Thursday, April 28, 2005

Way Too Much Has Happened

Um... I hardly know where to start. I gave my presentation, and afterwards, during a reception at which I drank too much cheap white wine, an imposing Early-Modern Ecclesiatical historian called it "admirably sophosticated." The most significant thing, though, was that I basically sat down Sunday morning and wrote 13 pages. I started cutting and pasting from old stuff, but by the end I had essentially created everything from scratch. 13 pages! In one day! There may be hope for me yet.

Tuesday I waited hours in Heathrow for A— to get off the planefrom NYC. Dinner with a friend of A—. A— and were drenched head to toe by a passing car going through a puddle, in a manner both of us believed happened only in cartoons.

Wednesday: galleries, architecture, Vietnamese food, drinks. Very very tired.

Today: I may blow off the second day of research presentation. There's much more to tell. Details to follow.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I Am Lazy

Okay, so I'm sure you're all on the edge of your seats wondering if I got the chapter draft to the Advisoress by Friday the 22nd, as I promised myself in this blog several weeks back. Oh, don't try to act surprised that I didn't. I tried—really I did. Now I have to give a presentation to the IHR tomorrow, and I done, basically nothing at all. Well, okay, I have an outline. It's going to be a long long day. Then a long few weeks before I give the paper on the 16th.

It has in fact been a big week: I finally started working at the British Library, which deserves a long post. It is very different from the Bibliothèque National in Paris—and not entirely better. It is startlingly less efficient, and the computer system is a shambles in comparison. But you can at least do your own photocopying. More on this later. Also more later on Jenny Lind, whom I now know a lot about. (Preview: She was nuts!)

On Wednesday I went to the National Archives in Kew, which until rather recently was known as the Public Records Office Frankly, the National Archive is probably a better name, since it contains photographs and printed ephemera and other things that don't really come to mind when you think of "public records"... BUT, every time I told someone I was going to the "National Archive" I got blank stares, so I finally gave in, and started calling it "the PRO," like everyone else still does. It was a nice place to work, although my research there was a total wash. [I just typed a whole account of what I was looking, and what I didn't find, and then, realizing that this was interesting to approximately no one, deleted it.] Perhaps it's just the time of year, but there were a lot of loud, obnoxious, elderly Americans at the PRO, apparently doing genealogical research about their ancestors. As previously reported, I've really been getting over my weird discomfort over my accent and what-not, but then I hear these people yelling at each other in the reading room of a library, and I, once again, begin to get the urge to quietly mumble at people to disguise my accent.

UPDATE! GARCIA ONLY HAD I THINK ONLY SIX CHILDREN. It seems Albert is in fact his grandson, by his second-oldest son Gustave (the one who was fired from the RAM for incompetence, in the absolute best exchange of letters in the RAM minute books). I was confused because Albert is (I think) older than Manuel's youngest daughter Paula. Would it be weird to have an aunt that is younger than you? (I believe this situation exists among the children and grandchildren of Keith Richards, if I'm not mistaken? Someone like that.) In other Garcia-clan-related news, it seems Manuel lied about his age on the 1881 census. Or, at least, his age was recorded incorrectly. It says 60; he was 76. Several explanations could account for this, but I'd like to imagine that he just wanted to avoid awkward questions about how he happened to have a five-year-old daughter at the age of 76.

I continue to meet homosexuals over the internet including: A cocky medical student! A freelance architectural historian! An old opera queen who makes hats for a living! A British-Jewish lawyer for an evil multinational music corporation! Details to follow... (Please, no comments about how meeting homosexuals over the internet is preventing me from writing musicology, thank you very much.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I went to a fun party

Okay, so since the departure of J— I've felt a bit freundlos, so took the plunge and posted an online ad in order to meet new people. There is a site here, though, that bans explicitly sexual content—it screens the photos you upload and everything—but even so my expectations were not high. On my ad, I ask (using language adapted from my Friendster thingy): "Do you know of any poorly-publicized club night I should check out? Is there an out-of-the-way cafe that I'd never find on my own that you could show me? Hidden bargains on fabulous clothes? Secret menu items at cheap restaurants? Drop me a line."

In response to this, two homosexuals, who do not know each other, both independently suggested that I go to "Unskinny Bop," a poorly-publicized party in scrappy East London. I was made apprehensive by the fact that the club's description sounds like an undergraduate term paper ("There is nothing superficial about music and the enjoyment of music through the act of dance"—Where's my red pen!?), but I was encouraged by the fact that lesbians are involved. (London lesbians, as J— was the first to point out to me, are oddly invisible and oddly segregated from the gay boys.)

In any case I don't want to arrive alone, so I rope a friendly-seeming guy who'd been chatting me up online, and we head over to exotic Bethnal Green... and proceeded to have the best night out I've had in months. The space had this feeling of a Victorian front parlor, minus the furniture—the walls all at odd angles, and with beautiful crown molding—and painted in a simulacrum of 70s psychedelia, without being too... ersatz. The crowd was friendly, a little hipster-ish, but dressed down. But the music was absolutely fantastic. This utterly adorable bespectacled dyke on the decks was following old old hip hop with the Pixies with Madonna with Northern Soul with Nina Simone. Fantabulous.

Had a discussion with one of the guys who invited me about how close the party was to its inevitable decline (either abandoned by the regulars, or invaded by the riff raff, etc.). For now, the only downside for me was the absolutely torturous night bus home—almost an hour and a half, and I got home after 4. But this was perhaps a small price to pay.

I neglected to blog about Friday night's adventure with super-cool cultural-studies-scholar-with-a-bad-girl-past who is on the same fellowship as me. She is awesome. When she goes out drinking, she only drinks vodka, straight up. Hard core. I shall pass over the details of our Abendteuerabend, because it's sunny and beautiful and I want to be outside. Let it suffice to say that I've had a good weekend.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Burke's Peerage is INSANE

Seriously, have any of you ever had reason to look at this book? It is an account of all the noble families of Britain, which is creepy enough, but it is written in this bizarre short-hand code where offspring are called "issue," and it's all arranged by generation, so in order to read any particular person's lineage your eyes have to jump forwards and backwards around the text. I'm not explaining this well, but just know that it is a... unique textual experience.

Why was I dipping into this? Well, technically I was not looking at Burke's Peerage, but rather Burke's Irish Family Records, because Manuel Garcia's youngest (or second-youngest?) daughter married Major-General Sir George McKenzie Franks, KCB, from a fairly old Irish family—well, only enough to merit inclusion in Burke's Irish Family Records, at least. (And for the record, I provisionally declare that Garcia had a total of seven children, four by Eugénie and three by Beata: Gustav, Manuel III, Eugénie Jr., Maria, Paula, Manuela (whom they called "Carmen"), and Albert. I believe I am the only person in the world who knows this...)

So anyway, George and Paula had three children: Raynald, Noel, and (Beata) Cynthia. Cynthia died unmarried; Noel married a man from Sweden; and Raynald, the one who contacted the RAM in the 1970s, married Anna Giulia Rowe (possibly related to Marianne Rowe, Victorian opera singer, and Garcia student?) in 1939. Anna and Raynald had one son who died at age 5, and one daughter, Phyllida, who married Timothy Pyper in 1969 and had a daughter of their own, Zoë Marianne Clara (Franks) Pyper, born in 1974. Are you following all this? All this, and much much more information (addresses, dates, etc) is packed into about one-and-a-half column inches.

The point is, somewhere, right now, this Zoë woman, Manuel Garcia Jr's great-great-granddaughter, is about to turn 31. This all does me practically no good at all in terms of actually writing my dissertation. (Someone in the family still owns, for example, the centenary liber amicorum containing 800 tributes and signatures, but it could just as likely have ended up in the possession of the descendants of one the other six children. Probate records might help here, but I'm a little afraid of dipping into that mess.) At the same time—well, at the risk of repeating a phrase I've used recently, it all feels a bit vertigeonous. I mean, I don't even know a single one of my great-great-grandparents' names.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Home Sweet Home

Hey remember awhile back when I was on the news because Wood Green, my beloved neighborhood, had been the site of a rash of stabbings? If we had thought of it at the time, we perhaps could have consoled ourselves by saying, "Well, at least there's no Al-Qaeda poison factory in our village!"

This small consolation has, alas, been taken from us.

Apparently, neighbors are shocked.


I Saw a Crappy Movie

Hey Folks. I saw Asia Argento's The Heart is Decietful Above All Things. It was crap! It was really, really crap! I guess that I, againt all rational thought, actually had high expectations. I thought it might at least be, y'know, stylish. But regardless of what anyone might have expected, this was lazy, sloppy, superficial filmmaking in the first degree. I should write a more elaborate description of its failings, but (1) I don't have time right now and (2) I'd prefer to just ignore it.

Some of you may know my minor obsession with the idea that J.T. LeRoy is a total fraud, a fake, an elaborate hoax. Well, he was in attendance, and his public appearance at the screening only confirmed my suspicions. Fake! Fake! Fake! Which would be, y'know, sort of interesting, if the reception of his books didn't rest so squarely on the implicit claim that the books reflect something that actually happened to him. This makes the fact that he turns actual human suffering and class-based injustice into an absurd cartoon that more irritating.

Yesterday it suddenly occurred to me to look up Garcia in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. And... it's riddled with errors. Hardly a paragraph of the entry goes by without some glaring factual inaccuracy. Most distressingly, it completely neglects to mention that he had a second marriage and two (or perhaps three) children by his second wife.

Yesterday I also threw Male Subjectivity on the Margins against the wall, becuase it was frustrating me.

It is Wednesday, and I am filled with hate.

(Oh and speaking of hate, our intrepid correspondent in New Haven (see link to the right) has finally started posting more regularly. Although I still have some problems with his Kosman critique, his blog is definitely worth reading. Bookmark it today!)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Photos! Photos! Photos!

Cyprus Potatoes
Originally uploaded by gwdexter.
I have been meaning to make available to you, gentle readers (and especially for Miss Straub), a collection of snapshots which I occasionally take when I see something funny or odd or particularly British. But I kept putting it off and putting it off, since I always just wanted to get a few more before posting them as a group. Well, there are only 10, which is not as many as I'd like, but here they are—I shall endeavor to take and post more in the near future. In the meantime, click on the bewildering image of the "Cyprus Potato Marketing Board: North London Branch," and then proceed through the album until to you get to the last image, "Forbidden Accordion!!" Along the way, you'll get to enjoy images which I have named "The Filthiest Dentist," "Creepy Gnomes," and a woman who is thrilled to be pawning her grandma's jewels. And much, much more!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Ekaterina is Quite a Step Down from Dame Kiri; Jockeys are Hot

So it was a big day in Britain today, what with the Royal Wedding (and I'm not talkin' about Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, darlings) and the big horse race "The Grand National" in the afternoon. The Royal Wedding drove home the point, once again, that I do not understand the mentality of this country on a very profound level. I mean, really, honestly... there is NO EARTHLY REASON why these people should be famous. Really. Any of them. They have done NOTHING in their entire lives that actually matters, except get born. And yet, everyone seems to care so much. What if everyone just decided to stop paying attention to them? Just stop. Really.

On the upside: (1) Camilla's dresses get a big ol' A+ from me, especially that unidentifiable object on her head that bore a resemblance to a crown of stalks of wheat wheat—lovely. (2) The odd moment of Russian Orthodox liturgical music dropped into the procedings was really lovely, at least musically speaking. As GF astutely pointed out to me, however, the young contralto who sang it, Ekaterina Semenchuk was indeed a step down from Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, whose contribution to Charles's first attempt at the whole marriage thing lingers in the memory. We were informed that the Old Church Slavonic interlude was "a wedding present from the Mariinsky Theater, of which Prince Charles in a patron"—but it did raise certain questions. I mean, if they can incorporate a musical moment from a tradition so radically outside the Anglican tradition, why didn't they incorporate a song or reading which referenced non-Anglican traditions within the UK? You could really imagine it: A song in Gaelic, a reading in Welsh, a snippit of Qur'anic chant, a Sikh devotional song, a Methodist hymn, a gospel choir. The symbolism could have been really nice. It would have looked... um... a lot like my baccalaureate service at Williams. Oh well.

The Grand National is way cooler than the Kentucky Derby (sorry, my dear Kentuckian friend). This is because it is four and a half miles, so the horses are visibly exhausted at the finish, and because the horses have to jump over these huge-ass hurdles, the largest of which are close to seven feel tall. Thus horses falling down and jockeys getting nearly trampled are an intergral part of the whole event. Thrilling! This year, 21 of the 40 horses who started actually made it across the finish line, and we were informed that this was actually really good compared to years past. Go fig. I was reminded of something I had realized some time ago (perhaps at that Kentucky Derby party BQ would take me to)—that is, that male jockeys, in general, are really hot. They're both short and elfin, and simultaneously mean and rough-trade-lookin'. There was a moment when the BBC coverage cut to an interview inside the locker room, and I just about fainted.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I just got the Chancellor's fellowship

Jesus this is a huge weight off my mind. A huge huge huge weight off my mind. Words cannot express what a weight off my mind this is.

I wrote four pages today. Things are looking up.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Okay, I just posted, but this deserved a separate entry.

1. Click here.

2. Be sure "Satellite" and not "Map" is selected.

3. Zoom all the way in.

Can you see? Can you see that this satellite image was clearly taken on the day of the Castro Street Fair? There are white-roofed tents all the way down to Castro and 19th? And there is a great throng of people in the street, especially at Market and Castro, where you can actually make out the temporary stage on the west side of the intersection.

This is making my head spin.

When, exactly, was this picture taken? It had to be 2002 or earlier, because the Octavia Blvd freeway off-ramp is still standing, and that was demolished in April 2003. Could it possibly have been taken Sunday, 6 October 2002? Which was the day I went to the fair with the now long-forgotten Stephen-with-a-PH(-but-with-no-PhD), whom I had met a week earlier at the Boy Scout-themed GQB? The fair at which I was invited, later in the afternoon, to the most debauched barbecue in history? If you squint hard enough, can you see being invited to this barbecue by one half of SF's famously lecherous club-promoting power couple?

The satellite image is clearly supposed to provide an reference image, abstracted from the ravages of time! I think I might only be able to look at the "maps" section from now on... there's only so much fear and trembling before my own mortality I can take from my web-based applications.

UPDATE! FEBRUARY 2006: They've changed the picture and it no longer shows the Castro Street Fair. Oh Well. You'll have to take my word for it. It was weird.

I paid $20 for a cocktail

What will I do without J—, my American friend? His visa being up, he's heading back to Californ-i-ay on Saturday (coïncidentally, the date of the royal wedding). At some point during our last night of drinking last night, he said to me, "well, now you'll have to actually make British friends." He may be right.

In any case, we had a lovely evening, beginning at a pub that serves Thai food, and ending at an impossibly upscale cocktail bar where the drinks cost a minimum of £9. I got a sazerac, served in a huge, chilled snifter rinsed in absinthe rather than pernod. Delish. For the second round I had a neat reposado tequila alongside an absurdly elaborate sangrita (containing, for example, pomegranate seeds). Is it clear in the picture on the website that there is a hippopotamus head hanging on the wall?

Let's see... other news. I saw a very good movie, along with a Williams professor. A professor that I never took a class from, but I knew nonetheless, because he is gay. (Confidential to G: this was S's mentor at Williams. You can mention this to him, if the two of you start speaking to each other again.)

I watched 50 Greatest British Comedy Sketches on Channel 4 Sunday night. Just about every weekend Channel 4 has some "50 greatest..." or "50 worst..." or "100 most embarrassing..." three- or four-hour special on. Yes, it is unconscionably lazy programming on Channel 4's part, but it remains a fantastic education for me. Like for instance, on Sunday I learned that the British have some seriously fucked up sketch comedy. Of those on the list, "Good AIDS/Bad AIDS" had my jaw on the floor, "The Slobs (Brown Baby)" had me rolling on the floor, and "Masterchef" had me doubting the sanity of the entire British race.

I've finally begun writing again, although today was a slow day. As I am consistently reminded, however, it's about consistency. It's like jogging.

It does not help one bit when I receive an email which causes me to waste about 2 hours looking at satellite images of houses I've lived in. (Gee, thanks a lot, M.) In case you're interested, which of course you are not, unless you are a blood-relative, here are:

Newport, RI (age 7-11)
Monterey, CA (age 15-17)
Whidbey Island, WA (age 1-5)
San Francisco, CA (age 25-26)

Zoom in! Scroll around seamlessly with the mouse! I love you, Google.