After a couple of days on the train from San Francisco to Boston (California Zephyr etc), I’ve had time to sleep, watch the land go by, and reflect on the blast that has been: the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting. There were the usual wannabe-stars, who seem to believe that style rather than substance is the key, the usual intellectual flexing, subtle and not-so-subtle putdowns, and the usual debauched scholars for whom the old adage applied: what goes on the road, stays on the road. But for me the highlights were:

A somewhat tipsy Deane Galbraith yelling, ‘We must save the Enlightenment!!’

A deluded Jorunn Økland maintaining her Norwegian exceptionalism.

A smirking and bearded Berlusconi Youth subverting the book display.

A dishevelled Joseph Blenkinsopp who made Lazarus look like a wimp.

A fruity Jorunn Buckley offering insights into the PS’s of letters between slightly kooky spiritualists.

A blunt Erin Runions opining that occasionally she wonders whether she should grow a penis and stop making sense, without realising that a penis is not a necessary prerequisite.

And a gasping conference session, smitten by a reeking elephant dropping.

But a conference is never worthwhile unless you encounter at least one stunningly bad paper and one new idea gained from its polar opposite. The catch here is that these moments vary from person to person, so I leave those options blank, ready to be filled in.

The paper that should have been destroyed before it was delivered: …

The rare and precious paper that triggered a new idea: …

(And nominating your own paper for this one is seriously bad form, reflecting an unhealthily high opinion of yourself.)