Archive for October, 2003

cyborg love

Oh, wow, I am in love…

Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. What could be better… be still, my heart!

musings on Halloween and nostalgia

2 halloween parties later…. 1 mac n cheese filled crock pot … 1 parade of a roiling chaos of 40 pre-schoolers across a 6 lane road… 7 princesses, 3 spidermans, 1 panda, 1 zebra, 1 white lion, 1 robin hood, 1 hawaiian cat princess, 2 dinosaurs, 3 army outfits (scary). 2 blocks up and down in the rain… the sadness of lone old ladies answering the door with badly suppressed excitement and near tears for the one minute of kids jostling and screeching at the door, kids who forget to say thank you… Kids suddenly catching on to the magic of the whole thing – you get to run up to strange people’s houses… you get to see inside… they are all kind and give you presents. Kids out at night! Everyone indulgent! Moomin flashed into a wide-eyed understanding and began waving his candy bucket, waving his sword, leaping like a gazelle after the throng of slightly older kids. “Let’s go to the next house! Come on!”

Jo’s daughter Elizabeth was very funny, getting into the proper post-trick-or-treat gloating spirit with me. We dumped out her candy and sorted it by type, taking turns to write down the inventory. I realized she did not know all the types of candy – how strange! Rook and I knew them all quite intimately. I think I gave her an incredulous look when she did not know what a Krackle was, or a Now n Later. She went around charging people and the funniest bit was when she instructed 4 year old Iz in how to make a credit card. “You put your first name and the last name and the year…” As if Iz didn’t have a vat of her own candy! I had it in mind to make her do a statistical analysis of her loot, but the party got chaotic. I had some wine and mooned around wishing dimly that I had a piano.

Moomin came in the room horrified as I picked out the first few chords of that chopin prelude. “STOP, mama, that is too scary.”

In class today the myths prof was giving possibly his most boring lecture ever, but there was a good bit about how rituals and holidays always refer back to a golden age. I think he said something about how people always think that the holiday or the ritual USED TO BE BETTER.

This made me drift off into thinking about memoirs where people wax poetic about their glorious childhood memories of spending a nickel in the candy store – of reading the sunday funnies on the floor in 1932 – of spending all Saturday in the movie theater watching cartoons and newsreels. Meanwhile their elders freaking about their trashy activities.

My generation now has the chance to wax poetic about the glory of Saturday morning cartoons. This glory no longer exists, as kids have videos and access to all-day cartoon channels. I have certainly heard my generation go on about how great Halloween used to be and now it can’t be that way because people are paranoid and don’t let their kids out. (Remember the whole weirdness in the 80s about taking your candy to be x-rayed?! Check urban legends snopes page for a fascinating monograph on the subject…) This is why I like Redwood City – people DO let their kids out. There seems to be a truly unholy trend in many places – taking your kids to the mall and let them trick or treat there. As if some random mall store employee is more trustworthy or accountable than your own neighbors…

I feel a little false nostalgia for a generation or so back… for some TrixieBelden-ish old neighbor lady inviting the gang inside for hot chocolate and freshly baked cookies… bobbing for apples? playing blind mans bluff? (buff?) This sort of waffly false nostalgia quickly leads me to the land of the 5 little peppers, the little brown house, and Laura Ingalls’ first party as a teenager where she freaks out about how to eat an orange. “Oh, Ma, we each had a whole orange!” I have never tried bobbing for apples, but it seems quite disgusting and unpleasant. cold water on the face, and other people’s spitty, half-bitten apples. Ew.

I also thought (not for the first or last time) of my current nostalgia for the happy modem handshake noise. (I just looked for an online sound file of this noise, and did not find it. I will hook up old computer and record the noise, which is curiously lovely. Could compose a song with it perhaps…) Oh the tense and exciting anticipation of the connection, the BBS or later the gophering and mudding pleasures that awaited! The thrilling net news and magic email! I am all powerful, I am magic, I will hack into the Pentagon! (Screw the web. Text, text, text. That is all I need.) When the modem finally did its successful handshake… joy. Like being at the symphony and hearing the orchestra tuning up, the chaotic notes resolving into a triumphant A.

And when it didn’t… that dull repetitive beepy noise interspersed with static, as if the modem was dissolving into disappointed, confused sobs. Busy signals were particularly poignant, evoking moments of frustrated long distance love in the days before call waiting was common. Anyway, my point is, suddenly in class I began to imagine myself at 80 years old, hearing the happy modem handshake noise for the first time in decades, and weeping with joyous nostalgia.

I’m sure somebody is laughing at me by now. Nevertheless I am moved to tears by this thought.

Back to Halloween and rituals – I was made very, very happy by seeing all the kids dressed up. Their excitement was renewing to the spirit in a way I didn’t expect. They were excited without knowing what it was all about. I also don’t know what it is all about, but it seems to partly be about (if you are not just completely cynical about rampant consumerism) participating in a weird event where you aren’t sure what is going on, but older people do seem sure of the ways things are supposed to be done: there are supposed to be pumpkins, jack o lanterns, witches, ghosts and skeletons; any other costumes are also acceptable; all sorts of strange songs and customs and foods. So the magic is actually that something particularly meaningless is being transmitted AS IF IT WERE MEANINGFUL – a shared moment of cultural insanity.

Plus, they were just really cute in their costumes so that all the grownups were tiptoeing around grinning and saying “Awwwww”.


My old halloween costumes:
age 3 or 4: skeleton (plastic drugstore costume)
5: ?
6: ?
age 7: indian (as shown on Minnie’s blog: sheet dyed brown with rit dye, pictographs, war paint, headband with feather, homemade tomahawk)
age 9: gandalf (pointy hat, staff, robes made of sheet dyed grey with rit dye and astrological symbols painted on)
age 10: dwarf warrior (viking helmet made by sewing cloth horns onto baseball cap, fake fur beard, wooden sword made by dad, wooden shield with lengths of garden hose for handles)
age 11: ?? I think gandalf again
age 12: Tarzana (aunt’s zebra striped one-strap bathing suit, whorish makeup, stuffed monkey)
age 13: this might be the age where the generic “punker” outfit was the rule – consisting of odd hairdo, a lot of eye makeup and as slutty of an outfit as one could get away with
the intervening years are kind of blurry.
19-ish: full blown dominatrix outfit
20-ish: space girl with gold lamé dress, turban, golden laser pistol
intervening years, memory blurry again, probably lots more slutty black clothes, though I do remember dressing in a really unsuccessful outfit of mmm’s and going to the castro and it was really miserable. Later, with mohawk, wheelchair, and a double nosering, halloween seemed superfluous.
28-ish: Death from the sandman comix (hark, still dressing slutty in all black! true to my roots! tried unsuccessfully to spray hair with black spray stuff. Rook was Dream.)
30: Penguin (Rook, our friend S. and I all penguins: me pregnant and Rook with large styrofoam egg sewn to his foot as an emperor penguin dad, which I think still gets him major feminist points)
31-ish: greek robes with ivy in hair (was still like 170 lbs from post pregnancy)
32: ?
33: didn’t dress up, or did I? can’t remember.. am old… Rook wore his purple velvet sequined long dress and went to vibrant party and I stayed home…
34: “cowboy” (black hat, trench coat, red bandana, lasso)

The Journal of Fabulous Ideas

I had a fabulous idea last night in class: “The Journal of Fabulous Ideas”. This inspired by me, the bull, reading some red flag of an article by Damrosch. Something like “of course we do all tend to downplay the things we don’t know” etc. about why interdisciplinariness is doomed to fail and also dooms to amateurism the people who dabble in it. Rather than downplay things we don’t know, because we are big shots at Columbia and have a huge vested interest in being experts all the time (nothing against him really but I was feeling testy towards bits of what he said and how he said it) – how about allowing a place in academia for the juxtaposition of nifty ideas, irrespective of depth of knowledge. Thus the Journal of Fabulous Ideas was born. It would be a monthly journal – I guess online, but paper is so nice – So that people could write hypotheses, or abstracts of possible articles, of stuff they’ve thought of but don’t have expertise or time to do the research…and then maybe other people who DO know about film theory or music or whatever would see it and riff off it – would get fabulous ideas. This is why I keep trying to exterminate my own perfectionism — “I can’t write that paper on J. de I. and Modernism and feminist deconstruction because i am not expert enough…” No… just write it… translate it… even ineptly… it might spark someone else to do it better. That seems worthwhile.

Pinning the Inner Critic

I have been reading the journal of Iris Storm and enjoying it very much.

I suppose the trouble is that I feel that I have wasted all the ‘gifts’ that I was born with. I am really lazy. I can do nothing for days on end and I am never bored. I read all the time, usually a book a day, and think and potter about and start little projects. I can’t bear to wake up in the morning and know that I have definite things to do at definite times. Of course, for most of my life I have had things to do but I used to quite regularly take days off from work and stay at home and do nothing, or I felt I would have gone mad. It feels so odd to be clever and articulate and artistic and practical and good-looking and sympathetic and amusing and to have such an unambitious, uncompetitive and unselfconfident personality. What was God thinking?

And as a bonus to such oddly familiar ramblings we get pheasants, conkers, vicars, pantries, punters, and other (to the U.S.-ian) exotica. Join Iris Storm’s highly witty and amusing Inner Critic and throw a few comments her way. (Since I just added the comments feature on there…)
Also looked up the origin of the name. I had never heard of Michael Arlen but from this description, I am hot to read The Green Hat and some of his other books too. Lookit, Garbo and Tallulah!

suddenly very stressed

suddenly I am stressed and despairing beyond belief. I sat down this morning with about 6 projects looming over me:

2 long papers that have only vaguely taken shape
1 hour long lecture on women, evil, and hero myth
1 20 minute presentation on Great Literature (this halfway done)
1 short presentation on various journals (halfway done)
Re-do entire ‘student portfolio’ and CV
Print more Composite covers in preparation for (sunday?) folding party
translate a bunch of critical articles on J. de Ibar.
finish long translation of Elegia before nov. 12 conference
would be nice to have more j. de i. booklets for that conference too…
And flyers for the 2nd issue of composite!

Arrrrrrrgh! Too much!

And completely blah, uninspired, existential despair, curl up in bed feeling all morning long. Am I PMS-ing? This was my big day to get things done.

I did do the reading for class, and vaguely looked at some of the critical essays in spanish.

– bring mac n cheese to Moomin’s halloween party
– remember to send him to school in his ‘costume’
– get giant mole removed from underarm, if they will condescend to cut the damn thing off
– go to class (maybe could skip it….)
– drink giant double mocha and write, write, write

poetry and translating is so much better feeling than this stuff.

parody and censorship

I have been giving some thought to the ‘hoax’ issue with the fake Riverbend blog. (Here is the real Riverbend blog). I argued with myself over whether it was a legitimate form of political protest or parody. For example, I think the site is a great parody and protest. I have wondered how the guy has avoided being sued or charged with some sort of crime, especially considering the general political climate under the Patriot Acts. It is conceivable that some people would look at this site and take it seriously – at least they might be fooled for a while. However, that is the point of a parody.

What makes the fake riverbendsblog any different? Is it different?

One thing that is noticably different is that the articles are original. The riverbendsblog fake, in contrast, lifted paragraphs and entire posts from Riverbend and from Zayed of the Healing Iraq site. Again, I can picture parodying a poem and lifting a whole verse from the original. But the attribution would be clear – if I were parodying someone and used someone else’s work to do it, I think I would have to cite them or make it clear who I was quoting.

I am actually wondering if I would be okay with that fake River blog if they hadn’t lifted sections of Zayed’s writing. If they had, say, kept a paragraph of River’s blog and then segued gradually into some sort of grotesque parody (the original fake site was not too well done, but just put in weird sections that said things like “Allah blast the infidels!” and stuff like that.) then I might have been okay with it. Even a badly executed, stupid, racist parody has a perfect right to exist. So go for it, fake River blogger. I consider what you are doing to be pretty spiteful (again, so is and much political parody…) and it is also against what I believe.

But the people who think the fake site should be censored are wrong.

goofy pictures

Well… don’t say I didn’t warn you

Cool, calm, courageous, and whiskery

From a Reuters article about smart mother rats

We are doing another study where the rats have to eat a cricket,” Kinsley said. “The virgin females are clueless. They don’t know what to do. They can’t find the thing. Lactating animals can snag it. It takes them like a minute. It points out how much more efficient a nursing mother is.”

Huzzah, mama ratties!

dream of a great room

i just woke up from an interesting dream. My parents had bought a big house and I’d walked through it a bit earlier. It had 3 bedrooms – one big one off to the side of the house with an extra room opening into it, then in the main part of the house, two smaller rooms. later, they made a big deal out of giving me a really nice suit. I put it on and it was really comfortable – not wool, which I am allergic to, and it made me look nice – really grown up and powerful. They made a big deal out of making me come look at the house with them. (Minnie was still in high school, by dream magic.) “Come look at the big bedroom” said my mom. I went in there and it was all done up with a million bookshelves and my bed and fancy new bedspreads. It looked like a cross between a library and a victorian whorehouse with a sort of chinese art objects theme. “I figured you guys would take the big bedroom and Minnie and I would have the small ones,” I said in shock. My dad really gruffly described how he built the bookshelves for me. I was amazed. “This stuff is too nice… I’ll mess it up… all this bamboo stuff is really cool but I know I’ll break it.” My mom said “Oh no of course you would be careful since we went to such effort.”

Suddenly I realized something. “Where will Rook and Moomin go?” I mentally started rearranging the room “Oh, Rook will stay near his work and we gave Moomin to these other people.” I freaked out. “What!!! How could you think that I would arrange my life like this so I couldn’t be with them!?”

Outside, the house was high on a hill and was part of some kind of national monument. There were beautiful stone arches and old wooden bits like a covered bridge but painted elaborately… maybe like a circus wagon… There were people everywhere who had been there to listen to a speech by some Reagan era S & L scandal banker who was bashing the current government. I was supposed to make some sort of speech, but I skipped out and went clicking down the hill in my sensible yet grownup shoes, looking for Moomin and Rook. I then realized I was dreaming and was about to wake up. I managed to hang onto sleep a little longer in order to ‘fix’ the dream, at least until I had Moomin safely with me again.