Another Night in New Orleans
On the whole I have a good opinion of the whole thing. Though my panel experienced some anxiety over our absent discussant and the fact that the program listed a panelist who had dropped out back in August, it actually went quite well. I did not get laryngitis as feared, nor did Jesse although he had a cold that did interesting things to his voice, and Shawn appeared to be in perfect health. Even though the panel began at 8:00 in the morning and none of us were exactly famous, we drew a respectable crowd of at least 11 people (there were over 30 other panels competing with us for audience, and the day before I had been almost the only attendee at a very good panel). The audience was attentive and there was a satisfactory amount of discussion, so the three of us feel very pleased with ourselves.
I attended a good sampling of other panels and went to some conference-related events of the reception and business-meeting variety. While I would appreciate it if the people who speak on Russian topics would recognize that not all Slavic/Eastern European scholars know Russian and aren't going to get much out of big chunks of spoken Russian, I suppose that this situation is unlikely to change. It did make me rather less inclined to attend panels on Russian topics and more inclined to seek out panels dealing with places whose languages are more obscure. After all, while my knowledge of Czech means I can guess at a surprising number of Russian words, I really don't follow chunks of Russian verse or film dialog.
I did, however, feel generally impressed with the quality of the papers I heard and with the professionalism of most of the chairs and discussants. I kept track of certain people whom I would be glad to have as my discussant in the future, for instance. I enjoyed learning more about such topics as post-revolution journalism, Tuzex stores and Bulgarian luxury cigarettes, Czech decadent literature, Polish fears regarding syphilis among the intelligentsia, and avant-garde Russian picture books. I met some interesting people, some of whose work I had admired, some of whom are old friends of My Sibling, and some of whom were previously complete strangers to me. And, considering that it was my first AAASS conference, I saw quite a few people I already knew.
I have not seen all that much of New Orleans, but Shawn and I did venture onto Bourbon street the night of our arrival and, along with Czech and Hungarian colleagues, drank some overpriced cocktails to the accompaniment of a good jazz band. I also joined Jesse on a couple of exploratory missions, and this afternoon the three of us sampled the legendary Cafe du Monde coffee and beignets, which met with our approval. I will be relying on their photos since I left my camera at home, but I can state that the French Quarter has recovered pretty well from Hurricane Katrina and is indeed an attractive neighborhood with courtyards, wrought-iron balconies, and appealing gardens. This evening Jesse and a Turkish grad student are off hearing jazz at Preservation Hall. I would have joined them but wasn't sure my energy was sufficient.
Meanwhile, now that I finally have internet access again (hotel #2), I have learned that my friend Travis, who will be teaching at St. Olaf next semester, was wondering whether I knew where to lay hands on reproductions of Toyen's illustrations for the Marquis de Sade's Justine, which I gather he would like to use in class. We had previously talked about various art and popular culture images he might want to use, but I hadn't realized that he was going to want to regale his students (who may, for all I know, include some of our Minnesota kin) with Justine. I admitted that I do in fact own a reprint of the book and have scanned the illustrations for my dissertation, so he can show them all if he so chooses. I will have to tell him about the Czech decadent art discussed at the final panel, which included a fine self-portrait of Karel Hlaváček in the form of a spider.
Travis is tending Ms. Spots and Orion in my absence, so he was able to assure me that they have been stealing one another's lettuce and, I suppose, offering to chew on Justine if it is left on the couch.