Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What to Wear, What to Wear: Cloris Edition

Halloween always offers so many of my favorite things: candy, punch, sex with a man in a mask (who isn't into the leather scene). Alas, this year I will be thoroughly detained from the official gay holiday thanks to some remarkable work duties.

You can think of me playing Mr. Rourke this weekend. Only instead of an idyllic island, our guests will be in Midwestern Funky Town. In place of festive tropical drinks, we will have stale coffee. Instead of granting their every fantasy, I will force them to endure days of academic discussion. Still, I can manage to teach each one of them an important moral lesson that will lead them rethink their life choices. Then I will watch them depart on an amphibious plane.

Even with my tough work schedule, it doesn’t mean that I am not thinking about ideal costumes. Those who are serious long time readers of CoG know that my costumes never turn out how I imagined. Indeed, this might actually be the longest running gag on this blog. Read the archive: It's true. After five years, this bit almost seems fresh again.

Here are the things that I aim for, and my disappointing results:

What I aim for:
Edna Garrett

Some might argue that it was an ignoble culmination of the career of Charlotte Rae. Sure, some suggest that appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show was a bit more glamorous than playing dietician to four spoiled and entitled students. Well, I say, you take the good, you take the bad, and then you’ve got the facts of life.

What I end up with:
Beverly Ann Stickle

Few people even remember that Mrs. Garrett left the sinking ship show before it ended. Quite frankly, I would pay for a lot of therapy to forget this show entirely.

Maybe Mrs. Garrett left because she didn't understand how she ended up selling novelties in an ice-cream shop. Or maybe she just got tired of all the whining that went on amongst the entitled. Whatever the case, they replaced her with her sister, the divorcee Beverly Ann. Does anybody even remember her story?

What I aim for:
Mrs. Robinson

Because I use it for a class, I can’t seem to escape watching The Graduate at least once a year. After that many viewings, I can tell you that this film becomes much less interesting once Mrs. Robinson exits the scene. She was alluring, sharp, and oh-so-angry. Mrs. Robinson also got to wear lots of leopard prints. Today she would have her only reality t.v. show as the original "cougar".

What I end up with:
Ruth Popper

If there is one thing that I respect about The Last Picture Show, it is that it told the truth about how miserable and depressing Texas really is. Unlike the fun that Mrs. Robinson seemed to have, Ruth Popper just seems kinda sad. While she would be convicted as a pedophile today, Ruth really just needed some xanax.

What I aim for:
Mary Richards

Who amongst us hasn’t wished that we could turn the world on with our smile? If you suspect that my home has a giant “G” on the wall, you win the bonus prize. Mary is a model to us all about how to start life over with a go-go attitude. Well, until she cut her hair in the third season -- Then the show was just dead.

What I end up with:
Phyllis Lindstrom

Alas, Mary’s pushy neighbor is probably a bit more like the real GayProf. Phyllis was seemingly immune from Mary’s chipper disposition. Phyllis oozed gravitas.

What I aim for:
Baroness Paula Von Gunther

The Baroness had it all – A killer wardrobe, unlimited power, lesbian love slaves. Okay, so she was a Nazi – literally. Still, she probably stands as Wonder Woman’s most famous foe having appeared in both the comic and the television show.

What I end up with:
Frau Blücher

True, Frau Blücher has a place in cienmatic history. But GayProf doesn’t like it when the horses whinny and neigh at the sound of his name. It took a long time to break them of that habit. Besides, Frau Blücher always seemed more like a plot device to free the monster.


What I aim for:
Wonder Woman

The ultimate superheroine number 1, what more could be said? She can deflect bullets with her bracelets. Her tiara is a boomarang. She gets to date dreamy Steve Treavor.

What I end up with:
Queen Hippolyta

Alas, the cranky matriarch of Paradise Island just seemed so immovable. She never appreciated the beauty of Steve Trevor. And who besides her would call an island without [gay] men "paradise?"


* GayProf wants it made known that he adores Cloris Leachman and hopes she knows this was just a bit of silliness. Please don't hunt him down and twist his ankles.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Conference Living

Greetings from High-Altitude-Urban-Center! HAUC is a lovely city, even if it is currently covered in ice. It’s much more stylish than I anticipated. People are friendly and the downtown is actually functioning.

Did I mention the ice, though? Well, let me say again, it's much colder than I anticipated. My hotel doorman looks like he borrowed an outfit from Nanook of the North.

Aside from the cold, HAUC's airport also needs some serious work. One wonders why they bothered with an airport at all? Why not just have the planes dip to 10,000 feet, hand out some parachutes, and tell the passengers to take their best aim? What a mess!

And it’s a faraway mess at that. My new measure for the quality of a city is whether it has been wise enough to connect its airport to the downtown via public transport (other than buses). If you can get to your hotel using a subway or light-rail, you get an extra star from CoG. If, on the other hand, you have to break out a sextant and use astronavigation to locate the downtown core, you get downgraded. Still, even with that shortcoming and the ice, HAUC is a pleasant place to spend some time.

There also seems to be a solid queer scene, which further scores my approval. Still, there was something a bit quirky about it. When in another city, I often like to take a looksee at what’s happening in the usual queer online haunts. Consider it a low grade form of voyeurism on my part.

I was surprised by a significant number of HAUC gay men advertising that they had a “glory hole” in their house waiting for visitors. That was new to me.

Now, GayProf has seen many gapping holes in public restrooms in his life (No, I have never used one – I’m not that type of gay), but I have never encountered one in somebody’s private residence. I suppose it makes sense for those who want the glory hole experience without all the inconvenience of being arrested or censured by the U.S. Senate.

MFT and Decaying Urban Center simply haven’t caught up with this new gay interior design trend. Since I would never be likely to answer such an ad (Again, not that type of gay), it did make me wonder, where did they put the hole in their house? Do they hide crouched in a closet? Behind the bathroom wall? In back of the partition between the dining room and living room? Can one buy a “Do-It-Yourself-Drywall Glory Hole” kit at Home Depot? Or do you need to call a contractor to have it installed? Does having a built in glory hole raise or lower the resale value of a house?

Too much? Hey, this blog isn’t for kids. Go somewhere else for Chutes and Ladders and Candyland.

You be asking yourself at this point, “Why has GayProf landed in HAUC?” And you might also ask, “How did he get to be the Most Desirable Man on the Blogosphere when he posts so rarely?” Both of those are tough, but fair, questions.

To answer the first, I am here for a brief stint in a major-minor conference. It was either that or serve on the Noble Prize board.

Originally I thought it would be a great chance to hang out in HAUC for an extended weekend. I was certainly glad to see blogger buddy HistoriAnn.

Still, though my duties were light and I’ve enjoyed HAUC, I do wish that I had thought about how insanely, crazy busy the month of October would be when I agreed to attend so long ago. Oh well. At least I got my free tote bag. Probably the Noble Prize people don't give out free tote bags.

At one of the panels I attended here, the commentator put the smack down on all of the papers. It was painful to watch three scholars get the academic equivalent of a public spanking. It kinda got me thinking that maybe some folks are not versed in the basic conference rules.

If you are uninitiated in the mysteries of the academic conference, here are some good ideas to keep in mind (even if I, myself, don’t always follow them):

    If you are presenting a paper, write it two months ahead of time. Some of you might think that it shows the “kooky and crazy” side of your personality to draft a presentation in your hotel room the night before your panel. Maybe it does; but if it does, people in the audience will only say, “Look at the kooky and crazy scholar who didn’t bother to write a decent paper.”

    Deliver your paper on-time to the panel’s commentator. This is obviously linked to the issue above. "On-time" means about four weeks ahead of the conference. Some commentators are real sticklers about getting the paper to them by that four-week deadline. I have been at more than one panel where the commentator called out individual panel members for their tardiness. If you didn’t like that feeling in grade school, you will really hate it at a professional conference. Given that commentators are often senior people in your field, do you really want their memory of you to be one of irritation? Trust me, academics never forget such things.

    Keep your paper brief. On average, it takes us two minutes to read one page of text out loud. You have three or four other people next to you who also want to present their work. If your paper is 30 or 40 pages long, it’s almost as bad as not having written one at all. Brevity is the soul of wit. Have a clear thesis; use one or two examples from your research; and end with a bang.

    Don’t radically alter your paper once you deliver it to the commentator. Almost as annoying to a commentator as being super late with your paper is having spent a bunch of time drafting a comment only to find out that your argument has entirely changed. This is like cheating at cards.

    Postpone the drinking until the very end of the day. I totally get why you might want to hit the cocktails at noon. Still, I recommend resisting that temptation. With the traveling, stress of presenting, and general exhaustion, you are going to get dehydrated. This means liquor will affect you even more. Shaking the reputation as Drunky McDrunk from Drunkville (Who Drinks A Lot) can take years. Save the cocktails until after dinner when you are headed to bed and not likely to see many other attendees.

    Practice giving your paper aloud. It’s a drag, I know. Still, some things look better on paper than they do when we try to say them out loud. Short declarative sentences win the day.

    Dress professionally. This doesn't mean you need to conform to gendered expectations. Don't like ties? Don't wear one. Hate the skirts? Wear the slacks. Do, though, put some effort into looking like you care about your career. Nobody is impressed by a scholar who looks like they got dressed out of the hotel dumpster.

    Pack two copies of your paper in separate bags. Maybe I am overly cautious (read: OCD), but I like to have that extra paper copy just in case one of my bags is lost in transit. True, this has never actually happened, but it would be a real drag to be trying to scramble and find a place to print a new copy minutes before your presentation.

    Be generous to other presenters. Giving a paper is stressful. Trashing somebody else's work during a conference doesn't make you look smart. It makes you look mean. Be sure your comments are constructive rather than cruel.

    Leave the Conference Hotel and live a little. Ostensibly one of the reasons that these academic conferences move from city to city each year is that they are supposed to provide an opportunity for participants to explore new regions. Why, then, do so many of the conference attendees never set foot outside of the conference hotel? I promise that your name badge is not a type of house-arrest bracelet. The academic guard won’t descend upon you if you decide to eat at a restaurant four blocks from the conference. Take some time to explore the city you are in and leave the conference behind for a few hours.

    Avoid sleeping with your other panelist members. Personally, I often experience academic conferences as a form of social trauma. So it’s a bit of mystery to me that so many people find them even remotely sexy much less an opportunity to knock boots. Anecdotally, this also seems to be more of a hetero thing more than a homo thing – Not sure why. Still, it seems like a bad idea to me. Imagine if you had to see your last one-night stand every year for the next thirty years of your life. Well, that will be the case as this person will likely always be at the same conferences as you for your entire career. Can’t you horny heteros find somebody with an at-home-glory hole?