Tuesday, May 15, 2007

K'zoo report #2: Breakfast of champions

While the dance sometimes makes me uncomfortable, blogger meet-ups RAWK! This year's event was almost twice as large as last year's, and I have a feeling that the breakfast time is what made that so. Sadly, that might mean that this non-morning person will have to drag her ass out of bed and be groggily social again in future years. (Side note: if anyone else wants to take over organizing it next year, feel free. It's not onerous at all, but it shouldn't always be me or else it will become my thing instead of a group thing.) It also might mean, sadly, that Eileen Joy will never come, because she told me later that she is simply not able to get up that early (I think she's definitely someone who works as well as plays into the wee hours). So perhaps it should be a movable feast.

Anyway, there were so many people there that I didn't even quite figure out who was who -- in real life or in the blogosphere. Among those I could identify with their blogs were J. J. Cohen, Karl Steel, The Cranky Professor, Another Damn Medievalist (Blogenspiel), Scott Nokes of Unlocked Wordhoard, Michael Drout of Wormtalk and Slugspeak, Medieval Woman, Mary Kate Hurley of Old English in New York, New Kid on the Hallway, Dr. Moonbeam, Tiruncula, History Geek, Holly of Hollyism, S. Worthen of Owlfish, Lisa Spangenberg, aka Digital Medievalist, Elisabeth Carnell, Eulistes, and bloggers and friends associated with Making Light. If I forgot anyone or didn't quite meet you because you were at the other end of our trio of tables (grouped in an appropriately medieval trefoil/clover leaf/trinitarian kind of way), let me know. My apologies!

I was really pleased that this year there was a real mix of people in different stages of their careers, and also a better gender mix. I think it says something about the status of blogging that we had such a mix, and that bloggers from all those stages of career were willing to come and meet other bloggers. In other words, blogging is becoming less of a sub-culture and more of a mainstream culture. It also says something that there was also a mix of pseudonymous and non-pseudonymous bloggers, and that if asked, people generally revealed their pseudonymous blogs. Somewhere someone noted that when rounds of introductions were made, we didn't identify our blogs, but I think in my case it was more a worry about our voices carrying to tables of non-bloggers. I still worry about non-bloggers' attitudes towards blogs. Who knows if we have an Ivan Tribble among the medieval crowd. But one-on-one I don't think people cared that much.

On that note, Karl mentioned that when he was still "Karl the Grouchy Medievalist," he was more prone to live up to that moniker than he is under his own name. Likewise, I often think that since I'm easily identifiable if you already know me (if you're my friend, colleague, or student), I try not to write things that I wouldn't want associated with me. That may explain, too, why everyone seemed so darn nice in person (on which, see more below).

I met a number of these people last year, and at least one of these bloggers is someone I knew in real life before I started blogging (though it was amusing to both of us that we only just figured this out because of this breakfast!). And many of them have been blogging or real life friends with some of the others for many years. So in many ways the breakfast was a reunion for many people. (I hope that didn't put off too many of the bloggers who were completely new to each other. There are some tight and deep friendships in that group, but it's also a really friendly and welcoming group.) But there were still delightful new real life acquaintances to make all around. I hope this can be an annual, informal event.

There were some conspicuous absences. As mentioned, Eileen Joy is not a morning person. And though Sir John Mandeville was at the conference, he wasn't at our breakfast as far as I know. And LLCoolCarlIII of Got Medieval reserved a copy of Christine Chism's Alliterative Revivals before I could (damn!) so I know he was at the conference, but apparently he's too cool for breakfast. :) Or also not a morning person. And if Geoffrey Chaucer was at the conference, I wouldn't have expected him to come to the meet-up, since he's a shy man who generally "lookest as [he] woldest fynde an hare," and who "evere upon the ground...stare[s]. "

Speaking of staring, JJC does indeed stare intently at you when you speak (see Liza's comment here). It's a neat trick because it gets people to babble things they wouldn't otherwise say. I recall at one point Jeffrey asked me something about whether or not as a graduate student I was super-anxious in my presentations about being potentially revealed as a fraud, and I replied, at first, that I wasn't all that anxious as a grad student (and though I didn't say it, I thought that maybe I'm more anxious as a prof, actually). And then he stared and I felt compelled to say more. And I did, but not anything of substance. And then I worried that I must sound like an idiot. And then I started to get anxious, at which point I thought, "yup, definitely more anxious as a prof." It's like he's my therapist or something! How do you do that, Jeffrey?! But other than that moment, I wasn't the least bit anxious or intimidated by Jeffrey or any one else at the table. As people have been commenting around the medieval blog world, people you might expect to be cranky or prickly or intimidating in real life, because they construct themselves as such in their writing, or because their writing is just so damn smart and authoritative, even on their blogs, all turned out to be...well, for lack of a better word...nice. Really, really nice. Smiley and friendly and kind and easy to talk to. Take The Cranky Professor, for example: in real life he's not in the least bit cranky, but rather cheerful, especially for 7:30 am! We were two of the first people there and had a funny moment of suspicious eyeing of each other until I saw his name tag and recognized his real-life name, at which point we both said, "Are you a blogger?" It was hilariously cloak-and-daggerish.

Other things I learned either at or because of this breakfast:

  • Apparently I look like Scott Nokes's grandmother circa 1930. Since I also get told I look like my mother in the '40s and '50s, that didn't suprise me. Faces have fashion, too, and certain people have looks that evoke other eras. It may also explain why I get hit on by older men a lot (not just at K'zoo). Scott -- any Swains or Gaylords in your family tree? Maybe we're distantly related.
  • Rumor has it that Ivan Tribble is a woman!
  • The French Revolution was fought against the Germans, and England invaded the Free Colonies of America, thus starting the American Revolution. (This was from a delightfully so-bad-it-was good final exam someone had just graded.)
  • Medieval Woman looks very modern in real life and not at all like a grumpy kitty, Karl Steel doesn't look anything like a breakfast food (which I already knew, but that picture cracks me up), Mary Kate Hurley is not a landscape, and Jeffrey Cohen's hand is not permanently placed in front of his face.
  • We might need a bigger place next year! I do like the convenience of Mug Shots, however, especially for those without cars.
  • Next year I really should get up and mingle instead of sitting in one place the whole time, so I can meet and talk to people at the other end of the tables.
Well, that's about it. A fun time was had by all, I think, and I hope this becomes a K'zoo tradition.


medieval woman said...

Hee, hee - thanks for saying I look modern! It's my new glasses - in my others I looked much more like a grumpy kitty! (that and I used to have a faux-hawk just like my little kitty icon dude) :) I thought it was great fun at the blogger meet-up - I also wish I'd had a chance to talk to more people, but I'll have another chance in the future I know.

Also, I'm sure you hear this all the time, but your hair is truly lovely - my hair wants to be your hair, but it can't so it loves itself for what it is! :)

Thanks again for organizing the meet-up!

Dr. Virago said...

Actually, MW, what I heard *twice* this conference, from two different people, was that I have "distinctive hair." So it's nice to know that it's *lovely* distinctive hair and not, I dunno, distinctive in some ugly kind of way!

medieval woman said...

Too true - your hair does stand out in a crowd, but not because it looks like frizzy straw or purple spikes (not that there's anything wrong with that...) - but becuase it's pretty. And it's the *polar* opposite of mine...and the hair is always greener on the other side....wait, that's not an auspicious analogy...

Anonymous said...

I will ditto the love for Dr. Virago's hair. You always want what you don't have, I guess. Although MW, your hair was pretty awesome, too. :-)

As for the intense stare: my graduate advisor did the EXACT. SAME. THING. And it really does lead one to babble on and on (you'd go in and say whatever you'd planned to say, then she'd sit in silence and stare at you for a while, and you'd think, "Damn, I must be supposed to say more!", and would scramble to find something else to say, and blather on like an idiot. Eventually I learned to say what I wanted to say and shut up, and let her break the stare/silence herself, but it's pretty unnerving!).

Teresa Nielsen Hayden said...

That was fun, even though the background noise level was high enough to keep me from hearing anything more than a few feet away. Do it again next year?

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has a problem with my penetrating glare. My hair is always so messy because I can't even look at myself in the mirror each morning, it is so unnerving.

Speaking of hair: I am sorry, Dr Virago, that you didn't win the Best Coiffed Award over at In the Middle. There is always next year.

Dr. Virago said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has a problem with my penetrating glare. My hair is always so messy because I can't even look at myself in the mirror each morning, it is so unnerving.

Bahahahaha! You may not be able to look at yourself in the morning, but you sure are funny in the morning!

As for Best Coiffed...well I figured Nicola's luxuriant man-mane cancelled my brunette curls out and you had to go for Bonnie's Veronica-Lake-esque blondeness as a result.

Meanwhile, as New Kid and MW vouch, we always want what we don't have -- I always wanted long, straight, shiny hair, of any color, but red would have been especially fabulous.

And Teresa -- yes, there should definitely be some annual blogger get-together! Sorry I didn't get to talk to folks on your end!

Karl Steel said...

For next year, I suggest the courtyard outside the coffee shop. It'll be less crowded (or at least more spacious) and less noisy. I know JJC offered my services for organizing next year's, which I'm willing to do, en masse, with the other ITM bloggers (even the one who refuses to wake up before 8).

While I think we've spent a bit too much time on JJC's stare, I think I've hit on what makes it work: think Werner Herzog's* camerawork in his documentaries, most famously these days Grizzly Man. He points the camera, asks a question, lets the subject (object?) answer, and then refuses to turn the camera away. Perhaps there will be no more words during that extra minute of shooting, but there will be something. JJC's stare may not be that quite (nor even Eye of Sauron), but it--and it is an it--can aspire.

* What? Aren't you thinking of Werner Herzog all the time? In re: a conversation with DV and the lovely Rob Barrett, I think I've finally determined my "man crush." Since Karl Malden was rejected as too...?....it's clearly Herzog, whose sociopath I would follow till my death. And if you've seen Burden of Dreams or My Best Fiend you know, as my wife (ALK) does, that the young Herzog was hott.

Dr. Virago said...

OK, Karl, ya weirdo, I can accept Werner Herzog. Even today he's kind of a cutie. And, of course, brilliantly mad and madly brilliant -- always HAWT.

Btw, I rejected Karl Malden because, well, not a fan of that nose.

Right. No more teasing Jeffrey for his stare.

And yes, we probably should have moved to the courtyard. Keep that in mind next year.

Mac said...

I despair of ever actually matching all the new faces to blogs I've read for quite a while -- but it was great fun to meet so many people.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

Nope, no Swains or Gaylords ... her maiden name was "Kitchen." Of course, if we trace back far enough, like good medievalists, we can always get back to Aeneas ... or failing that, Noah.

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Actually I *am* cranky, damn it, but I am also a morning person - 7:30 was kinda late for me!

--Michael Tinkler

Dr. Virago said...

Mac - Sorry I didn't get to talk to you and your friends at that end of the table! Or, to help you figure out names and faces.

Scott - I prefer Aeneas to Noah. But aren't we all descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene? :)

Michael - 7:30 is late for you? OK, now you're not only cranky, you're kind of a freak, too! :)

Got Medieval said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Got Medieval said...

You caught me. I'm definitely not much of a morning person. And I had no clue there was a meet up. And I'm still smarting from not being on the 'suggested links' handout at the Blogger round table at the previous year's K-Zoo.

Maybe next year.