Friday, August 28, 2009

Class

The final product of a writing class I took over the summer. A bit pedantic, but when am I not?(edit: you may or may not have noticed this, but I didn't post it. This is due to the fact that I have lost the ability to copy & paste from word, not some compunction regarding publicising bad writing. Au contraire, I'm going to do a post soon about being fat. And using extraneous french).

Monday, August 24, 2009

I Finished This Assignment Six Minutes Before It Was Due = Automatic Repost

You *know* you're a bit of an odd child when your parents go, "honey? You can stop writing now. We'll always love you for who you are." Story of my life.

Anyway, I think its a bit unfair to be so glib about the fuck-all relevance of "The End of Serendipity" and use its anachronistic nature to make a few mildly ad hominem digs. I just did it because I wish someone had given me 22 Encyclopedias when I was a kid. Instead, I got WiFi (which, I explain below, is pseudo-objectively the better choice).



Serendipity, Supposedly

“The End of Serendipity,” Ted Gup laments, is upon us. He bemoans the fact that technology is conducive to efficiency; and argues that research’s joy is found in the alphabetized counterproductivity that is the encyclopedias of his youth. If we are not, he argues, confronted with tangible news of tragic foreign affairs, what broadens our eclectic consciousness? In a world characterized by its ability to seek out information based solely on its relevance, who will know the joy of an esoteric non sequitur?

Gup perorates about the devastating consequences of sources that rely solely on user initiative to dispense information. Due to the focused results of his kids’ CD-ROM reference source, for example, they are never presented with information without having to first conceptualize a question pertaining to the information itself. In turn, this means that sedulous students will never be allowed the luxury of diverting their minds to other, unconnected areas of study while on the road to a particular encyclopedia entry. At least, not without searching for this distraction purposefully. Similarly, retrieving news from an online source proves unfulfilling, as the format of a news paper’s webpage allows its users to pick and choose their reading material. There is no way for editors to squeeze in tails of hardship between more pleasant destinations for inquiring minds. Because, apparently, viewers aren’t being forced to flip through candid photos and pages of important text, Gup believes that online readers might never read vital journalistic pieces unless the headlines prove to be appealing. Ultimately, the Internet lends itself to selectivity- and this prevents the serendipity of happening upon a delicious (or perhaps horrific) piece of thought. Supposedly. On the contrary, however, the freedom of expression fostered by the internet provides a multifarious plethora of information – provided that one is comfortable with the system on which it operates.

Being the product of urbane liberal arts majors, my childhood is characterized by affection for the written word in tangible form. I was frequently given the privilege of trotting down to various independent book stores and libraries to consume volumes at a time; and doing so remains a slightly bizarre passion of mine. It is, I think, in this spirit that “The End of Serendipity” is written. It certainly isn’t derived from an excess of research. I find Gup’s assertion that as internet users, “we weed out that which we deem extraneous” (Gup) almost comical because as a lifetime web junkie, I find my online endeavors to be exactly the opposite. In fairness, the internet may have expanded in usage since 1997, but it is currently irrelevant to aver that computers pose, “no risk of distraction” (Gup). After all, Boolean internet searches turn up thousands upon thousands of web pages. To illustrate this point, I typed “politics” into my handy google side bar- and was accosted with a comprehensive history of the term just a few inches above a website announcing that Brazil might be “recognizing obesity”. I may have been searching for another news outlet to add to my roster, but the possibilities with which I was presented lent themselves to plenty of “unintended consequences” (Gup). Just ask the friend I called up to complain about “the idiotic stigmatization of obesity when other, more pernicious, heath issues are still thankfully met with compassion.”

Gup does hit home when positing that “users define their needs” (Gup), but not in support of his overarching claim. Instead, he alludes to the hundreds of millions (Helmond) of blogs in cyberspace, each happily providing wisdom or sophistry from all Anarchy to vegan cooking. The unaddressed flaw in Gup’s logic is that tangible sources are confined to what is directly available to a person, and that their resources are limited by definition. It’s all well and good to flip through the daily paper- but if Mom and Dad only ever get the Belmont Citizen Herald, their child will indubitably grow up with a very isolationist selection of knowledge indeed. The kind of people who would find themselves uninterested in international hunger statistics or the fact that Bush did not sign the Kyoto treaty must be in high correlation with people who don’t buy national newspapers with zeal anyway, because periodicals are written with their audience in mind. It makes no sense for Gup’s employers to publish stories that would be so “resented” by their audience that they would not be selected on a website (and yet, they’re magically read “simply because they appeared on the printed page”?).

Ted Gup makes a passionate case for fostering an unadulterated love for learning. He is wrong, nevertheless, to believe that bringing such a sentiment to fruition would be anything but a necessity for an 21st century internet user. Perhaps it was true, at the time of publication, that utilizing a computer was simply a matter of “ask and ye shall receive (but only what is relevant).” Today, I can’t read a story about “Love Your Body Day” without being hyperlinked to the Brown University newspaper and then a comic about Bruno, which prompted a google search (which resulted in the discovery of my all time favorite blog: Joe.My.God.). And this, in turn, led me to an article about how Obama might be wavering on a Public Health Care Option, which subsequently led me to a petition, which I wound up posting on facebook. If that wasn’t “exquisitely inefficient,” then God help those who know what is.

Works Cited:

Helmond, Anne. “How Many Blogs Are There, Is Someone Still Counting?” The Blog Herald.
N.P., 11 Feb 2008. Web. 24 August. 2009. <http://www.blogherald.com/2008/02/11/how-%20many-blogs-are-there-is-someone-still-counting/>
Gup, Ted. “The End of Serendipity” Past Chronical Issues. 21 November, 1997.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bad Creative "Nonfiction" (Revised Plus Part Two)

I’m thinking about gentrification. More specifically, I’m thinking about gentrification now; while cutting through the blankets of hot air that linger after dark. Almont girdled by the dusky humidity, I weave my way around the peppy, sullen, and/or decidedly disaffected members of the well dressed Cambridge chic. I’m joining them in the age old tradition of attempting to direct our collective line of sight slightly above the heads of the bums who punctuate the streets. If you ever find yourself in need of liberal, bourgeois guilt, look no further than a city in which Future World Leaders learn to hop over “Unemployed and Hungry” signs to get to the local Urban Outfitters.

I pinball off units of happy couples and codependent cliques (“excuse me, sorry- excuse me, sorry”), until I reach the gaping mouth of the Harvard train station. Its two escalator tongues drip out a lazy drool of additional hipsters. To my left, I find The Pit. True to its name, The Pit is a depression in the cracked pavement between the train station and Out of Town Newsstand. The dark clothing of the kids huddled in clusters smudges their outlines into the nighttime Cambridge hue. Their faces, however, glow pasty bright, accented with shady lineaments and shiny facial piercings. Their heads look interred in the surrounding murk.

“Heeeey, you came.” A guy named Zoe ambles up to me and throws his arms around my waist, digging his eyebrow ring into my stomach.

“Yeah, hiii.” I take my cue from him and draw out my vowels, but I’m not sure how to reciprocate the affection. My first impulse is to pet him. Fortunately, Zoe leaves me no time to fully embarrass myself: he drags me over to meet Daeka, Tony, Megan, and Keith. Megan, I already knew as the characteristically awkward girl who hung out around the Foreign Language Department and eavesdropped on my book club meetings.

“Nice hair, who did it?” That’s Daeka, the short girl with coquettish eyes and real dirt on her pants. It’s hard to tell if she’s being serious, because I soaked it in blue-raspberry juice a few days ago, and the results are quite polarizing.
“Thanks, and Kool-aid”
“It looks good, you have a sort of shimmer”
“Which is…more than likely left over saran wrap, but thank you.” Daeka laughs, and me and my artificial patina fade into the background. Chris, famous in my school for “completing” 38 forged hours of community service in one week, skateboards over to announce that, “Duuuuude. Last night was ill” and that Zoe should play with his band sometime. Then he leaves with a parting, “A’ight, cool,” to go revolve around his girlfriend.

The station-mouth hiccups out a couple teenagers and their mohawks (slick, gelled pink peacock feathers that deserve to be heralded as entities of their own, due to the fact that they probably outweigh their human appendages). They clomp their expensive, mud caked leather shoes over, and the conversation quickly turns to Anarchy. It’s either “what this town could really get a load of,” or “like, a beautiful concept on paper, but not practical,” depending on who you ask. Tony and I both clamor to voice our apparently shared Communism is the Ideal State but Oh Well Whatever: That’s Not Gonna Happen heterodoxy. This doesn’t sit well with The Mohawks’ squeamish (and ironic) McCarthyism, “For real? No, that never works.”
“Ohhh my god!!” moans Tony, face contorted into exasperation.
“Yeah, uh, how are you so sure?” my default voice (valley girl soprano) isn’t offering much in the way of mutual aid, so I clarify. “Objective case studies? A nuanced understanding of human neurology as it pertains to social science and government?”
“Or perhaps,” Megan drawls, “you’re just…extrapolating from the actions of Mao and Stalin. Which any Communist worth their salt will tell you isn’t now and wasn’t ever a legitimate embodiment of original Communist theory, especially as defined by Goldman, Kropotkin, or really: any other founder of revolutionary thought.”
“Like, uh, Marx”
“Yes, Zoe. Like Marx. Thank you.”
“Okay,” snaps Mohawk 1, “name one globalized, effective, Communist society.”
“Given that globalization is a product of capitalism (pay poorer workers less somewhere we don’t have to see them), we can’t and shouldn’t.” But by now, the conversation has dissolved and we settle into apathy.

The subject is quickly turned to getoffourisland.com. It’s a new website that The Mohawks are producing to promote harassment of a specific breed of Long Island natives whose only defining characteristic seems to be that they have been classified as “douche bags” by a couple suburban high school kids. This is “subversive, controversial stuff,” I’m told. Yeah. I’ll bet its antiauthoritarian too.

The Mohawks see a few girls who have stumbled onto the scene; and they take their leave to go impress the poor kids with whatever it is they think they have to offer. Chloe bemoans the effect of gravity on his eye makeup, and exhorts the posse to depart. I’m about to go my own way as well, but Megan looks back impatiently and snaps, “you coming?” So I follow my dingy compatriots.

Days later, we drive around aimlessly, listening to The Violent Femmes, Beautiful Creatures, and Papa Roach. “Drive,” though, should be taken as a loose interpretation of our motion. We careen, more like, around residential streets. Seemingly of its own volition, Chloe’s car drifts sidewalk to sidewalk until Megan breaks out of her impassive facade to demand that she drive. We proceed to fly past increasingly impressive residences. Shabby linoleum siding and beggars’ cups give way to patrician, stone-faced fascias and private forestry in contrast with strict, oft-mowed lawns.

Megan screeches us to a halt in front of one such imposing edifice. We’re expectorated onto the sidewalk by a now sickly coughing and mumbling car, which Chloe assures us will eventually recover or perhaps die out. After a trek up the driveway, Tony pulls out a key and unlocks his garage. The two gleaming SUVs I passed on my way up must be the entire collection, because the dingy interior is happily filled with amplifiers, microphones, posters, keyboards, boxes, and an electric guitar- center stage. Years of casual smoke linger in the air, pinching my nostrils while the others pull instruments out of their cases and hook up wires. Primitive riffs reverberate around the comparatively small space. I feel them as I hear them.

“Music is always better when you hear it live. You need those idiosyncrasies, those minute deviations that you get with each performance. You need that to really hear it, really appreciate it.” Tony’s breath whispers into my ear.
“Yeah,” I break eye contact and settle for gazing at his chin. “I’d love to hear you guys play.”
“Okay? Play with us.”
“Oh, uh. I just do, like, classical piano.”
“It’s the same clefs, are they not?” Daeka and Zoe both join in, but Chris actually picks me up (no small feat) with a jovial, “Is she resisting?” and sets me behind a keyboard. Out of sheer respect for his sheer physical prowess, I decide to give it a tentative go.

If feeling the warm-up chords is analogous to sitting on a washing machine, we hit a Richter 7 by the second song. The lyrics are pugnacious and vulnerable, “(Waa-o-o-o) I’ll never give it up/(Waa-o-o-o) I’ll never give up/(Waa-o-o-o) I just wanna be-wanna be loved.” They’re a flippant collection of maladjusted hyperboles, and it makes their message of singularity and assertiveness all the more appealing. Chris vacillates mellifluously across an octave scale with a think, velvety smooth timbre. More memorable, though, is the ebb and flow of the three guitars: crashing chords and receding riffs. A beautiful, dirgeful wail scales octaves and keys, ornamented by cadence over minor cadence. We pound on our respective instruments, music swirling and fighting in our ears, confronting and seducing our inhibitions. The adrenaline is palpable.

As of today, Daeka’s facebook status reads, “it’s not MY fault that my talents will never be useful in the real world.” And I suppose that they won’t be. Be here and now, that’s immaterial. Nobody pads their garage with noise-cancelling insulation in preparation for the real world. What band practice does is entrap a utopia comprised of misfits. The angsty songs and impractical clothing all serve to remove them from the archetypal high school bildunsgroman. Suddenly, it’s not a question of how good they look; it’s not a question of their popularity. When I first met them, I assumed that my “neo-punks” put so much effort into being so very different as a way of trading in the current teenage hierarchy for one in which they were bound to win. Now, I’m sure that the alternative subculture they set up for themselves has no hierarchy at all. Their music does indeed embody “each according to his abilities, each according to his needs,” as do their politics.

I honestly don’t know if the human mind is conducive to democratic Communism beyond the camaraderie of a band. I certainly don’t think that my generation is likely to find out. In many ways, high school Darwinism and Capitalism are two sides of the same coin. One serves an evolutionary purpose and one, an economical. I do, however, appreciate that there is much to be gained by circumventing the status quo. It is impossible to delight in being subversive in an ideal world, and so without dissent (and the subsequent change), it may prove not to be ideal at all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Few People Do Facial Hair Correctly

That guy with the makeup and black hair has got it down. Also, body modification suspension looks rather awesome. For aesthetic purposes anyway (that's why the lesbians are there too, right?)


Anyway, I love that Papa Roach has finally gotten a bit grittier. I have no idea if they're mainstream again, because I'm just that archaic.

Creative Writing is Not Really My Forte

This stuff is actually supposed to be nonfiction. I'm writing it for a class that requires me to "observe" a subculture. I mean, I'm awkward by nature, but this assignment wouldn't be palatable to anyone*. So I made up a subculture. It's loosely based on the Harvard Square Pit in the 80s. Or at least, a Wikipedia entry regarding the Harvard Square Pit in the 80s. I'm too lazy to do proper research, and this is good practice for bullshitting my way through life. Which is what people do, is it not?


Strange Company
I’m thinking about gentrification. More specifically, I’m thinking about gentrification now; as I weave my way around peppy hipsters, and sullen hipsters, and decidedly disaffected hipsters, and seemingly inebriated hipsters. I’m joining them in the age old tradition of attempting to direct our collective line of sight slightly above the heads of the bums who punctuate the streets. If you ever find yourself in need of liberal, bourgeois guilt, look no further than a city in which Future World Leaders learn to hop over “Unemployed and Hungry” signs to get to the local Urban Outfitters.

I pinball off units of happy couples and codependent cliques (“excuse me, sorry- excuse me, sorry”), until I reach the gaping mouth of the Harvard train station. Its two escalator tongues drip out a lazy drool of additional hipsters. To my left, I find The Pit. True to its name, The Pit is a depression in the cracked pavement between the train station and Out of Town News. The dark clothing of the kids huddled in clusters smudges their outlines into the nighttime Cambridge hue. Their faces, however, glow pasty bright, accented with shady lineaments and shiny facial piercings. Their heads look interred in the surrounding murk.

“Heeeey, you came.” A guy named Zoe ambles up to me and throws his arms around my waist, digging his eyebrow ring into my stomach.
“Yeah, hiii.” I take my cue from him and draw out my vowels, but I’m not sure how to reciprocate the affection. My first impulse is to pet him. Fortunately, Zoe leaves me no time to fully embarrass myself: he drags me over to meet Daeka, Tony, Megan, and Keith. Megan, I already knew as the characteristically awkward girl who hung out around the Foreign Language Department and eavesdropped on my book club meetings.
“Nice hair, who did it?” That’s Daeka, the short girl with coquettish eyes and real dirt on her pants. It’s hard to tell if she’s being serious, because I soaked it in blue-raspberry juice a few days ago, and the results are quite polarizing.
“Thanks, and Kool-aid”
“It looks good, you have a sort of shimmer”
“Which is…more than likely left over saran wrap, but thank you.” Daeka laughs, and me and my artificial patina fade into the background. Chris, famous in my school for “completing” 38 forged hours of community service in one week, skateboards over to announce that, “Duuuuude. Last night was ill” and that Zoe should play with his band sometime. Then he leaves with a parting, “A’ight, cool,” to go revolve around his girlfriend.

The station-mouth hiccups out a couple teenagers and their mohawks (slick, gelled pink peacock feathers that deserve to be heralded as entities of their own, due to the fact that they probably outweigh their human appendages). They clomp their expensive, mud caked leather shoes over, and the conversation quickly turns to Anarchy. It’s either “what this town could really get a load of,” or “like, a beautiful concept on paper, but not practical,” depending on who you ask. Tony and I both clamor to voice our apparently shared Communism is the Ideal State but Oh Well Whatever: That’s Not Gonna Happen heterodoxy. This doesn’t sit well with The Mohawks’ squeamish (and ironic) McCarthyism, so the subject is quickly turned to getoffourisland.com. It’s a new website that The Mohawks are producing to promote harassment of a specific breed of Long Island natives whose only defining characteristic seems to be that they have been classified as “douche bags” by a couple suburban high school kids. This is “subversive, controversial stuff,” I’m told. Yeah. I’ll bet its antiauthoritarian too.

The Mohawks see a few girls who have stumbled onto the scene; and they take their leave to go impress the poor kids with whatever it is they think they have to offer. Zoe bemoans the effect of gravity on his eye makeup, and exhorts the posse to depart. I’m about to go my own way as well, but Megan looks back impatiently and snaps, “you coming?” So I follow my dingy compatriots.




*anyone, that is, who is already socially inept.