The National Communication Association Convention 2008

So, I went down to San Diego see Dr. Kelly S. Taylor, who was attending the National Communication Association Convention at the unfortunate Hyatt Hotel. Being communication experts, the NCA did issue a strongly worded explanation of why the convention was going forward at the Hyatt, mainly because the convention which was booked five years ago for this meeting and there were many excellent protests by communication experts at the hotel. Many of the meeting rooms were empty because as many panels as could be moved to other venues were moved to other venues. It’s really a shame the manager of that Hyatt, the swine, is such a hater because it’s a very nice hotel. So I was in there, but didn’t buy anything.

Well, onward.

Only for Kelly would I get up at 6:30 to make an 8:30 train. She very kindly met me at the Santa Fe station. We had lunch at the Tin Fish across from the Convention Center. That was interesting because I’ve only eve eaten at the Tin Fish during Comic Con when the lines are out the door and the place is packed to the gills, as they say. Very, very good food, crowds or no.

At the Hater Hyatt, Kelly had to attend a business meeting and I, rather belatedly, realized that I didn’t have a badge to go to Kelly’s panels. Intrepidly, I asked for a press pass, and on the strength of my J LHLS business card, they gave me one, which was damn nice of the NCA and is why you’re getting a report on the afternoon I spent at their convention. Actually, I wish I’d been there for more of it, as you will see from the highbrow con reportage to follow.

First off, they gave out a really cool neon blue tote bag in which to carry around the phone book-size event directory. I kid you not, this sucker is 400 8.5×11 pages of panels, symposia, and all that kind of thinky stuff people do at these kind of conventions. I learned some things, let me tell you about them.

I decided to wait in the back of the business meeting for Kelly to finish whatever she had to do. For some reason I had thought she’d be on the podium, but there were only four officers up there, so she was in the audience with the rest of us. I must say that this was the least boring business meeting ever because everyone in the room (except me) was a highly trained public speaker, so whatever they said, no matter how boring, had the most delightful delivery. Actually, I was riveted anything anyone said into a microphone that afternoon; it was all so well said.

At 2, I went to hear Kelly speak on a panel called “Horrifying Visions.” Now, I hate horror movies, the only one I sort of like is “Night of the Living Dead.” I love “Alien,” but somehow I never realized it was horror. I have never seen “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “The Exorcist” and have no burning desire to do so. But horror is fascinating to me now; to think about, not actually watch.

Dr. SE Croft examined the fan interactions in the “Fang Mail” section, of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine and how the community reacted to changes in horror from 1958 through the 1970s. Dr. Croft pointed out that this magazine is for fans of monsters, not unlike the Tiger Beat of horror. She had a slideshow of the magazine, which was pretty cool.

Dr. PJ English-Schneider read her paper on how “The Exorcist” made her think she was possessed. She saw it when she was twelve years old, much too young. I remember when it came out and there was all kinds of coverage about people freaking out at the screenings. This might be why I never sought it out later on. I’m not a big Linda Blair fan either. I did see the Exorcist sequel with Richard Burton, but I’m trying really hard to forget that.

Kelly read her paper on how horror has moved into survival monster-killer quest-like games. Dr. Taylor convincingly suggests that young men in our society need those long-lost initiation rituals to prove themselves as adult members of society. I guess typing 100 words a minute isn’t really a ticket to full adult societal membership and the monsters we have now—Republicans, poverty, sickness, injustice—are not solo quests. Although not all games are solo quest games, they are usually played in solitude. After the panel, two really cute gamer boys came up to politely argue with her about something. Oh, the things gamer scholars must endure to contribute to the fabric knowledge.

Something new for me was the whole “Respondent” thing, where another scholar, sitting in the audience, blending in with us spectators, discusses what was just said. Wow! Academia! It’s exciting! The respondent for this panel was Tracy Stephenson Schaffer, and she put Little Red Riding Hood in the horror genre. I totally agree! She went on to talk about how the woodsman is the hero/rescuer in that story and how over the years the woodsman has gone away and there are no heroes in horror. I disagree with this; I think Red has become her own hero/rescuer. Wasn’t Ripley the hero and her own rescuer in “Alien”? But I don’t think too hard about these things.

At 3:30 I attended The Hillary Panel! Actually it was called “Hillary ’08: Feminist Opportunities and Challenges.” The link for this is broken on the NCA website, which is a shame (I like to be thorough). This panel didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know about why Hillary’s campaign failed, but there was some interesting elaboration. There were many fine presenters, but I’ll only go into the ones that stand out in my weary mind. John M. Murphy talked about GWB’s disjunctive, disastrous, callous, and cruel presidency and how Hillary apparently didn’t realize that the country wanted “new” management, not “better” management. Susan Schultz Huxman played the Katie Couric clip where Katie discussed how negative coverage affected the Clinton campaign. Katie glossed over this, but Dr. Huxman read Couric’s incredibly stupid, sexist questions Hillary had to answer civilly in an interview when she was still a candidate. But poor Katie: she gets slammed for asking Hillary stupid questions and gets slammed for asking Sarah Palin intelligent softball questions. Ms. Couric just can’t catch a break, can she? Vanessa B. Beasley had examples from Hill’s speeches where Hill had to speak in tough masculine speech and then in the next paragraph speak in sensitive feminine speech. I’ve never enjoyed Hill’s speeches, but until yesterday I never realized the reason for that was I had a bad case of rhetorical whiplash from listening to her. (Sarah Palin, on the other hand, was allowed to use only masculine speech for her 15 minutes of fame. But we all know Hillary has always been held to a higher standard of everything. Often unreasonably so.) Justin L. Killian, one of Hillary’s Hellcats in Iowa (some book sez that Hillary wants to rule the world, emasculate all the men, and keep the population in line with her Hellcats [no, I don’t get it either, but this kind of thing gets published a lot]) and he saw reasonable people go mad with Hillary Derangement Syndrome. He also said, and this had an impact on me, that the country is ready for a female president, it’s just not ready for what that woman as candidate would have to do to get elected. Running for president is not easy or lady-like, and is pretty scary to watch. Then the double standard of what’s acceptable behavior for men vs. acceptable behavior for women kicks in and the party is really over. But Hill’s failure will make it more possible and sooner for a woman to be POTUS, so history will thank her, if no one else ever does. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, and Bonnie J. Dow, and Shawn J. Parry-Giles said great things about misogyny, media bias, and just the stupid things Hill’s campaign did with whatever Hill’s message was at whatever stage in her campaign. What is odd now, here in Obama President-elect-land, is that the foreign policy experience Hillary was mocked for on the campaign trail is going to land her the top diplomat spot in Obama’s cabinet. As Diane S. Hope pointed out in her talk, we all might have hated the ringing telephone ad, but apparently it impressed Mr. Obama on some level. So, hooray for us! Oh, and by the way, if these panelists publish any of this stuff, I highly recommend you read it. I know I’ll be doing so. It was a fabulous hour and fifteen minuets of insightful, well presented thinking on Hillary’s campaign. It’s hard to do it justice in a report like this.

Next up, I found my way to the sixth level and into a, um, suite or something (it had a couple of tables shoved together and arm chairs for the audience) for Crossing Conventional Boundaries: Nonwestern Performance Events, in which all the panelists were or had been Kelly’s students. I even knew some of them from my visit to Denton for the DASAV performances. They were great papers! There was a great respondent! Brent A. Saindon! He wrote, like, a whole paper responding to the papers presented by Courtney Bobb, Cindy K. Gordon, Kristin A. Tucker, Christina E. Wells, and a special guest star appearance by Gigi Perez. More papers here on this nifty website.

After this Kelly took me to the LSU, where Kelly got her PhD, party where several people told me how much they liked “Darkness at Sunset and Vine,” and this made me very happy. After schmoozing for a while, we had mediocre sushi at Sushi Itto and called it a night. Kelly had a 7AM flight back to Denton the next day and I was operating on about 4 hours of sleep. And I don’t operate at all well on less than six hours of sleep.

After a restful night at my usual San Diego hotel, La Pensione, and banana walnut pancakes (mmmmmmmm), I caught the 10:35 train back to LA.