The Newsfeed in Your Newsfeed

I’ve apparently taken a long leave of absence from blogging:  I blame the flurry of work and writing that accompanied finishing the MLIS (which is done!).

So here’s a little post/essay to interrupt your regularly-scheduled OITNB viewing.  If you’re like me, you immediately tried to find the song that ended the first episode.  Because I find it Deeply Inspirational, here it is:


The topic here is my tangled attempt to explain something I articulated poorly.  I said I deliberately dressed in a performative way, which was vague and confusing.  What I said was a lazy shorthand for what I should have been more specific about.

So, here is the not-shorthand version:

 The personal is very public at this time (see:  social media, particularly Facebook), and it’s often unfiltered (Twitter, anyone?).  Like so many other people, I use social media (Facebook, in my case) to construct the image of myself I want others to have.  We’re all yelling at people to ignore the man behind the curtain, to varying degrees. The genius and pitfall of social media is, that if you put thought into it, you become your own PR person.

 I do something similar with clothing.  I construct an identity that functions as a tent pitched protectively around the things I want to keep hidden.  I’m not talking about physicality, though I certainly could (but that’s not very interesting).  Every time I get dressed, I put on clothes and throw a blanket over myself.  Part of that is shame (emotional, physical):  I need to cover something up.  Part of it is hiding:  my clothes are my blanket fort.

In a contradiction (the confusing part), clothing as performance can call attention to myself, which is not what I want.  It’s inevitable, though:  who can ignore a walking blanket fort?  So what is going on?  It’s deflection:  look at this, but don’t look at me.  In a culture obsessed with distilling things to a perfectly flat surface (a phone screen, a laptop), it’s simple to turn the human form into a “virtual” social media feed.  I ask you to look at what I display and only what I outwardly display.

The outward display leaves limited space for comments and engagement, which is the effect I want to have.  It’s the picture I’m posting to prove that God’s in His heaven– all’s right with the world (here — “Pippa Passes”– talk amongst yourselves!).

Clothing as performance thus provides me with a shortcut way of expressing (publicly) that I’m okay, confident, colorful, and unashamed.  I am representing myself (on a daily basis) in the current cultural vernacular of virtual reality.  Please understand that I am not talking about social media; I’m talking about how 24/7 existence is increasingly interpreted as a newsfeed.  I’m not talking about lenses in the college-essay way, either.  I mean that reality really is merging with virtual reality.  There’s not even a lens of separation.  I am here copping to taking advantage of that.

The real reality– myself, the machine parts that power the display– is safely encased. (I’m not going to blather about whether or not there is such thing as objective reality; head over to Reddit if you’re interested).  Few people deconstruct an object that appears to be working perfectly well.  We count on people not probing beyond their phone screens to see what’s really going on, and I’m counting on people not to pick at my sleeve.

It works remarkably, or maybe worryingly, well.

This post is deliberately image-free.  The featured image is a picture of the sky.  That’s it.  The sky.  Make of it what you will, though, as we always do.


Choose Your Own Adventure

There is not much going on right now except for being attached to a computer and writing Very Dull Papers (and attendant deadline-related panics).  You can guess at my state of mind by looking at the state of the couch:  when it’s cluttered, my mind is as well.

However, I have nothing to discuss, unless LIS papers are of great interest to you.  Therefore, I’m giving you what’s sitting by me.  You’re welcome to create a story from there.


Many notes to myself on many odd pieces of paper.  Things I thought significant enough to note:  New York Dolls, pentangle?, Romans 1:26, The Light of the World, The Killing of Sister George, Lee Miller, Ballard-Crash, Brother David Gardner?, The Killing of Sister George (1968) [sic], Venus & the Razorblades, Dontavious.

New Yorker, last week’s, still open to the page where I fell asleep.  It’s a very interesting article about schizophrenia and genetic inheritance.  I should finish that.

A band demo CD.

The following books:  How Poetry Saved My Life (Amber Dawn), I Am Not Myself These Days (Josh Kilmer-Purcell), There but for the (Ali Smith), 1928 version Book of Common Prayer.

Empty soda* bottle

*Repeated misunderstandings of the word “soda” abound in this area.

Two cat pictures

I would suggest that I am a genetic researcher who is studying the effects of semi-obscure 70s music on cats.  When I am rolling in cash as a result of my findings, I intend to furnish this apartment with The Light of the World (or multiple pentangles/pentagrams); I will gave at it reflectively while listening to metal (or possibly Pentangle).  Other publications-in-process include a critical analysis wherein I compare Brother David Gardner to J.G. Ballard and generally rant about both, defending my position with excepts from the BCP and reference to The Killing of Sister George.  Dontavious is co-writing this masterpiece.  The two memoirs are clearly there as I seek inspiration in writing my forthcoming one, which will be based on schizophrenic music-listening cat genomes.  None of this would be happening if I were not overcaffeinated.

I’m just reading the Ali Smith because I like the novels, of course, and even genetic researchers need a break.


Featured image:  The last page the previous owner  of this novel dog-eared (blasphemy).  I am left to wonder what prompted this person to throw in the towel on page 75– but that’s another story.


Field Notes: Song of Myself

I have poked fun at outside entities in previous field notes entries (here, here, here), but I’m going to make fun of myself this time.

It has been a shameful amount of time since I was last here:  I blame political angst (or “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” my new official name for this) combined with paper-writing overdrive.  My mind is dull, and I’m tired of looking at the word “qualitative”(and implications thereof!) on this screen.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that you really can’t take me out in public, as I lack multiple crucial filters.  I can try a bit of explanation:  when you’re an introvert who spends a lot of time in their head already, the things that have been building up join up and then pop out as seemingly bizarre thoughts at apparently random times.  It made sense to me; the problem is, no one can read my mind.  Wait.  That’s good, not a problem.

I was at a medical office recently and had explained that the code for something was “1066.”  I thought I’d picked an easy one, but it wasn’t sticking and kept getting transcribed incorrectly.  As I left the individual’s office and was standing in the hall, I blurted, “Battle of Hastings!  Don’t forget!”

What’s really unfortunate here, apart from yelling about the Norman Conquest in a medical office, is that out-of-the-blue allusions to William the Conqueror probably don’t seem all that odd in the context of everything that has come out of my mouth there from 2014 to present.

My brother joined me for lunch this past Saturday; it could have been two adults having adult conversation in an adult way.  What really happened is (I’m not even going to explain how this topic came up) that I ended up describing the original/cut ending to Clerks:  Dante gets shot at the end of the day.  The problem here is that I talk with my hands, so I was miming shooting a convenience store clerk– when I remembered that there was a children’s birthday party at the next table over.

Red card for lack of filter on that one.

I also accompanied by (poor, long-suffering, you’re thinking at this point) brother into a big box baby store in search of a particular item.  At the time, I was completely dressed for a night out, featuring both glitter on my face and glitter tights.  I’ve never even been in one of these stores, so while he took off in search of his quarry in a businesslike fashion, I put on brakes at a display of car seats and proceeded to translate the price into secondhand clothes, used books, etc.  The looks suggested that bystanders think I have a baby that I strap to the roof of the car as I drive in search of these items to spend car seat money on. (Clarification: I did not realize how much they cost and was surprised.)

Alice has a very nice carrier.  Just want to put that out there.  Not that she’s ever expressed anything approaching appreciation for said carrier:  more like Geneva Convention violations.


I possibly have an outlandish number of pictures of Alice.

As we continued to have difficulty locating the item, I finally asked for help in a request that involved the phrase “child thing.”  I was not referring to children, incidentally.  My brother says I might have passed for a new mother or, more likely, an eccentric aunt (the second is accurate).


With another unfortunate in tow, I went in Barnes & Noble.  Yet another long story, but I was in search of a collected or complete Ezra Pound.  I chose the store as the place to discuss whether buying Ezra Pound in a physical store would cause the employees to think I was a fascist and possibly mad (versus finding a copy online and cloaking the mad-fascist bit in anonymity).

The not-unfamiliar suggestion that I might possibly be overthinking things came up with this one.


Those are the ones that I can come up with immediately, but I really don’t like to skip a day of making a fool of myself.  However, I’m reaching my self-imposed word limit for a post, so that’s all for now.


1066 and All That is a book I probably first read (choke) years ago.  I still recommend it.

More about Ezra Pound (plus a lot of poems) here.

Actually, some background:  Pound came up because of a theory I have about the political race and Godwin’s Law.  At the time, it was a joke.  Now:  That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.






I Want You to Want Me

The song titles are getting away from me; however, to my credit, “My Bloody Valentine” was the first thing that came to mind, and I skipped that.  Last year’s Valentine’s post was a cards compendium.  This year, it’s shorter:  I’m ditching the efforts of every dating site and app in favor of the Prost Questionnaire.

I normally resist linking to Wikipedia, but here’s a brief history.  Here’s a more interesting link with David Bowie’s answers (given to Vanity Fair); from there, you can also view the answers of a number of other people that might pique your interest.

But you also get me.  Sorry.  My version of the questions is from here.


  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?  If there is such a thing as perfect happiness, it exists only in moments, as a transient state.  Happiness, perfect or otherwise, is mutable and must be achieved over and over again.  It is a series of moments, not a resting place.
  2. What is your greatest fear?  I can think of a lot of abstract fears of things that have never happened to me:  terrible things.  The most concrete answer I can give is when I think back to my lowest moment and imagine being there again, replaying the emotions and physical sensations I felt then.  Realistically, that is the greatest fear I have.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  I have difficulty knowing how to respond to things other people say in any appropriate manner.  I can attempt to filter a response and then agonize over it for days/hours afterward, but I can’t say something and then be comfortable with it.  I think it’s a fear of presenting an authentic self and feeling comfortable with that.  That sounds very egotistical.  I’m just typing this on the fly.  
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Lack of self-awareness, unquestionably.
  5. Which living person do you most admire?  I hope that I can look for something to admire in everyone, but I’m getting a bit cynical on that front lately.  I have not thought of a specific #1 person and suspect this position would be a rotating one.  Actually, I think I’d like to debate this one over coffee.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?  Have you SEEN my book collection?  Though I question whether those are an extravagance or a necessity.  The qualifier might be that I own physical copies of many things that I could borrow or own in electronic format, but I am extremely partial to having my own marked-up hard copies.
  7. What is your current state of mind?  Picture an old-school card catalog; that’s where I have all the books, music, etc. I’ve read or am interested in filed away.  Next to that is a filing cabinet, where I have all the relevant/interesting information I’ve gleaned from the former.  Throw a tornado in there.  Now you’ve got it.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Anything that the current moment declares a virtue.
  9. On what occasion do you lie?  Lately, about what I’m doing with my life.  I’m ashamed that I do it, but I’m ashamed to be in such a suspended state.  I do this to people I won’t see again.
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?  NOT the right person for this question.  Pass.  There are only 24 hours in a day.
  11. Which living person do you most despise?  Oh, my.  There was a debate last night featuring America’s Most Wanted Sociopaths.  
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?  How about one I don’t like but have had occasion to observe a lot lately?  Colonizing public spaces, physically and vocally.  So I like it when people don’t do that.
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?  Don’t put yourself down, jokingly or otherwise; it’s a protective mechanism against letting someone else do it first.
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  actually, probably, apparently, possibly
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  [this space reserved] 
  16. When and where were you happiest?  I hope I haven’t hit this yet.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?  The ability to pre-plan without anxiety.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  I would turn down the volume on the anxiety that bleeds into so many other things:  how I react, how I speak/respond, things I do.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Currently, maintaining the health I’ve worked for.
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?  One of Bob Ross’s happy clouds.
  21. Where would you most like to live?  The British Library.
  22. What is your most treasured possession?  My books, because my cat is not a possession.  You do not possess cats.
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  See #2.  I can speak most concretely to misery as I’ve experienced it.  In short, though, when my world has been most reduced, I’ve been most miserable.  When it opens up, I’m happier.
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  Reading, but I’m prone to doing multiple things at once.
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?  I think that’s best observed by other people; I doubt I’d catch it.
  26. What do you most value in your friends?  I hope they know.  If they don’t, I need to tell them personally.  
  27. Who are your favorite writers?  There are only 24 hours . . . I already said that.  Currently, Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson, Ali Smith, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Wallace Stevens, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, I can keep going.
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?  Dr. DeSoto
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?  Someone in the background of a crowd scene of a painting, on the edges.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?  Numerous.
  31. What are your favorite names?  You know a name I really like that I could name neither child nor pet?  Tess.  Thomas Hardy ruined that one for everyone.
  32. What is it that you most dislike?  Coconut.  As well as mistaking opinion for fact, which tends to be joined with the lack of self-awareness previously referenced.
  33. What is your greatest regret?  Nope.
  34. How would you like to die?  There’s a great Reno 911 bit about this.  How about defenestration?  Can you imagine the newspaper having to print that in your obituary?  “in local news, . . . .”
  35. What is your motto? See God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater– ever since I first read that as a teenager.



And No, I’m Not Sorry

This is not a thinkpiece about not needing to apologize, excessive apologizing, etc.  There are lots of those.  Google should have your back.  This is about the stages of talking about what you love:  here, specifically, literature.  And, specifically, embracing what books you love, unapologetically.


I saw a tweet recently that said the person was so mad that Infinite Jest was trending, she couldn’t even think of something funny to say.  I’m not sure of her specific complaint about the book, but, yes, it has plenty of flaws, and it’s one of the most polarizing novels I can think of.  Is anyone lukewarm about that one?

My response:  I love that a book can make someone have such a charged reaction.  And I love that it’s trending!  Not that I had anything to say about it in 140 characters.


The three stages of loving a book that I’ve come up with are:  1)  Exuberant like/dislike, often forged with some sort of specific identity as a factor.  2)  Increased awareness of what it’s “acceptable” to like/dislike, and mumbling over specifics when quizzed about things not en vogue.  3)  Saying forget it and just liking what you like, no apologies.

Which isn’t to say be offensive:  your favorite book will not and cannot be someone else’s favorite.  You really can’t convert everyone to a book or author, and it can get very annoying if you try.  There’s a difference between recommending something (if someone asked, if you know the person and think they’d like it) and beaning people on the head with a particular book.

It also doesn’t mean that you should insult other people’s taste in books (of course, if you know them well and do this facetiously, it can be a great deal of fun . . .).  I had my second conversation with someone I don’t know at all (have only met in passing) who is working his way through all of Sherlock Holmes, which sounds dreadful to me.  I don’t know this guy, but I can tell he’s extremely enthusiastic– extremely unapologetic.

However, I talked to someone Sunday (another stranger) who asked what I was reading (Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?— rereading, and if you have my original proof copy, I want it back).  After some discussion, we arrived at the point that she would be interested in that one, and she took down the title and author.  I was pleased, because I would certainly love to bean people with that book.  (cough, cough, recommendation)

Back to apologizing and Infinite Jest.  The book has to be something to have sprawled one of the most comprehensive sites on the internet.  And a considerable number of venomous sites.  Does the book have a considerable number of problems?  Yes.  Do I like it anyway?  Yep.

I’m reading Artful right now and came across this passage written by Katherine Mansfield, inside Aaron’s Rod by D.H. Lawrence:  “There are certain things in this book I do not like.  But they are not important, or really part of it.  They are trivial, encrusted, they cling to it as snails to the underside of a of a leaf– no more,– and perhaps they leave a little silvery trail, a smear, that one shrinks from as a kind of silliness.  But apart from these things is the leaf, is the tree, firmly planted, deep thrusting, outspread, growing grandly, alive in every twig.  All the time I read this book I felt it was feeding me.”  (p. 87)

There are certain things in IJ (or any book) I do not like.  They may or may not be important/part of it (I’m suspicious of that particular claim, along with the triviality, frankly).  I do love the idea that the book is the leaf, the tree, that nourishes the reader.  That, for awhile, readers are able to suspend some qualms (in a moment) and be nourished, though I’d argue that engaging the problematic parts of a text is part of the nourishing process.

No text is conceived and born without faults.  There is no Ur-Text with no flaws to critique.  There is also the simple progression of time:  time moves on, and texts very frequently don’t age well (or become encumbered with new critiques).  Frequently, there is a manner of degree involved here, but save that for you and your friends to debate over coffee.  That’s a separate post.

I only want to say that there is no such thing as a perfect text, something inherently polished and perfect.  Some flaws are celebrated, some need to be discussed.  This keeps book reviewers in business, and this makes literature interesting.  It’s also why you can say “A really means a lot to me, because of XYZ,” and agree when someone shrieks (or tweets) in protest.

It also means that you can dislike something but have a civil (if superficial) conversation with a stranger.  I’m venting now, after all.  And things will balance when you have a somewhat deeper conversation with yet another stranger.

If books are a language we can share, don’t shout each other down in that language, and don’t just mumble apologies about what you love and drift into the corner.  Keep talking, keep sharing.



These are the books that are lying on the sofa that really, really needs cleaning up, because it looks like a bookmobile exploded.  Recommendations?  Things to avoid?  Up to you:

  • Artful, Ali Smith
  • The World Is on Fire, Joni Tevis [recommended to me]
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson
  • modern American poetry anthology, because my complete Wallace Stevens is AWOL
  • Peace Is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh [recommended to me]