January 24th, 2005


I don't usually hop on the meme bandwagon, but this one from chefxh inspired me, even though I know that it will leave Kim colder than North Dakota in January. It's about one's senior year of high school. I'm editing out the stupid question:
[What year was it?]


[What were your three favorite bands?]

This is a tough one. My taste was in transition. But I was rather self-consciously informing myself about different subcultures, trying to make up for years of not listening to much popular music.

I was listening to things like REM, The Violent Femmes, Elvis Costello, The Boomtown Rats for the first time, after my summer at RISD. I had an ongoing fascination with 60s psychedelic rock. But I was also really into Rush along with my guitar-minded acquaintances. My first rock concert was Rush, in December of my senior year. I'd just gone through a huge Bruce Springsteen phase as a junior, preceded by a Jimi Hendrix phase as a sophomore, and a Beatles phase in junior high. And I was playing Prince's Around the World in a Day constantly. My album of the year was John Cougar Mellencamp's Scarecrow which, incidentally, I still find to be great.

Back then I probably would have said Rush, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen.

[What was your favorite outfit?]

We had a dress code. For several years I'd been wearing black polyester slacks from JC Penney, the kind that burn smooth and shiny when you fall on the knees playing touch football. I'd lost a lot of weight at RISD, necessitating the purchase of a smaller size. Actually, I shrunk throughout the fall, to the point where I was way too slim. That's what will happen when you don't eat lunch, exercise like a fiend, and pop No-Doz beyond reason. My favorite shirt was a Land's End rugby shirt with horizontal blue, yellow, and red stripes of varying widths. I also wore O.P. shirts and brightly colored surfer shorts for non-dress code occasions. I'd taken to wearing one sleeve of my jacket on and one sleeve off, letting the latter dangle limp for effect. I was making a statement. I'm just not sure what it was.

[What was up with your hair?]

I had plenty of it. It was short. It didn't suit my personality, as my yearbook photo -- visible behind the LJ cut at the bottom of this entry -- convincingly demonstrates.

[Who were your best friends?]

Hmmm. Rob D. was certainly my best friend. I spent lots of time with him, Jennifer B., and David K.

I hung out with the Spectrum and Coeur de Leon staffs in my capacity as aspiring journalist. But it was always a little strange. Lillian P. and Jeff S. were probably the people, aside from Rob and Dave, whom I spoke to the most in that arena.

I wanted Henry S. to become my friend, though he had a lot on his mind. He did let me into his tightly sealed world from time to time, but almost always in relation to yearbook. I spent a good deal of time with Geoff N. while in Henry's wake.

[What did you do after school?]

Up until senior year, I usually slept after school. I had more energy my final year, though. Sometimes, after I'd saved up enough lunch money to buy a record, I'd drive Miriam over to Greenbelt to get one. My mom worked a lot in Washington D.C. that year. I have vivid memories of eating those frozen pizzas that she would buy from the Girl Scout troupe, washing them down with pineapple juice I'd made from concentrate, and listening to my latest acquisition. There was also television, of course. M*A*S*H was a longtime staple. I didn't even drink my first beer until the party after the senior prom, so substances -- aside from Thin Mints -- were not on my radar.

[Where did you work?]

I didn't, unless you count all the hours I spent on yearbook deadlines.

[Did you take the bus?]

I drove "my" 1977 orange VW rabbit, taking the turns on Oak Grove Road fast enough to burn rubber while still staying in my lane.

[Who did you have a crush on?]

Katie F., as I shockingly revealed to her and, in the process, others at the yearbook distribution party after graduation. I don't think anyone ever imagined me capable of a crush, given how hard I'd made my façade in response to merciless teasing. But I had one. Actually, I got along better with Lillian P., come to think of it, though I never felt that mindless absorption that comes with a true crush. I suspect that I might have ended up having a relationship with Julia A, had she not left school a year early to attend the University of Maryland. We'd become very comfortable with each other at the end of junior year. I say this in retrospect, though. Back then I was focused entirely on Katie, charmed by everything from her pert smile, to her family's South Carolina origins, to the fact that she was the only girl in our class to wear Ralph Lauren Polo and Benneton. Hard to believe, isn't it?

[Did you fight with your parents?]

By that time the battles had largely stopped. Except, of course, for the month of school I missed with a strep throat etc. I missed the same month every year. Every year my father grew more annoyed at my missing school. But we'd stopped fighting over the remote control.

[Did you smoke cigarettes?]

No, and I never wanted to either.

[Did you lug all of your books around in your backpack all day because you were too nervous to find your locker?]

I was a lugger, even though I had a nice roomy locker.

[Did you have a 'clique'?]

I guess it was the art-yearbook-newsmagazine clique, which actually comprised several overlapping constituencies. I'd always envied the theater clique, but never managed to integrate my way into it. I did, however, wrangle a nice dinner in Annapolis back in my junior year, just so I could stare at the thick-accented beauty from Rabun County, Georgia who was visiting our school as part of the Elliot Wiggington Foxfire tour. Allison was her name.

[Admit it, were you popular?]

G-d no. But at least I'd managed to cultivate a reputation as a rebel by then, fearless in the face of institutional pressure -- I just didn't care what the headmaster and his crew thought of me -- and willing to do strange things just for the sake of accentuating my marginalization. You can read all about it in my piece about the time from Bad Subjects, if you haven't already.

[Who did you want to be just like?]

Gregers Werle from Ibsen's The Wild Duck, as discussed in that Bad Subjects piece.

[What did you want to be when you grew up?]

I really hadn't a clue. The farthest into the future I dreamed back then was for a day when I'd lose a little of my innocence. The one concrete wish I had was to be able to purchase a new Porsche 911 Carrera before they stopped making them. Deep, huh?

[Where did you think you'd be at the age you are now?]

I never thought about it, actually. Except for the Porsche. It was the 80s, remember? Vacuity was so widespread that the emperor's clothes were invisible.
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Bookmark This

A lot of people I know have been working hard to put their talents to new uses in the wake of the depressing election last November. Among them is my good friend Eric who, along with some longtime collaborators of his, has committed to making a hybrid "blogzine" with short, sweet analyses of contemporary cultural politics targeted at an audience that goes beyond the academy, without turning its back on the academy. The venture is called Print Culture and is worthy of being bookmarked by anyone who likes to read more deeply than the wire stories and personal musings that dominate the blogosphere.

I have a particular soft spot for Print Culture because A) Eric and I have had long, intense conversations about the advantages and disadvantages both to blogging as a practice and to writing for non-academic audiences; B) many of the early entries in Print Culture remind me of Bad Subjects back in its 1990s heyday, when its content sounded less scholarly and the "Bad List" was still a lively forum for discussion; C) I miss reading smart, out-of-the-mainstream takes on popular culture; and D) it's nice and narrow on the screen, instead of forcing me to scroll left and right when I'm on my laptop. Charlie Bob says, "Check it out."
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"Work that panoptic sensibility. Work it!"

Apparently, it's possible to get fired for the content on one's blog, even when one is sharing feelings with a small circle of friends in a public forum. I never would have guessed. I suppose it's time to go back through my LJ archives and delete all the mean things I've said about my co-workers before someone stumbles upon a potentially damaging entry. Oh, wait. I forgot. I don't write bad things about my co-workers. Thank you, thank you post-Foucauldian self-scrutiny. You've done right by me again.
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There's Something Silvery Backing Your Tonsils

"You're an interesting case. Usually we only get to see people with something like that after they've already been hospitalized." But what is is this "that" to which they refer? An abcess, according to doctor #5. But probably not strep as doctor #4 intuited. This means that doctor #2, who was also by far the most fetching of the fivesome, is leading the pack. Her diagnosis? "Possible abcess. Probably staph." Then again, perhaps my own fetching partner has a leg up on all the hippocrats. Yesterday she said, "Maybe you cut your mouth on something." Doctor #5, who had the advantage of seeing the gaping hole left by yesterday's emission, said precisely the same thing. All I know for sure is that A) I know even more about discussing my medical condition than I used to; B) antibiotics are best classfied by family; C) I wasn't imagining things when I felt my chest compress the way it does in a mold-induced allergy; and D) it's really good I started eating lots of live culture yoghurt when I did.
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The Touble With English: Part I

Skylar read another book on her own tonight, without being asked. This time it was Drip, Drop, about a mouse who can't stop his roof from leaking. She even let me count it as our main night-night book, since it took her a while. Here are the words that gave her particular trouble:
anything starting with "cl" or "pl"
Mind you, she did just fine with "toes." But the "oe" in that word apparently bears no relation to the one in "shoe." On the other hand, she had little difficulty with former tough ones like "they," "then," and "that." And she figured out "snuggled" pretty quickly. Still, I do sometimes wish I were helping my child learn a language with sensible orthography such as Spanish or German.
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"Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes made of ________ "

Composing an entry on Joseph Cornell for the weblog I'm using in conjunction with my English 396A course, I stumbled upon this short Adam Gopnik piece from The New Yorker about this gregarious recluse's life and art. I sometimes wonder what it is I aspire to write. Today I know that it's the sort of clear, comely prose that Gopnik uses to make the same point that an October article might make, only in far fewer words and with far less scholarly equivocation:
But Cornell's art was also real, in ways that are easy to miss. Reading his diaries and letters, you are struck by how outward-turning and observant this reclusive dreamer was. Cornell knew more people than Cholly Knickerbocker, from Allegra Kent to Tennessee Williams and Marcel Duchamp—it's hard to name any artist of that generation whose circle was as wide. More important, his life looked like the art he made. He sat in cafeterias drinking coffee and eating pie and staring at girls and going to the movies and reading Mallarmé, and he managed to find funny and affecting coördinates (they were too casual to be called symbols) of these things to put in his boxes. To call Cornell a realist may seem to play with words, but, in the root sense that a realist is an artist preoccupied with the world he finds rather than with the world he wants, Cornell is on the side of the real. He is an artist of longings, but his longings are for things known and seen and hard to keep. He didn't long to go to France; he longed to build memorials to the feeling of wanting to go to France while riding the Third Avenue El. He preferred the ticket to the trip, the postcard to the place, the fragment to the whole. Cornell's boxes look like dreams to us, but the mind that made them was always wide awake.
That sentence about France and the Third Avenue El is particularly fine. I recommend the piece highly, whether you're interested in Modernism, outsider art, fetishists, the autodidact a la Bourdieu's Distinction, or just the craft of boxing up one's dreams.
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