Hoo boy, you travel, you get busy, you catch up. It’s a real elaborate process.
NCA and Chicago were a blast in that we got to see lots of old friends, including a couple friends who no longer live on the continent. I presented one paper and served as a respondent on three panels, and I attended no others. I’m sure they were good, but these big conferences are always more about meeting people for coffee, meals and drinks than they are going to panels. The format encourages the attitude: 10 minutes to give a paper, and most people don’t practice before they perform (I practice my presentations, not my responses), which means that the presentations are a bit of a mess. The book award came with a plaque which looks surprisingly good. Once I figure out how to hang it on my wall in the office, I will. Will says I’m “going McGill” on him, but hey, it’s my first academic prize. It was weird to be at NCA and not be at Pitt. A couple Pitt grads asked me where the “McGill party”(1) was going to be and I had to inform them that Carrie and I were the only two McGill professors who even knew NCA existed.
I’ve been to Chicago a million times, so I didn’t worry much about seeing the city. We were stuck down in the loop on Michigan Avenue, which is pretty touristy, but I did get out to see some friends AND to see this very cool exhibit. The first room was most of the standard free speech stuff, but the second room got into areas of labor, race and sex radicallsm that I wasn’t previously aware of. I totally want to visit the Dil Pickle Club now. Anyway, I recommend visiting the exhibit if you’re in Chicago between now and when it closes. Extra bonus: we got the tour from one of the curators, my old GEO comrade and good friend Toby Higbie — who is also the author of a cool book on hobos (yes, the Toby who now has twins). I will say only this: the man was remarkably awake.
As an aside, they had a record from the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band. They have some interesting cred as predecessors of Riot Grrrl and other challenges to male domination in rock music. In fact, it’s the earliest explicitly feminist challenge to male “rockism” (as they now call it) that I know of. Unfortunately, their music, is well . . . how shall I put this? They were not quite as good as some of the feminist musicians who followed them. MP3s are available on their site, so you can judge for yourself. Maybe I just caught a weak song. . . .
To be fair, nonfeminist men also make bad music. For instance, this track.
(1) It is standard practice at NCA for departments to throw parties, either in suites or in convention rooms. Some of these parties have free food and free alcohol, other’s don’t. (Departments with jobs encourage candidates to come to their parties to meet faculty and students, though sometimes the faculty are drinking and the enounter is loud, crowded and awkward for the candidate.) Usually, large packs of friends move from one party to the next in search of free food and alcohol. In the past, I’ve usually gone. This time, we had so many people to see that we bailed on the parties. Plus, Pitt was interviewing people for my old job (though the job description is now a rhetoric position), so it seemed like a good idea to steer clear and let them interact with their candidates with me out of the way.