Friday, March 14, 2008

Successful Networking at an Absolute Top Level Colloquium

After 12hours of presentations, discussions, dining, and drinks at the Getty Villa, I emerged having successfully networked with some of the very top scholars in the world in my field on the topic of Representations of the Alien. Three of the speakers were some of Oxford's best trained PhD's with a litany of books and publications - one now a Harvard professor the other at Cambridge. The best speaker has been Head of Ancient History Dept in Scotland for the last decade after separate stints at Oxford and Cambridge. Another speaker was the Vice-President of the American Institute of Archaeology and had been Head of the American Academy at Athens. All these speakers were real heavy hitters and some of the smartest people and elite scholars on the planet, leaving me feeling very much out of my depth and feeling completely inadequate as though I were a complete mental midget as one of the very few Grad Students invited. It became even more intimidating when I watched some of these eminent figures being totally dissected by Prof Erich Gruen who was the moderator of the event and had been UC Berkeley's Head of Classics and Ancient History since the late 60's. From the top of his head he could whip out the most obscure Greek and Latin sources to decimate even the slightest crack in any of the arguments or statements. He is an extremely amicable person and treated everyone well for most of the day, but then toward the end he said "I think this excellent discussion has been a bit too cordial in nature, so I will remedy that from here on out." He then proceeded to perform intellectual jujitsu on some of the best minds in the world. I did the best I could to get in on some of it as one of the few Grad students in attendance, but I was pretty far down the pecking order as all the Prof's wanted to do battle and I couldn't get much access to the microphone. Because it was on barbarian representations I was somewhat equipped to engage in some precision slice and dice intellectual forays, but the intellectual battlefield was a pretty gory mess. Everybody seemed happy with the robust debate and the day went very well. I used the drinks and dinner period to make some very good networking inroads, and I pulled this off better than any of the other Grad Students. I had a great individual discourse with Prof Gruen who was very supportive. Later, I even had to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking Professor of Archaeology. It's a weird feeling to do that at such an uppity reception event, but she was very grateful after having been in real trouble. Weird things happen to me, my life is just bizarre. In any case, I networked better than all others and most people seemed to think highly of me as far as I could tell. I effectively veiled the fact I was so far out of my depth and all in all it was a good day, but it took quite awhile to effectively swim in the deep end of the pool. Be well and have a good weekend while I write a paper for the next 72 hours straight - I will reemerge by Tuesday.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Computer Gaming is a Strange Cult

I was walking to dinner and a movie last night when I passed by a line outside the local Game-Stop. Not giving it much thought I proceeded to take my evening meal at a Japanese restaurant, went to watch my movie, then stopped by a local bar to have a couple drinks as many drunk people were out after the basketball game. When I walked back by a few hours later, it appeared that the line had barely moved at the game place and now extended down and around the street. The army of gaming drones that had descended on the Game-Stop to wait on the sidewalk for hours for the release of some game on a Saturday night was pathetic and appalling. It was lamer than the Gas-n-Sip losers mocked by John Cusack in "Say Anything". I usually am tolerant of such things, but these people shouldn't, and probably won't ever have the opportunity, to reproduce. Yet, tech-society churns more and more out each year from scratch. My roommate is a virtual non-entity to me because he is an online gamer who plays every second of the day when he is not in class or sleeping. His car has not moved even once this quarter, and I have probably had 250 words with the guy this entire year because he lives with his headset on permanently attached to the computer. That's all fine, but the fact that all socialization goes on through the headset of a computer is a sad state of affairs as to the direction modern society is tilting. I'm generally very understanding of most aspects of the socially marginalized. In high school, exploiting a respect all groups had for my intense demeanor and combination of physical/intellectual capacities as both the top jock and smartest student, I enforced my will upon the social dynamics of the school to largely inhibit the jocks and preppies from the standard brand of nerd bashing endemic to most schools. Despite this, the level of lameness I observed Saturday night went a bit beyond - these people actually need to get a life. I am not ignorant of the fact my normal level of socialization right now is temporarily corrupted by circumstance and a brutal schedule, but I have very specific requirements and goals in preparation for my summer in Italy. It looks like I gained a few extra weeks of funding. Even with present constraints, I do get out as much as possible and I have already had more life experiences than the people in the game line ever will in their enitre lives. In addition, I probably still have over half my life to go. Despite the condemnatory nature of this rant, I am forced in a hypocritical manner to interact with many of you via blogging on the computer. Most of UCLA, even the History Grad Student Association enrollment, is set up through Facebook or other electronic communications I have been co-opted into. In many ways I am forced to function in a computerized world that makes me feel entrapped like I'm in a life-sustaining pod like Neo in the Matrix. Alas, I still long for the bygone world where I could have taken my trusty blade and struggled on the field of battle in a berserker rage to crush a foul enemy for personal glory and wealth. If I survived, victorious, I would have retired back to a village where I could relax under the shade of a lush tree and rest my head the on the breasts of a lovely female who would stroke my hair and sing soothing Celtic lullabies into my ears to calm the rage in my brain. For some reason, modern society doesn't allow for such simple dynamics anymore. I guess I'll just remain an out of place unevolved neanderthal gradually being mollified by the oppressive cage of modernity. Don't judge me too harshly with your modern sense of morality!