Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2009 PCA/ACA National Conference: My Experience

Some general thoughts on the 2009 PCA/ACA conference.

  • Having gotten back from this year's PCA, I have to wonder if the people there have gotten friendlier, or, much more likely, I've learned to relax a lot better. Met some seriously great folks.

  • I'd never been to the South before -- Southern hospitality is exactly what it's cracked up to be.

  • Of the panels that I went to, a distinct pattern emerged: the music papers mostly sucked, while the sci fi panels were excellent; to my mind, the lesser papers were overly fannish -- so-and-so is cleary a genius, omg! -- while the better, memorable ones argued a stronger, more provocative thesis. (And in my opinion, the less theory, the better -- reading Lacan is hard enough, trying to understand him during a lecture is whole different, hopeless matter.)

  • Presentation on My Bloody Valentine was probably the best music paper, though another one that I missed, talking about Muzak(!), seemed very promising.

  • Best panel from first to last presenter was for me the one on sci fi and dance(!) -- the ballerina as a cyborg(!) (apparently, pointe work came about when ballet developed technology to suspend dancers from wires to enhance the illusion of their lightness by dancing "on" their toes, after which point (pun) prostheses (pointe shoes) were developed to let the dancers do same on their own) with regards to Glaubot on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, physical hyper-virtuosity in Matrix and The Transformers and various aesthetics of authenticity in the former (the actors doing their own stunts) contrasted against the seamless (and if you ask me, excessively detailed) CGI in the latter, and the waltz as a mode of cinematic seduction in fantasy films.

  • The panel on The Wire was less critical and more of a particular exercise in fandom and its attendant compulsion to catalog moments from the show we love, which actually turned out to be for the best (since another isolated paper on The Wire centered on Foucault and surveillance was one I couldn't follow). Following the more fannish approach to The Wire, I actually got into a vigorous internet-style argument about the nature of Omar Little.

  • One bad thing about the panel on The Wire was that I missed a paper on SYTYCD scheduled at the same time.

  • I have a LONG list of people whom I need to email so I can get their papers, both those which I missed or those which were awesome.

  • One person showed a clip of the final scene from Wall-E in the 10am session, and I cried -- that's how amazing the film is, that it can make a groggy, cranky person in the morning cry without any of the emotional setup supplied by the rest of the film.

  • I attended four separate Wall-E presentations.

  • If you don't follow my Twitter, then this is news to you: my paper was heard by all of seven people, four presenters (me included) plus three audience members. Everyone else had more mature papers than me -- one of them actually conducted field studies (i.e. interviewed Nigel Lythgoe(!)) and conducted focus studies(!) (/me shakes fist at ethnographic research) -- and the one other English major paper mentioned Zizek = I lose. I didn't even get any questions in the subsequent Q&A, it was split mostly between the paper on American Idol and Kid Nation (!?) -- is ANTM so played out already? (Yes, though you wouldn't ever find me admitting that.)

  • There was a fascinating paper on Bjork and Alexander McQueen that I only caught a part of -- in fact, judging by its Q&A, that panel (which was titled "Film, Fetishism, Bjork and Performativity") seemed like a great forum in which to develop, explore, and work through applied theory. I probably could've made it to a PhD program if my master's work had been on fashion! I was also the worst-dressed, worst-groomed person at that panel (I hadn't showered at that point in the day.)

  • I am positively thrilled that I am not getting a PhD, and probably never will. Doing the PCA itself was fun, but everything leading up to it was a grind that I don't miss.

Indie rating: Heidi Berry - "Little Fox"


momo said...

Congratulations on presenting! I have given more than one paper to a similarly sized audience, but at conferences that were much less interesting and fun than this one sounds.

zizek is not win in my book, but hey. visuals?

Leee said...

Yes, PCA is well worth going to, even if their membership requirements ($$) are annoying and if no one really ends up hearing your paper. If one has the time and means, I recommend any pop-minded academic to attend just to see the fuss.

My slides, which are mostly supplementary materials to the paper itself (which I will soon post -- need to finish editing the soft copy first). Hopefully the audio/visual components were properlly embedded into the PPT.

geeky Heather said...

Thanks for postificating that you are on twitter! I shall follow.

I heard if an interview with Summer Glau (you probably already know this, but just in case...) where she said she asked the stunt people at Terminator what she'd need to do to prepare. Because, she said, she'd had to do so much training for Serenity with fight choreography and such. They told her...Um, you don't need to do any training. You're mostly just going to be punching things. =)

Natalie said...

I'm back on Twitter. Follow me. :)