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?


vuboq said...

Funny that you mention the at-home glory holes, b/c I have recently been seeing those advertised, too. I wonder if it's the Hot New Thing in Gay Interior Design.

Glad you are having a fun time in HAUC!


pacalaga said...

Very good advice, even if you're not going to a conference. (Seriously, the dress professionally bit? Once at my last company the entire dress code was changed because the new president got stuck in the elevator with Weird Guy, who wore dirty stained pants, holey t-shirts, and had never heard of a hair brush.)
/wanders off to google Glory Hole and skip the pics...

Earl Cootie said...

Maybe the glory holes are accidental. Like, you know, the houses are old and ill-maintained, and, oops, the doorknob fell out of the bathroom door, and everytime the guy goes to the bathroom, he looks at the hole and thinks, "If I don't fix that, I should cover it at least. But what could I put in there?" And one day *Bing!* (lightbulb sound), he thinks, "I know just the thing!"

Java said...

LOL @ Earl!

Interesting observations, GayProf. And good questions about the in-home glory hole. The way I understand the glory hole phenomenon, the idea is total anonymity. If I were to invite someone into my home for such a liaison, even if we never exchanged names or other personal information, the essential sense of anonymity would be gone. Very odd.

Frank said...

My friend in Seattle has a glory hole in his basement/dungeon. His then-boytoy (who has since married the daughter of a Texan millionaire; my friend's life is Not Dull, unlike mine) handcrafted it.

dykewife said...

when one considers that interior walls can be 4-7 inches thick, one has to consider then that the glory holes have to be custom made. door knobs tend to be too close to the wall (being a bit of an obstruction) to make them practical in the glory hole tradition.

as to cold readings, i just read out your entire entry to bran and gf (to their amusement) without many errors at all. i'm good at cold reading from reading bedtime chapters nightly. of course, i'm not going to be doing any academic conferences so my talent will remain in-house.

shaz said...

Others have covered the Glory Hole, so I'll go for adding to the great conference tips:

1. Print your paper in 20 pt font so you don't squint.

2. For middle-aged+ like me: Be prepared for vision issues. I've had the new-bifocal experience, where I couldn't see the podium through the lower half of my glasses. Looked like a bobble-head the whole time. A more experienced colleague suggests always bringing a thick book to prop up your notes to all talks.

3. Number the pages, so when they fall on the floor mid-talk, you can reassemble them quickly.

4. Please listen to GayProf about length and last minute reworkings!! Oh yeah, and the no-sex thing.

GayProf said...

VUBOQ: And here I was thinking that the home urinal would be the next Hot New Thing in Gay Interior Design.

Pacalaga: I am not sure how we came to the point where "business casual" could be interpreted as "whatever I found on the floor this morning."

Earl: Now that's turning lemons into lemonade!

Java: VUBOQ and I debated exactly the same thing via txt msg! I mean, you would have to answer the door, right? So that kinda spoils the whole anonymity thing. VUBOQ's best guess was that the host left his door unlocked and directions to the hole. It did make me wonder what would happen if Avon came calling at the same time.

Frank: But what did he handcraft it out of? I suppose putting it in the basement would give it that authentic, dank, public bathroom feel.

DykeWife:as to cold readings, i just read out your entire entry to bran and gf (to their amusement) without many errors at all.

But darling, of course you did! Think of the brilliant prose you had to work with.

Shaz: That 20pt thing is a really good idea -- One that I always forget about.

Personally, I am kinda intrigued when presenters use their eyeglasses as a dramatic prop.

susurro said...

I appreciate your advice on all of these from smackdowns, to smack talking, to lazy presenting. As for glory holes ... where's that chutes and ladders again?

can I add: don't tweet drunk b/c ur stuck in layover to conference. just had close encounter w/ grad student who was featured evening presenter where she was bored & drunk at airport layover & picked fights w/several senior scholars on twitter to pass the time then carried the angry over to the conference itself before sobering. None of us will forget it. And much like being Drunky McDrunkersen @ the conference, Drunk online lasts forever. Your peers may forgive it but the ppl who actually run conferences/featured speakers events, recommend you, and hire won't.

glory holes are one thing, bad behavior is another.

tornwordo said...

The first I've heard of the glory hole in the home. Funny that that has generated the bulk of the commentary here.

gwoertendyke said...

i too find the conference socially traumatic & have never understood the conference hook up thing. why on earth would you want to sleep with a random academic? yuk.

I've never heard of a glory hole before, thanks for educating, as always.

Susan said...

Your advice about conferences should be required reading for all participants. And I've always wondered about the conference hookups -- I realize these are people you see only once a year, but you keep seeing them once a year.


Frank said...

If I remember correctly, Boy Toy built a faux-wall out of plywood and then drilled a hold in it. There were some splinter issues, I recall, which required some time with a belt sander.

GayProf said...

Susurro: I know that you like the twitter and the facebook, but I often see these technologies getting people into trouble. An electronic record of your drunkness would be bad news indeed.

Torn: Everybody has a little voyeur in them.

Adjunct Whore: I try to share the knowledge.

Susan: I don't think people realize how long their career might be (which will feel even longer if you sleep with all of your conference attendees).

Frank: Splinters sound like a bad, bad thing.

goblinbox said...

What's wrong with seeing a one-night stand every year for the rest of my life?

Oh. Yeah.


Frank said...

From my friend on this subject when I emailed him about this thread:

"Yeah, the best home glory holes are the ones in playrooms set up to look like public bathrooms -- needless to say. I had a friend in NYC who had a full gym locker room in his apartment AND in the bathroom there were three stalls each with glory holes. Obviously he was very rich and had a very large apartment. The funny part of it was that his apartment was decorated in chintz and Louis XIII furniture. He had his play area behind a locked door and it was in what was once the next door apartment. A full one bedroom unit that he bought for that purpose alone -- to have a play apartment.

Crazy fucking rich people."

dpaste said...

I was in a home last year that had a urinal in addition to a sit down commode. I think that trend has already come and gone.

Personally I don't see the harm in conference-related one-night stands, especially if they are mutually enjoyed. It just means one more thing to look forward to at next year's conference.

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snoring mouthpiece said...


From the picture it remind me my favourite cartoon...haha

Glory hole in the house??


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Rebekah said...

Those last three comments before mine? Who are those people?

Not having ever presented at any kind of conference, I have not had to worry about the preperation, nor the drinking. Of course, there aren't a lot of one-night-stands either; most of us are women, with the middle-aged ones wearing theme vests and sweaters. Not a romantic gathering at all.

Now, the in-house glory holes? Some people have just too much free time on their...uh...hands.

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Wall Mirror Gal said...

Love the humor and the good tips on presenting a paper. Seriously, I can not underscore enough the value in rehearsing your presentation before you present. I'm even considering toastmasters as an option!

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