. I got this room for $70/night. Can’t beat that deal. Here are pictures of my room and the view I had.

Also, I loved that my room had this alarm clock which I could hook up my iPod to. That was very cool. (Sorry for the crappy pix–I only had my camera phone with me the entire trip.)

Then I headed over to the Performance Studies Focus Group (PSFG) Pre-Conference at the other Hyatt only two blocks away. Check out the deli in the lobby of the conference center.

Yep. Heidi’s deli. And apparently it’s a chain.

The first event for me was the Mixed Media Working Group. This was for any one doing work on (or just interested in) mixed media performance. This already is one of the highlights of my trip because I got to meet Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, a scholar whose work has been important to my own. I read her dissertation while I was working on my MA and her insight on multimedia performance helped me so much. I’m so glad I got to meet her! Also, Jason, a former classmate of mine who graduated a couple of years ago and now is working at Washington State University, was in the same group as me. It’s inspiring to see someone I know who has similar research interests settled into a good job.

After a brief break I attended the PSFG panel. But by then I was so tired from traveling and not getting enough sleep that I barely made it through the 1.5 hours. However it was very interesting and I’m glad I went.

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Crisis in Confidence

So, I found out this morning that I didn’t receive the Dissertation Year Fellowship. I was told that it’s because funding for the entire program has been slashed to all of the budget cuts, however I can’t help but think it’s because of my work. Getting funding turned down at the start of the project does not make me feel confident about going forward with my work because I’m already feeling unsure about it. Coincidentally, my assignment for today was to write an abstract for a topic that I want to present at the next ASTR conference and I felt really unsure and not at all confident about my work. Nonetheless, I did write the abstract and hope it will be good enough to be accepted.

I do have to remind myself that although I didn’t get the fellowship, I still am able to have funding through a TA-ship in the department next year. Not everyone gets this kind of funding, so I’m trying to feel grateful about this alternative support. I’m bummed that I will have to TA all year and that it very well might delay finishing my dissertation for another year, but I’m certainly going to try to finish in one year. And at least I won’t have to TA for the cluster course again; I’ll be TA’ing in my own department finally, so that might prove to be a good thing.

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