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:

NSFW


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.

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.

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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.


UNNECESSARY APPENDIX (heh)

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.


 

Field Notes: Notes from the Floor 

I was trying to think of other places I spend a lot of time, and I realized that my floor is one of them. Maybe that needs clarification. I have physical therapy exercises, and I spend considerable time in the middle of the floor, stretching gracelessly. I have two view options: the ceiling and the bookcase. You can guess which one I choose. 

In an ideal world, all my books are present and in some sort of order. Presently, I have a small number of them, and they’re shelved where they landed. This has produced some literary oddities, which are discussed below.  If you make it to the end, there’s some reflection on becoming numb/attuned to your everyday environment.

Also below, in color:  topics for discussion!  I’d love to hear your opinions.  Leave them wherever you wish, but do note that you can comment on WordPress even if you don’t have an account; just pick a name, any name, and that’s all there is to it.


 

 

View #1

 

View #2 (no, I don’t know what the box-and-cord thing is)


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The Snopes family wuz here

Faulkner looks messy.  This is because I looted my selection of novels when I tried to write something else (not going well).  In spite of the number of duplicates shown here (a further duplicate of Light in August is among the missing), I assure you there’s “logic”:  I keep books that have significant underlining and/or notes, and Faulkner has gotten spread out over the years.

I’ll generally loan any book; it’s only the ones that have what I consider personal (personally inspired?) commentary that I’m not really fond of letting people borrow.  I don’t want to lose them, and, often, the notes are a sort of journal for whatever was going through my head at the time I read something.  Some books are palimpsests with multiple colors of ink from different times, comments in reply to my own comments:  these are the books I like to keep close to home.

Do you have any oddities about loaning books, any books you prefer not to loan?


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I feel that all involved would be affronted, but I apologize only to Wolfe.

The current disarray has produced some really inexplicable shelving situations:  above, see Wolfe-Salinger-anonymous-Capote.  I can’t decide if the tarot deck lounging on the Salinger is rakish or appropriate.  I sort of think he would have preferred something more hoity-toity:  maybe the I Ching.  And I’m pretty sure J.D. is uncomfortable there between Wolfe and Capote:  a person of few words between two Southerners who go on . . . and on . . . and on . . . . Maybe I’m okay with this arrangement, after all.

What writers would you like to get together?  I don’t mean that as one of those nice grouping things for enlightening chat.  I mean who do you think would get in a knock-down drag-out?


 

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Neil Gaiman is cordially not invited to come hang out.

This is where I admit to being (apparently) the only human on earth who doesn’t like Neil Gaiman:  that’s my entire “collection,” right there.  I read it every time someone/some group predicts an impending apocalypse (really).  As you can see by the state of the binding, that’s more often than you might think.  Gaddis is there to squash him if he talks too much and starts to annoy me.

The thin almost-zine-looking books are by Ali Liebegott (you may have seen her on Transparent, and she’s written for that– plus some excellent novels).  Find them here.  They’re excellent.

Back to topic:  does anyone else have any offbeat reading traditions?


 

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Yes, I’m elitist about the cover thing.

This is a gratuitous photo of the (very few) Patricia Highsmith books I have, including The Price of Salt— which I read WAY before Carol (which has not come anywhere near here; some Star-something movie just opened instead).  I’m an elitist about not having the movie cover, so this pleases me.  As I said:  gratuitous.

Ripley creeps me out.  Is that just me?  Does anyone have any further Highsmith suggestions?  That’s really about the only one I like.


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Pulpy!

The reason I have that particular Highsmith is an affinity for pulp of that era.  Of course, in the current disarranged state of the shelves, none of it is together.  Ann Bannon is off by herself, separate from all the various other books, and those aren’t even in series order.  I should be ashamed.  I’m kind of getting twitchy as I write this, if that counts.

Really twitchy.  But I’d be interested to hear (comments!) how you sort your books.


 

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Your guess is as good as mine.

Please use the comments to theorize what the heck is going on here.  I certainly don’t know.


 

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twitch-twitch-twitch

Did I mention how maddening it is not to have all my books here?  Witness 1/2 the Shorter OED (capo was not included with set).  Some relevant things about that dictionary:

  • the set was my high school graduation present, and thus
  • it has traveled everywhere with me from college on.
  • It was the last edition not to list “fun” as an adjective.  I’ll never upgrade.
  • Seriously.  I refer to the DFW book A Supposedly XXX Thing I’ll Never Do Again as “the orange paperback” or “the one with the cruise essay.”  I’m not reactionary.  Or obscurantist.

Is there any particular book you drag around with you– through move after move– come hell or high water?  Bonus points if it’s a pain in the butt to transport.

 


 

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Youth!

In fact, please see the Kerouac accumulation as evidence that I was young once.

Wait.  Why is Jan mixed in with Jack?  Argh.  And I’m pretty sure I have Baby Driver somewhere.

Do you have any (book) Relics of Your Youth that you’re still hanging on to?


 

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This is a ~*~decorating tip~*~.

If you have books that are too heavy for your shelves– Riverside Shakespeare, Proust– a lintel is a good place for them.  If you have to murder an unsuspecting guest with a heavy object, it could be made to look like an accident.

Coroner’s verdict (pick one):  Death by Shakespeare/In Search of Lost Time/The Lord of the Rings.

I will not ask you if you have any just-in-case homicide plans involving household objects.


 

The (Quasi-) Thoughtful Part

So there’s the latest field notes.  Everything gets a little weirder when you stare at it for a very . . . long . . . time (repeatedly).  The book lack/mess wasn’t so much at the forefront of my mind until I had to stare it in the face so frequently.  Moral of the story:  you can dig up a lot of conversational topics from something very, very mundane if you have time to think about whatever it is.  The ordinary isn’t necessarily unworthy of talk, and you don’t always have to go have a grand adventure to have something to talk about.

It’s also amazing how much you can tune out something you see every day and become effectively numb to how much is going on there.

I’m going to corrupt a term completely here:  zazen.  For purposes of this post, though:  how often have you just taken the time to sit and regard your own everyday environment?  What does it say about you?  What’s comfortable about it?  What do you like and dislike?  What could you change?


 

I would very much be interested to hear answers to any of the above questions, bookish or otherwise.

Did Anyone Read the Syllabus?

Sometimes, social media makes me brood (this is shocking, I realize).  A great deal of pop culture tends to fly over my head (again, I’m betting absolutely no one caught onto that).  Generally, I try not to rain on people’s various parades (okay, I get snide about Taylor Swift a lot, so maybe I should apologize for that one).  But as a rule:  if someone posted an enthusiastic post about Topic X, I wouldn’t write a snide/rude reply just to air my own grievances or dislike of whatever it was.

That’s what Twitter is for.

Kidding.  Mostly.  Not really.  This is why you don’t befriend the people you know on Twitter, though.  And it might not be the best idea to read some of my LibraryThing reviews (*there is no LT widget here; it uses Javascript, which WP forbids, and this is annoying).


Moving on.  When I taught English in the days of yore (I believe it was called Ye Olde Englishe at the time or something), I said, on the first day, to please note that nowhere did the syllabus direct that you must like the assigned books, books in general, or even reading.  None of that was a course requirement.  What was a course requirement was, that if you felt compelled to voice dislike of a book (section of a book, character, etc.), you did so in an adult manner and supply a cogent reason/argument about why you disliked whatever it was.

The idea there was that there was no way I could force everybody to like everything (and does anyone say, “welcome to Biology 101, where you will develop a lifetime love of science!”  I doubt it).  However, what I was hoping was that people would learn to think, analyze, and reason in an appropriate manner for the subject material.

In other words, “I hated that” was not a sufficient response, and nor was “that was stupid.”  If nothing else, let’s raise the level of discourse here.


The first day of the first class I taught, a student answered the question “what do you expect to get out of this class?” with:  “It sounds like we’re going to read about books then talk about them.  That’s stupid, and I’m dropping this.”  It was a reading literature course.  And he did indeed drop.


All of this is to say:  the level of national discourse has officially reached the level that student articulated so magnificently, and there are quite a few people I wish would drop.  Like that student, they do not know how to engage in appropriate discourse, and, like him, they’re not even willing to try.  Unlike him, though he exited with bad attitude ablaze, at least he did everyone else a favor and removed himself from the situation– thus not exposing everyone else to his thoroughly poisonous attitude.


What is currently making headlines as if it were appropriate discourse is shameful.  As anyone who has taught or has been in a class where this has happened can attest, a vocal student with a sour attitude can effectively infect an entire class and turn the whole mood south.  If this continues, I fear that this phenomenon will infect more and more of the country, given the way that powerful personalities can control larger groups of people (who are not necessarily weak-minded; that is not the implication).


Before ascribing to any position or belief, think back to that high school or college English teacher who kept asking you to defend your position, to provide evidence in support of your thesis.  Remember that you had to have a solid basis for that evidence:  something you could reference directly and that the objective reader would be swayed by.

If all else fails, start with an outline.