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The best bathroom graffiti ever!
Apr 27th, 2012 by Dr Karma

There are two main teaching buildings at UCD. The bathrooms in both are abysmal. Out of toilet paper on Monday at noon? Of course!
However, one stall makes up for it. In fact, the other day, when I discovered the stall was taken, I considered waiting for it even though all the other ones were open.
What makes it so special?
The Doctor Who graffiti.

It occurs to me that if anyone noticed I was taking pictures in the bathroom stall, they probably thought I was crazy. I’m not crazy (for doing that).

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Apr 22nd, 2012 by Dr Karma

That’s right–Boston!

I’ve been living in this country for well over three decades now, but I’d never been to Boston before this month, when I went for the PCA/ACA convention (I’ll be there again in January for MLA).

I’ve always enjoyed PCA/ACA, and this year promised to wonderful as well because my friend Melissa was going with me and we’d be meeting up with our grad school buddy, Maura.

George frigging Takei was the keynote speaker for the conference this year, but I didn’t get to see him. As big a trekkie as I am (hell, as big a Takei fan as I am), it hurt to miss it.

However, I had to stay behind in Davis an extra couple of days because the fabulous Sherman Alexie was here. Alexie’s book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is our campus book project this year. As a member of the selection committee and planning committee and as an Alexie groupie (that’s really the only word for it), I couldn’t leave.

So, okay, I didn’t get to see Takei speak, but I got to moderate a panel on the Mondavi stage with Alexie, to go to a gala dinner in his honor, to see his big talk at Mondavi, to have him speak to the writing students (mostly mine) in a private q&a, to be the momentary object of his flirty nature, to get his autograph, and to wipe a little dried shaving cream off his face before one of the events. I doubt that I would have been able to get my spit/DNA on George Takei.

The trip to Boston was long, but Melissa and I made the most of our time there. We went on an awesome Trolley tour and learned a lot about revolutionary history–including the correct version of some mythical events.

We went into Faneuil Hall, an old meeting house/assembly room. My favorite picture is this one–surely the painter was not actually a fan of General Washington. 

We got to have some amazing fish chowder at the Union Oyster House, which is the oldest continuously functioning restaurant in all of the United States. When we asked the very friendly oyster-shuckers for a picture, they brought out a giant lobster.

We also got to take a walk around Harvard. The buildings were beautiful, but this is what I took pictures of. Lobster is a big thing in Boston, but I still find it hilarious that it’s not a taco truck that pulls up for the Harvard students–they’re getting lobster! 

Finally, we had a great dinner at Jacob Wirth, an ancient German restaurant with a great beer selection and wonderful sausages (if not wonderful German potato salad).

We also saw the bar front that served as the establishing shot for Cheers

The conference itself went well. I missed Melissa’s panel to play with Alexie, but I got to see Maura’s panel on Clue. My own panel was on Whedon (I was discussing the Reavers in Serenity/Firefly), so naturally the audience showed up. The two other panelists on my panel did not arrive, however.

For a moment, I was nervous, but then I decided to stand right in front of the audience and to take the room. Luckily, the audience was interested in my ideas, and we had a good conversation. (And Maura even noticed that I was wearing a quasi Zoe costume to deliver the paper.)

A few regrets. Didn’t got to a Doctor Who thing that I should have. Got cornered by a furry who fixed my ignorance (I thought it was only a sex thing) but who didn’t understand that I wasn’t in the mood for a two hour lecture on the subject. Didn’t book the hotel early enough to get the conference rate for the last night.

But that’s okay–I’ll know what to do in January!

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It’s my anniversary (with my longest running non-family relationship)!
Apr 19th, 2012 by Dr Karma

That’s right. It’s my anniversary with The Simpsons!

25 years ago today, The Simpsons premiered on The Tracey Ullman Show with a little short called “Goodnight, Simpsons.” (See it here: http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/61247/detail/)

I was immediately taken with the family, mostly because Maggie’s reaction to the “Rockabye, Baby” song is the same as mine–the lyrics are f**ked up!

Fox also gets to claim this week as its Silver Anniversary, which it’s doing with a tribute to its first 25 years this upcoming Sunday. My students may not remember a world without Fox, but I do. Remember having to get up to change the channel? Remember when programming for children was a couple of shows on PBS and a few hours on Saturday mornings? Remember when tv actually went off at a certain time of night? Remember tv before reality tv (which COPS to some degree initiated when it first aired in ’89)? Remember when every sitcom had a laugh track–even animated ones like The Flintstones?

On this day in 1987, no one knew that tv would change the way it has or that The Simpsons would be what it has become. I certainly didn’t know that I would be where I am now, teaching a class on The Simpsons, writing this in an office decorated with memorabilia from visiting the studio, having a Simpsons book with my name on it, passing out cards that declare I’m a Simpsonologist . . .

Aside from family members (whom I don’t get to choose), my relationship with The Simpsons is the longest of my life. It’s also certainly one of the most rewarding.

The Simpsons has seen me through puberty, every boyfriend and break-up, four degrees, fourteen years as a college teacher, the birthing and raising of a child who is now a college adult.

I knew The Simpsons before I knew how to drive, how to kiss, how to pick a wine, how to escape the South, how to be a professional geek, how to accept that I was not the ugly duckling I thought I was, how to stand up in front of other people without getting stage fright, how to reign in my temper. Before I knew my best friends (and my best-best soulmate, Denise), before I knew Atwood’s work, before I knew my high school poetry was really bad, before I discovered the strength I now know I have to get through the bad stuff.

With them, I finally saw a character on television that I really related to–a girl who sometimes comes across as too nerdy, too self-righteous. A bookworm and an activist. A young woman trapped between her own aspirations and the more humble future the circumstances of her birth seem to dictate. A girl who doesn’t fit in, sometimes not even in her own family. An imperfect girl in an imperfect family in an imperfect world.

Thank you, The Simpsons, for 25 amazing years.

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