Category Archives: me

Celebrity Identities

Lately I’ve been thinking about how celebrities try to create their own identitities and the push-pull created between celebs and fans, celebs and the media, and a number of other actors and groups.  And as I start thinking, I realize that vocabulary will be an issue because I am thinking about actors and actresses, but also about actor-network theory, an entirely different definition. Eventually I guess I’ll need to check how others are distiguishing and if new terms have come into use. I am sooooo disconnected at the moment, academically speaking.  But for now, I know what I mean.

Here is a short narrative of my deciding to look at this. I find that I can now watch all but the last season on True Blood on one of our streaming services. We had stopped having cable a few years ago, so stopped watching anything on HBO, since until very recently, they stubbornly required a cable subscription.  We even more stubbornly refused to get one so… Anway, decided to catch up. Enjoyed it more than I remembered, and started to check other stuff various actors were doing because it’s summer and I finally have time for it. In researching that, I looked at lots of interviews, ComicCon panels, talk show spots, wikipedia entries, Twitter feeds, YouTube clips, fan sites, etc. As I was surveying, I was making mental comparisons to how this media landscape felt compared to the last time I was really engaged, which was at least five years ago.

So that’s all percolating in my head, and I noticed that Alexander Skarsgård is starring in the new Tarzan movie.  I will pause here and say that Tarzan, as a character, and his stories, hold a special place in my heart.  As a kid, I spent every summer in a rustic cabin in the Maine woods where I read all of Edgar Rice Burroughs books, repeatedly.  Those books actually had a huge impact on my own identity formation, and also might be among the first to provoke my analyzing texts. I’ve always been frustrated at how far the movies have wandered from the books, and at how the modern treatments never get much beyond the origin story.

The Legend of Tarzan was released in early July and of course there is a surge of promo activities from the actors, but especially Margot Robbie and Alexander Skarsgård. Watching and reading all these guest spots and interviews, I was struck by many things, but I’ll talk about two here. First, most of the interviews cover a really narrow range of topics and if it became grindingly dull for me reading, I can’t imagine how the actors feel.  More on that in another post. Second, attitudes toward celebrities parallel attitudes toward women in some the worst ways imaginable.  In particular, many seem to feel that because actors and actresses are paid for a certain kind of public appearance, the audience then owns them. Or maybe better that they owe us.  That they owe us attention; they owe us every detail of their lives, no matter how intimate; they owe us always looking attractive according to our standard… I hope the parallels are clear.

Sometimes watching the interviews became really painful; I just wanted to cringe at some of the questions asked by interviewers, or by fans, when they had a chance.

So, to recap: the media and, sadly, fans often act like we are entitled to intimacy, attention, attractiveness and sexuality from actors. The focus on these detracts (I think) from discussions about story, craft, etc. Do we really need to hear more than once how someone bulked up or slimmed down? I don’t think so. Harping on these tired topics is at best lazy, and often feeds into rape culture in the assumption that other people are there only for our pleasure, and that we are entitled to touch them or be somehow intimate whenever we want, rather than when they choose (for example when they perform).

I’ll be getting back to this idea later, after pisting about some other stuff.



I haven’t written a post here in about 3 years.  I have thought about writing many times, but any number of things stopped me. Sometimes I was too busy. Sometimes I thought of something I wanted to write, but didn’t have the time or energy to do it justice (I thought).  Sometimes, when well-meaning friends told me I was selling myself short or wasting potential by not writing, I would grow angry because I was parenting, trying to keep house, leading a Girl Scout Troop, volunteering at my children’s school… In fact it was all “volunteer” labor, and really, why should I do even more work, for free?  I’d rather read, or play an MMO, in what sometimes feels like very scant free time.

However, a few things shifted in the last few months that have inclined me toward writing again.  For other reasons, I’m pulling back from troop leadership, which free both time and mental energy. I also cut back on my sunscreen.  I was avoiding the sun so carefully that I developed a vitamin D deficiency.  Now that I’ve even gotten a little sunburned this spring, I feel amazingly better. I have more energy and my joints aren’t aching.

There have been some other changes, but those are the easiest to make clear in this fledgling post. So maybe I’m back.

What Kind of D & D Character would I be?

The funny thing is, this is fairly close to what I am in real life, but not what I play in RPGs.  🙂

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Sorcerer (6th Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

I have done more writing in the last two days…

Than in the last two months, I think.  Just knowing that this job is ending seems to have inspired me.  🙂

I also volunteered to help the GMs (game masters/mistresses) of Clan Lord.  I’d like to make a concrete contribution to the game, and I also want to learn more about games.  We’ll see if they have anything for me to do though.

Big Decisions

So… I am leaving my current job, which has been a combination of instructional designer, tech support, web mistress and teacher.  I really enjoyed it at first, but it soon became clear that there was no room for me to be creative, or to experiment, or try to keep up with research–my own or anyone else’s.  Further, I was tied to a desk 8 hours a day–even leaving for lunch was discouraged.  I was away from said desk to teach occasional workshops, which were great, or to attend usually useless meetings in which real discussion rarely occurred.

This is the first time since before I was in grad school that I’ve left a job without another to walk into.  It’s scary, but also kind of exhilarating.  I think I might finally have time to really do some writing, and to learn some programming!  And I can apply to jobs that I might not have seriously considered when the choice was stable, predictable academic job vs. a fun, but risky or “unknown” job. If nothing else, I can get back to my research, and writing, and hopefully publish.  Wish me luck.  🙂

The Price of Scholarship

So I had been accepted to speak at a conference in Amsterdam earlier this month and I had really looked forward to being over there again.  Unfortunately, it became clear in early February that this was not going to be possible, given our budget, our financial burdens, and the total lack of travel funding, not to mention possible job and pay cuts next year because of California’s ballooning deficit. SO I withdrew from the conference.  –And no, they had no options for virtual participation.  I checked.

Disheartening to say the least.

But I’m stubborn, so I have turned my attention to conferences closer to home; I’ll try to present that paper next year at a conference on the West Coast, and submit a related one for a conference in the NL in the fall, saving up for that travel. (still iffy but you never know).  I’m also sending at least one paper based on my MMO research straight to a collection of essays later in the year (if the abstract is accepted). I don’t have to travel at all for that. 🙂

I don’t mind so much having to pay my own way, but if you work at a job that doesn’t see your research as part of the job, so that you have to do it outside work hours, and you have to keep that job in the hopes of paying for travel for that research… and when I say you, I actually mean me… well, I have to wonder how hard I’m willing  to struggle.  How much time to write and do the research can I take away from my friends and family on top of that 40 hours a week that I’m at work?

We’ll see…

Games and Community

So I’ve been playing my first MMORPG ever, and surprise, have gotten a little addicted. But this one differs from most in being designed to require cooperation; it’s very difficult to play alone, and not as much fun.  The game is Clan Lord, by Delta Tao; the first ever MMORPG designed for Macs.

It first appeared in 1998 and over ten years later is still going.  It has a very small but intensely loyal user base.  I’ve been playing about four months now and while I originally wanted to just play it for fun, the game and the community around it seem really unique.  I might have to give in and write about it.  🙂

I’ll write in more detail soon but for now, a picture:

I am last in the line of fallen hunters being dragged back to town to be healed. I used to end most hunts this way, but it’s getting a little better now.  🙂


The Semester has been busy.  My three classes are going ok, and I participated in two conferences.  One was the RSA Security conference, which I mentioned earlier, and that went well.  I’m hoping they post video soon. I also was on the agenda for CCCC 2010, but since travel funding has been cut, I instead sent my co-panelist a Prezi and short paper to present on my behalf.  Apparently it went very well.

That was my first time using Prezi and I liked it pretty well.  I don’t recommend starting with it the week before you are supposed to present something though… I will probably polish it up and post it here soon.  And when I say soon, I actually mean after the term ends.

More later… 🙂

Fun With Cloud Hosting and WordPress

I’ve just switched from a regular hosting plan on one server to cloud hosting, which should make my sites much more stable.  Unfortunately I did not back everything up exactly right and have spent days sorting out my databases and WP installations.  For some reason, though everything else seems right, the theme I was using will not display properly.  So tiresome, because it took me ages to find one that really seemed right.  So I’ll probably test new themes over the next few days.

At least now I know a lot more about MySql than I did… 😛

Blogging and the Paperless Class.

I recently manned (womanned? personed?) a table at our school’s little tech fair; my subject was this post’s title. I am using blogs exclusively in my classes now–I’ve dropped Moodle, wikis or other platforms.  For me the choice was not between blogs and paper– but that’s the choice for many of my colleagues, hence my title.

For me the choice was mainly between blogs and some educational CMS like Moodle or Blackboard.  I stopped using blackboard a few years ago for three reasons.  First, because it’s so integrated with our registration system that students who were on the waitlist or waiting for financial aid to clear would not be able to access any course material.  That was a disaster every term. Second, It’s proprietary software which is very expensive for our school, and I stay away from that whenever I can on principle. Third, It’s proprietary software and can’t be modified at all.

Fourth, (ok, four reasons) and maybe most importantly, apart from their time here in school, when will anyone need to know Blackboard again?  This is the same reason I ultimately abandoned Moodle.

Even the students who plan to someday teach will by that time need to learn entirely new systems or versions.  Blogs, on the other hand, are being used by wider and wider groups of people, to create personal websites, and often by businesses to create websites as well.  I find this development interesting in itself, as an example of technological affordances being exploited.  No longer just about online journaling, blogs are used to create all kinds of websites because they are so easy to update.

Wikis are cool in many ways, but the open source types all seem to have steep learning curves and after trying to use them for a few semesters and finding that even my grad students had a tough time, I decided it wasn’t worth the time it was taking from class.

So, I decided that if students were to get comfortable with any Web 2.0 platform, blogs would most useful, while having a shallow enough learning curve that they would not take up too much time in a one-semester course that is already interrupted by mandatory furlough days.

Tonight I’ll be giving an actual presentation about using blogs to campus faculty; we’ll see how many people show up!