The MLA, Thus Far

It’s pretty much been a non-MLA, due to complete and total physical collapse. When I arrived in Philadelphia, after the shuttle bus, the first plane, the shuttle bus, the second plane, the “air train,” the real train, and the cab, I checked into my hotel room, put my stuff down, checked my email, and got a phone call from a former student who’s here interviewing. I wanted a drink and something to eat before bed, and so went down to meet him in the lobby bar.

At some point during our conversation, I did the math, and figured out that as I’d awoken at 3.30 am in Prague, that meant that I’d gotten up at 9.30 pm the night before, local time-wise. And I was clearly not at my sharpest, because while I had a fantastic time over what turned out to be two drinks with the former student, I somehow forgot to eat, and hadn’t eaten anything since the second plane. But, I figured, I’m so tired now that I don’t even feel like eating.

Not the best decision, I don’t think. I went up to my room, completely crashed, and woke up three hours later, ravenous and unable to go back to sleep. I drank a bunch of water, read a bit, turned the light back out, turned the light back on, read a bit more, made another assay on sleep, and then finally just gave up and sat at the computer, hoping to get some work done.

And, in fact, I did! But I did it the very, very hard way. My intent was to use yesterday morning to record the audio track for a video presentation of one of the talks I’ve given this fall. I’d planned on using ProfCast, which records both your audio and the content and transitions between your slides as you play them. The problem is, however, that I need to see the notes from my slides in order to record the audio, and thus I need either to print out the paper and read from that, or I need to be hooked up to an external monitor so that Keynote will default to the “rehearsal” view on my own screen. And as I am without printer or external monitor, that wasn’t going to work. So I recorded the audio track in Audacity, imported it into iMovie, exported my slides to jpeg, imported them into iMovie, stretched them out to meet the appropriate transitions in the talk, et voilà!

Except. When I compress in iMovie 5, the sync between audio and video slips. The more compression, the more slippage. So a “reasonably sized” (i.e., only ridiculously large 10MB) .mov file plays fine for the first couple of minutes, but then the slides start refusing to change, even as the audio marches ruthlessly on. I’ve exported a “full quality” (i.e., 87 MB) .mp4 file, which is perfect. Now I just have to (a) figure out how to compress it enough to have any hope of a reasonable web distribution for it, or (b) find a way to print my paper and do the stupid thing over again in ProfCast.

In any case, that little morning adventure, pleasant though it was, apparently took every bit of energy I had for the day. I’d room-serviced a huge breakfast, and so thought that despite jet lag and lack of sleep I’d be fine. I met my friend Cyrus for lunch, though, and about halfway through, it suddenly became really, super evident that I was Not Fine. I somewhat hastily excused myself, went back to my room, and spent the next three hours attempting fruitlessly to take a nap. (Can someone explain that to me? How is it that you can get yourself to the point of nervous collapse from exhaustion and then find yourself unable to fall asleep?)

Finally, after a room-serviced hamburger, I took one of my big-gun sleeping pills, and completely crashed. Slept through until 6 am. Which I think is the first full night’s sleep I’ve gotten since leaving California.

And thus ends my first day at the MLA!

Today promises to be more conferency, all the way around. My schedule:

8.30 – 9.45 am:
Everquesting: Digital Learning and the Humanities
Liberty Ballroom Salon C, Philadelphia Marriott.
Presiding: Priscilla B. Wald, Duke University
–Anne Balsamo, University of Southern California
–Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University
–Anna Everett, University of California, Santa Barbara
–Douglas Thomas, University of Southern California

12.00 noon – 1.15 pm:
Textual Materialities
Grand Ballroom Salon I, Philadelphia Marriott.
Presiding: Neil Fraistat, University of Maryland, College Park
–“Save As: Textual Studies and the Challenges of Born-Digital Literature,” Matthew Gary Kirschenbaum, University of Maryland, College Park
–“Picture Criticism: Textual Studies and the Image,” Kari M. Kraus, University of Rochester
–“Textual Studies and the Book,” Peter Bigland Stallybrass, University of Pennsylvania

1.30 pm: lunch with editor and co-editor.

3 pm: coffee with scholar I’m very excited about meeting!

7ish pm: drink with former colleague.

8.45 pm: blogger meetup. Assuming I can stay awake that late.

I’ll hope to see some of you there!

2 thoughts on “The MLA, Thus Far

  1. I think I’m very glad I’m not there. Though actually, jetlag-wise I’d do better there, I’m sure – I spent my twelve hour (7 am till 7 pm) layover in Amsterdam asleep in an airport hotel room which was GREAT (especially since I’d been sick) but meant I’m closer to Hawaii time than Europe time now. I quite like staying up late – had to force myself to sleep at 5 am last night – but it kinda sucks waking as the sun sets.

    Looks like a lot of good presentations there. Hope you feel more able to appreciate it!!!

  2. Oh no, sorry to have contributed to your night of sleepless hunger!

    The first few interviews were tiring but now they’re just getting super repetitive. I’m on auto-pilot, and bored more than anything else.

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