Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Internet Strangers

Greetings! Over the past weekend, I jetted to an island other than Paradise for an academic conference. It was my good fortune to be on a panel with academic blogging true believers. Historiann exchanged her rusty spurs for a series of fabulous sun dresses; Tenured Radical rabble roused among the virtual; the Madwoman with a Laptop proved once and for all that her authorial prowess was not dependent on channeling a dead canine; and the Woman Formally Known as Goose (WFKG) served as the most delightful of mistresses of ceremonies. The panel, in other words, was filled with the cool.

It came at the right moment for me – and, let’s be honest, it’s always about me in the end. I had been wondering for quite a bit of time what CoG’s future might be. It has been a bit like CoG was my child. Only ze dropped out of college and has been holding up in my basement sneaking joints and watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. My participation forced CoG into the light of day and to rejoin society. It also marked a new step for this ol’ blog. It meant that I relinquished the last vestiges of pseudonymity and “owned” it professionally. For the first time something related to the blog will appear on my c.v. Here is an image from our panel:

I'll leave it to you to figure out which one of the others wore the silver jumpsuit. *cough* TR *cough*

I had to think hard about whether to let go of my Diana Prince alter ego. With Cheetah and Giganta on the prowl, one can never be too careful. Over time, however, my pseudonym had become harder and harder to maintain. The blog occupied an uncertain place as more people came to know of it. At some point, it became awkward that half of my friends knew of the blog and half did not. So, too, I always wondered if any academics at my usual conferences ever stumbled upon CoG.
I felt like I was in the blogging closet and all my star-spangled panties were hanging around me.
As it turns out, my anonymity could be purchased for a price. That price was a trip to an island with tremendous historical significance for Spanish and U.S. imperialism. Or maybe, even more cheaply, I was lured by the fact that the conference hotel promised PiƱa Coladas so good that Joan Crawford once proclaimed them more enjoyable than slapping Bette Davis in the face. On the latter I cannot say; however, having sampled the drink in question, I would say that if I were a Joan Crawford dragqueen, I would probably take the swing.* I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

Let me tell you, too, that these blogging folks can be a persuasive crew. After a few drinks with Madwoman, TR, WFKG, and a delightful Yale postdoc, they convinced me to do things that I never imagined doing. No, not tequila shots via a congo line (although. . .). Rather, I opened a Twitter account.** Man, what did they put in those drinks?

All and all, the conference required me to ask just what have we been up to on this blog since 2005? Anonymously complaining about bad behavior in academia can be as fun as slapping Bette Davis in the face (Or so I am told). It becomes much harder to write about your colleagues’ shenanigans, though, if they have you in their RSS feed. So, what can academic blogs do other than pointing out our foibles?

I found myself disarmed that so many conference participants approached me through the weekend to say they were surprised that I was part of the“Digital Humanities.” So was I. Given that I am more than a bit dense, I had never contemplated that CoG was a version of that. It was a bit like finding out that I had secret skills as a dentist that I performed only while sleepwalking. Of course, to make that analogy work for CoG, it would be like finding out I was a dentist who left people with gaping, bleeding gums thanks to my less than skillful orthodontics.

The conference made me reminisce about when the little bloggy started. Then again, I have always been prone to nostalgia. I am a professional historian after all. My blog began at a pretty low point in my personal and professional life. The truly loyal readers out there will remember that many of the early posts conveyed self pity deep bitterness my reflections on a remarkably acrimonious break up with somebody who was truth challenged. My tenuous (and not tenured) position in a poisonously contentious department in the middle of TexAss only compounded those woes. From its start, then, the blog always had a certain messiness that blurred the personal and professional in ways that did not make me as wise as Athena. Well, if the blog’s author is a bit of mess, why wouldn’t the blog be one too? The blog became really important to me to combat the personal and professional isolation that I felt in East Texas. I did not have many other gay folks with whom to hang or other Chicano/a historians with whom to chat. Thank the goddess that those times have past. I will always remember, though, and be really grateful for the generosity of bloggers like Helen the Felon, Dorian, Joe.My.God, Tornwordo, VUBOQ, and others who reached out through cold dark cyberspace to be kind. Some are now famous, some faded. Whatever the case, I’m not sure I ever properly thanked them.

Thinking about the blog and hanging out with cool bloggeres reminded me that I still love the genre after all these years. Blogging offers tantalizing opportunities for us to write frankly about things that we see transpiring both in our immediate contexts and in the larger media. That type of writing does not necessarily align with my professional publishing trajectory as a nineteenth-century historian, but it sure is fun. So much so, I just might dust off those old comic books once more. . .

* For the record, GayProf does not endorse such violence.
** For the record, Historiann does not endorse the tweeting.