March 10, 2006

Panic hardware

I'm having a hell of a week.

Monday I threw prudence to the wind and spent a lovely evening at Kristen and Gene's ostensibly working on the Tumbleweed Tinies movie project but actually just enjoying my friends' company. The delicious Indian food I ordered made me violently ill all night.

Tuesday I overslept because I'd been violently ill instead of sleeping during the night, and I didn't call work to let them know I wasn't coming in. I get to do that exactly once before I'm in serious trouble. I made it to my review session for Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology and picked up the panic-inducing review sheet, then spent the afternoon calming myself by studying my head off.

Wednesday saw a faint note of returning panic, fading to a reasonable self-confidence by the end of the evening because, well, what else can you do when you're out of study time? High note: instead of frustrating discussion section for LGBT Studies this week we went to the Berkeley Art Museum and looked at a photography exhibit. I snuck out early and wandered over to look at Han dynasty ceramics instead. Low note: I completely forgot to write and post my reading response for my Salinger class, which is another thing I get to do only once before I'm in trouble.

Thursday, I walked blithely into my LGBT Studies lecture with no idea that 90 minutes later I (along with half the class) would walk out crying. "We'll be discussing paper topics and watching a couple of film clips," said the class website breezily, and then the instructor flung us into Silverlake Life: The View from Here without warning. If I thought that watching two people who love each other watch each other die slowly was something I could do twice, I'd be planning to see the whole thing, since it didn't all fit into the class period. But as beautiful and impressive a film project as it is, I'm not sure I could bring myself to see it again. When the instructor turned off the film, my classmates and I shuffled out into the sun like 60 tear-stained zombies, too shocked even to talk to each other. Horrible. Horrible. Necessary. Horrible. And then somehow I took a Hunter-Gatherer Archaeology midterm and aced it easily, and went to dinner with Jacob's parents. And snapped at Jacob for the rest of the evening because I was still horrified and angry that that movie had ever needed to be made at all.

Today, my Mediterranean Anthropology professor showed an ethnographic film on the French Basques, and handed out the take-home midterm. The film was interesting and not traumatic at all. The midterm involves writing 100-word explanations of concepts that were mentioned once during lecture and not at all in any class reading. I stared at it for a few minutes while eating lunch and then gave up and decided to deal with it once I'd gotten home. So here I am.

I've been completely scatterbrained all week in minor ways, like remembering to have the correct notebooks and readers with me for a given class. I haven't managed to coordinate that one correctly on a single day since last Friday, actually. I missed my first lecture all semester due to the food poisoning and oversleeping fiasco. I've changed my work hours four times, including twice in one day, and I tipped a half-full truck of books onto the floor today within five minutes of arriving.

What I don't properly understand is why days like these feel better when I have a half-pound of steel hanging from my earlobes. Somehow I'm never in a position to analyze it, but it works.

Posted by dianna at March 10, 2006 02:57 PM

Ooo, I'm curious about the Basques. I know very little about them other than that they have a non-Indo-European language. Are there any theories about how that came to pass? Any other interesting aspects of Basque culture/ethnography that are worth relating?

As to Silverlake Life, I know you wouldn't see it again, but would you see it the first time, knowing what you know now? That is, would you recommend it?

Posted by: Zach S. at March 11, 2006 01:14 AM

i recently almost ATE basque cuisine. that's ethnographically interesting. or it would have been, had i actually eaten it.

Posted by: michele at March 11, 2006 03:03 AM

Apparently there's a major difference between the Basques in France and the Basques in Spain -- that's despite the fact that the Basques themselves generally deny having any Spanish or French national identity or influence. In France they're more rural and geographically isolated from one another as well as from the rest of France, and in Spain they tend to be urban and wealthy. This particular film focuses on a village on the French side of the border, and the effects of increasing modernization and connection (roads, electricity, television) on the village and particularly its long-standing sheperding cooperative. It's romanticized quite severely -- which is a major hazard of ethnography -- but, significantly, it's romanticized by the people of the village who are involved in sheperding and the livestock business, and not just by the researchers. It seems to track a generational break, between older people who are doing the work they always expected to do and find it very satisfying, and younger people who see other opportunities and don't get why their parents are pushing so hard for them to stick with a specific rural life. It's quite interesting.

As for Silverlake Life, yes, absolutely. It's terribly tragic in that specific way that only true stories can be terribly tragic, but it's also a really beautiful and moving love story. The further I get from Thursday, the more seeing it again sounds like a desirable and possibly even manageable prospect. In any case, I've just checked and Netflix has it. I would indeed recommend it.

Posted by: Dianna at March 11, 2006 11:47 AM