Thursday, May 17, 2007

Obligatory Late Kalamazoo Post
So much to write, no time to do it. I returned from Kalamazoo to Mother's Day, a pile of laundry, a Red Sox game, and a huge steaming heap of grading. I am only now digging out, and not so efficiently, either.

This Far Side explains how I felt at Kalamazoo (and still feel now):


But before the moment passes, this is a good time to make a comment or two. The actual details, including the blogger meet-up (which was fun) have been better discussed by others: Scott Nokes (scroll down), Another Damn Medievalist (Blogenspiel), Medieval Woman (whom I knew in a completely different context), Tiruncula (more on later), History Geek, Shana Worthen of Owlfish, Lisa Spangenberg, Elisabeth Carnell and others. I was also moved into a kind of awed awkwardness by meeting Teresa Nielsen Hayden of Making Light.

In the tradition of weird things happening at Kalamazoo, I was woken by a rooster on Friday morning at 4:30 a.m. I assumed I dreamed this, but then I was talking to a woman who works on staff and she told me that there are some people who have backyard chickens who live off campus near the Valley dorms. So it really was a rooster: the first time I've been woken up by one. Just another surreal Kalamazoo moment.

I'm glad that a couple people (Behold a Pale Horse and Scott Nokes) at least liked my paper with the plastic animals. It was a lot of fun to give, but because there was no time for questions, it was hard to tell whether people were convinced at all or just liked, well, the plastic animals.

The papers I attended were very good, although all the things I wanted to see were at the same times. Also, this year everything I had to go to was on alternating sides of the campus: first Fetzer, then Valley III, then Schneider, then Valley II, then Bernhard. Got a lot of good exercise, though.

Best part of the conference was getting a chance to talk to my former undergraduate student who has gone on to great things (and who will be teaching in my department this fall) and to catch up with people I'd met previously. Next best part was to say to a graduate student "Oh, you really need to meet Christina Lee, who is working on that" and, not 30 second later, have Christina Lee walk by and say hello. One of those weird Kalamazoo coincidences.

Most embarrassing moment: at dinner with Don Scragg and others, I started in with "What did you think of Drew Jones' brilliant piece in the new Speculum." No one else had read it. "What is it about?" asked Don, not unreasonably. And then, my friends, I had a complete Alzheimer's moment that lasted a very, very long time. I could not, for the life of me, remember the name of the text or the author. So I basically said "Hey, wasn't that article great? Can't remember what it's about, though." Very sad. Two hours later, I suddenly recalled that it's on Odo of Cluny. How hard is it to remember Odo, I ask you?

Almost as bad, and demonstrating how sleep deprivation in dorms that are worse than the prison Paris Hilton is going to leads to poor thinking, was my brain's performance at one interesting paper. About 2/3 of the way through, the presenter started talking about a medieval commonplace of a serpent with a jewel in its head that presses its ear against a rock and then tucks the tip of its tale into its other ear to block out temptations, etc. Interesting, right? Well, all I could think about, for the remaining five minutes of the paper, was "Snakes don't have ears." That particular problem so consumed my stupid brain that I totally lost the line of argument and didn't understand what the paper concluded.

I did manage to buy a manuscript fragment and leaf for the Crazy Sheep DNA Project, a Roman coin for my daughter, and the conference copy of Mechthild Gretsch's Ælfric and the Cult of Saints (I never get the conference copy of books that I really want, so I was very happy). Also, thanks to Phil Kaveny, I sold all of my copies of Beowulf Aloud, giving me a lovely I-told-you-so moment with my beloved spouse (these are quite rare).

The dance was also fun. I had a chance to chat with Another Damn Medievalist and dance with various friends, old and new. I still think that the dance should have been painted by Hieronomous Bosch (I think Korncrake would agree), but I always have a good time and I only know one person who left the profession after bad choices at the dance. It is a much more civilized event now that it's no longer in the Valley dorms, and I think the distance from the dance to the dorms protects many marriages and relationships just as the cash bar protects many reputations. As James McNelis said: "When medievalists have parties, we rock!" It may be it's own kind of weird medievalist rocking (involving belting out Bon Jovi songs -- who knew medievalists like Bon Jovi?), but it's rocking all the same. Try doing that, Americanists!

If I can dig out from all the other work I'll try to write something substantive and respond to insightful comments by Dr. Virago, Another Damned Medievalist and Medieval Woman in particular, but until then: this was my 14th out of the past 15 Kalamazoos and, despite the fact that it falls at exactly the wrong time of year and always creates work and family hardship, I'll keep going. Because you really can't ever run out of fun things to do when surrounded by medievalists for four days.

8 comments:

Tiruncula said...

Excellent Kalamazoo cartoon!

This is a promise to you and a reminder to me that I need to email you more thoughts about glossing layers, just as soon as I dig out from under my own pile of grading.

medieval woman said...

It was great to see you again, Mike - I was always too embarrassed to say, "remember me!" on the blog!

Good luck with the cool sheep DNA project - let us know how it goes!

Please do give J my best, but not my phone number! :)

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Hope your steaming pile is far better than mine. And mostly done by now!

I got up and finished all my grading on Sunday morning, because I thought it was due Sunday evening (because, well, that's what the academic calendar said). They were due Tuesday. So I missed the book room this year. Next year, I shall not. Of course, next year, I hope to have LDW with me, and he can't be kept from the book room no matter how many good papers there are!

Dr. Virago said...

I think the distance from the dance to the dorms protects many marriages and relationships just as the cash bar protects many reputations

Not for lack of trying, though! Te-hee!

It was nice finally meeting you and, as I told you at the dance, at least you didn't forget what your *own* article or book was about. Seriously, I did. Well, it was a small, tangential bit of it, but still -- I forgot my own writing!

Teresa said...

No grading, but I came home and immediately developed some kind of nasty viral thing. I blame the airlines.

Kalamazoo was wonderful. Why should anyone have been awkward around me? I was the dazzled and credential-free newbie there.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Because you're the famous TNH?? Because even though we know that the world you normally inhabit is a warm and welcoming one (well, mostly -- I know a couple of sf/f academic types who are rather bristly), we are conditioned to be impressed and thoroughly chuffed when the folks with well-deserved fame and respect deign to treat us as equals?

Just taking a wild guess. Others may disagree.

Michael said...

ADM's wild guess is right. I tend to get flustered / star struck when I meet people whose books / blogs I've read outside of academia. You've written, edited and published books that other people actually read and are on my shelves.
It was a real pleasure to meet you, of course, despite my tongue-tied-ness.

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