Academic Conference Crashing 101

Today I did something very bold, though for many of you the tale I am about to tell will seem rather tame. (I just love alliteration) 

I’m taking a course, Contemporary Literature and Film of the Southwest.  It’s a great class. The teacher is so enthusiastic about the works we read and the films we see that even though they are not the genre I would generally be attracted to, I find myself wanting to explore them.  (Westerns being one example).  And while viewing what I generally consider  “entertainment” (films) through a socio-political lens, and trying to ascribe deeper layers of meaning is intellectually challenging for me, I’m finding it rather stimulating.  (Example, Gary Cooper’s High Noon was really about /was a statement against McCarthyism).  This kind of thinking is really putting my brain through some serious aerobic exercise.  And I like it.  I may not be good at it yet, but I like.  

The class has both graduate and undergraduate students, and as a graduate, our requirements for the class are different.  In fact, being a graduate student is different (more on that later).  In this class a large portion of our grade will be determined by a conference paper that we will write.  The topic, entirely our own choosing.  We are required to submit an abstract to a conference, and of course write the actual paper…  and if the abstract is accepted, potentially present the paper at an academic conference.  (eeek!)

I had no idea what a conference paper was, making the assignment very intimidating.  Once I wrapped my head around the concept, I had an idea to write about Blogs as the New Regionalism.  To make a long story short, the more I looked a blogs, the less foundation I felt I had to make such a case.  

With some guidance from the professor, I’m going in a new direction, and he suggested I check out this conference session at the American Studies Association:

Histories of the Dust Heap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice, which included a presentation by Stephanie Foote, “Enviroblogging: Green Spaces in the Virtual World.”

While the topic is not exactly relevant to my paper, I decided to check it out.  

Fact:  I am not a member of the American Studies Association

Fact:  I am not really sure what “American Studies” is

Fact:  I’ve never been to an academic conference

Fact:  I was not registered for the conference

Fact:  I have never crashed a party in my life.

The conference was taking place a mere 2 miles from my house, I decided to go for it.  First I had a fashion crisis–  I wanted to look like I belonged.  The first two pairs of pants I tried on were too tight (damn, I thought with all the walking I’ve been doing I’d lost some weight).  The third pair fit just right.  Basic black dress pants.  I added a black and white striped button-down blouse for a business casual but not too chic look.  These are academics, afterall.  (no slam against academics, but they are not known fashionistas–  too busy thinking about bigger issues I think).

And off I went.  The conference center is where the David Byrne concert was held (he’s a musical genius, you know) so I knew where I was going.  I even parked at the Double Tree Hotel right next door.  I arrived at the conference center with seconds to spare….  actually by the time I found the room, they had already started. A quick check of the map and determined stride and I must have looked like I belonged.  No one questioned me except to ask where the West side rooms were. 

And so now I know what a conference paper is, I took some notes of some big words I can use in my paper, and I have a pretty good idea of what is expected as far as “presenting” the paper should mine be accepted.  

And I have crashed my first party.  (does it count that it was an academic conference?)

Bonus:  the parking attendant at the Double Tree must have been on break, I got to park for free ($5 savings, good for one burrito at The Fronteir)

Note:  The David Byrne Concert was awesome. His new music rocks. His dancers were phenomenal.  The lighting sublime.  The old music with a slightly updated remix was fun.  If he tours in your direction I encourage you to go.  Well worth the time and money.

I did a bad bad thing

Starting in January 2006 I started blogging for It was a community blog run by my dear friend Joe Crawford (one of the smartest guys I know). I blogged off and on for almost 2 years. The ads he had running on the site pretty much paid for hosting– his hope was that if it ever started to make money he would construct some sort of profit sharing, but it hadn’t come to that yet. No forms were signed, just kind of a internet hand-shake.

Joe, being the smart guy that he is, sold the blog. It was the wise thing to do. He had moved to Simi Valley with his lovely Leah Peah (another dear friend) and wanted to focus his energies on his new life up north.

Unfortunately he sold it to a guy that (1) has cluttered up the site with ads; (2) never ever emailed me (or any of the other regular or occasional bloggers that I am aware of) to introduce himself or to ask me (or any of us) to continue writing -or not and (3) there’s no info about him or about the site on the site– a personal pet peeve of mine especially if this is a business, which clearly it is.

And so my words are making him money (keyword based ad revenue). It ticks me off every time I get a notification of a comment– usually a SPAM comment– on one of my old posts. (Note I have not contributed to the blog since October 2007).

SO, since I can’t delete even my own posts, I edited them all…. they are now blank. Nothing more than empty (keyword free) space under some pretty catchy titles (if I do say so myself). Note my personal favorite title was “Oooo eeee” (for you Justin Wilson Cajun’ Cook Fans) to announce a Cajun Music and Food Fest taking place in San Diego.

My most commented post ever (47, baby) was “Wake Up San Diego”

Your city planners are trying to enact an Oversize Vehicle Ordinance (OVO) that will affect ALL citizens of San Diego. ALL vehicles over 7 feet high and or over 22 feet long, ALL utility trailers, and ALL recreational vehicles would be prohibited from overnight parking on city streets. Recreational vehicles, as defined, could park overnight up to 72 times per year only with a valid permit issued by the city. The San Diego business community will be drastically affected as the OVO includes street parking in industrial areas.

Note to any potential commenters on this issue, it is dead, decided, and I no longer live in or near San Diego so it’s not my issue anymore.

My personal favorite post was “Is San Diego a Literary / Artistic Wasteland”

Maybe I’m just naive. Maybe I just like Rich Baiocco. And maybe, just maybe, San Diego does have an arts community… and maybe, just maybe you have to open your eyes and look around. It’s there. Like Winter in San Diego its subtle, but it’s there.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the interview with UCSD’s Lit professor / poet Eileen Myles (she’s ready to move to LA because San Diego isn’t gritty hip enough for her):

Alone in San Diego: Gritty New York poet Eileen Myles struggles with life and work in a shiny, happy city by Emma Silvers

and local writer Rich Baiocco’s response via BlogSanDiego, I, Necrophiliac

So, SanDiegoBlog readers…. you know where I stand, so I put it to you. Is there art in San Diego? Can you be an on the edge, over the edge, standing on the ledge artist in San Diego?

That one didn’t draw as many comments –only 8– but it did get picked up by The Reader. And I got paid for it!

So all in all I don’t regret the time and words I spent at San Diego Blog, but it really would have been nice if the new owner had made some sort of effort to either keep the community going, or let us know what his plans were for the blog….

So, instead of taking Joe’s advice, “You might even offer up constructive criticism of the site to him, rather than go in with guns blazing,” I just deleted all my words, killed my darlings as it were…..
I am now free to be ABQ aging beauty bloggeras noted on the tags (see right column) of this very blog…. or participate more on Duke City Fix — a true community blog / social network site for people that dig life in Albuquerque… or, hey, do my homework! write my book! (grad school update coming up next)

or do another bad bad thing….

The best laid plans…

I’m neither mouse nor man, but I can tell you that I always have the best of intentions… Photo Phriday, Wordless Wednesday, Mailbag Monday…. yeah yeah, goin’ to hell am I.

Oh, no, I meant to say I’m goin’ to grad school! and feeling rather frenetic at the moment, sort of all over place. Checking out moving companies one moment and class offerings the next and the constructing a transition plan for work. I’m feeling very scattered.

It’s not a Wednesday, this post is not wordless and it’s not a Phriday, but here’s a pic of me and my sister anyway.