Tuesday, October 31, 2006

durfees part II

11:25 a.m (after I purchase coffee)

Friendly new Durfees' employee: "Thanks, sugah...come again and GET some!"

The only other thing she could have possibly said was "Come again, son," which means she confused me for a boy. Admittedly, a more plausible alternative.

Monday, October 30, 2006

update on the asian fetishist

The treasure I unearthed on craigslist a couple weeks ago has reappeared--several times:

Seeking the Exotic and the Polyglot - 25 (October 17): About me, I'm a grad. student at Yale. I'm 25, 5'7", longish brown hair, green eyes, athletic. My hobbies include travel, foreign language and culture study, martial arts, cooking, reading, horror movies, video games, being verbose and having terrible taste in music.

Horror Movie Fans (oops...) - 25 (October 23): About me, I'm a grad student, 25, 5'7", longish brown hair, green eyes and athletic. Interests include martial arts, cooking, eating, travel, foreign language, video games, bad music and of course, horror movies.

'Av a Spot of Tea, Guvna? - 25 (October 29): I'm a grad student, 25, 5'7", longish brown hair, green eyes and athletic. Besides drinking tea and being pretentious, my hobbies include martial arts, travel, foreign language, cooking and music.

Please note the SUBTLE differences in each post; I also highly encourage you to view the second, as it is particularly humorous. Cue: montage of each version of grad student, talking to a camera while James Blunt plays in the background.

I was a bit surprised to see that the tenth most e-mailed article on the Times website this morning was about a retired professor who just completed a translation of the Aeneid. It's a pleasant piece, so I felt compelled to link it. Ruining the ending:

Virgil worked on “The Aeneid” for 10 years, and Mr. Fagles took almost as long. When he was done with it, he said, he went through a period of mourning, having lost what had become in effect a daily companion. And he still can’t decide which of the epics is his favorite.

“Some days are very Iliadic,” he said. “You’re in a war. And some days it’s all about getting home; you’re like Odysseus. It all depends on what side of the bed you get up on.”

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Top 5 Names I wouldn't mind naming a female child, if I had one:
1. Rose
2. May
3. Sophie
4. Zoe
5. June ("Junebug")

Ten things I would like to do before turning Twenty-five:
1. Quit chewing a pack of pink Orbit bubblegum a day.
2. Successfully sustain a houseplant.
3. Read Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, and Anna Karenina.

4. Publish articles that are longer than 500 words in magazines I admire.
5. Learn how to cook fish without killing myself.
6. Fall in love and prolong the state for more than eight months.
7. Feel proprietary towards New York.
8. Take a trip somewhere with my father.
9. Purchase a fur coat.
10. Develop a habit of eating alone in fine restaurants.

4 Celebrities I vaguely resemble:
1. Winnie from the Wonder Years
2. Keanu Reeves
3. Michelle Branch
4. Phoebe Cates

Monday, October 23, 2006

elm rock stalker

As I sat in Book Trader today, trying to ignore the rhythmic grunts of the homeless man sitting next to me, it occurred to me that New Haven is FULL of celebrity look-a-likes. So, in the tradition of Gawker Stalker, I'm going to start publishing Elm Rock Stalker.

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge:
How did I miss this provocative Time cover, for Joe Klein's cover story on the possibility that Barack Obama might run in 2008?

My attention was to drawn to the piece by an AP article today, coverage of Obama's Sunday appearance on Meet the Press.

''Given the responses that I've been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility'' although not with the seriousness or depth required, he said. ''My main focus right now is in the '06. ... After November 7, I'll sit down, I'll sit down and consider, and if at some point I change my mind, I will make a public announcement and everybody will be able to go at me.''
I mentioned Obama in my post last week about the political viability (and problematic nature) of promoting candidates' marketable qualities--character, physical appearance, etc. The Time article isn't incredible, but there are interesting bits about Obama's "strategic" characteristics--his bipartisanship, his cross-racial appeal, his burgeoning cult of personality. Klein's analysis is particularly fascinating when he attempts to unpack the rationale for Obama's intense popularity.

In terms of "Obama as text" (sorry, sorry), I'm talking about Klein's reader-based criticism: analyzing the figure not by his own actions, but by the response. Might B.O be facing the "death of the author" dilemma--is his intention supplanted by its interpretation? Kind of a stretch, but check it:

"He's working a very dangerous high-wire act," Shelby Steele told me. "He's got to keep on pleasing white folks without offending black folks, and vice versa." Indeed, Obama faces a minefield on issues like the racial gerrymandering of congressional districts and affirmative action. "You're asking him to take policy risks? Just being who he is is taking an enormous risk."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

airing out my grievances

While walking into Durfee's Convenience Shoppe (that is exactly how Yale spells it) yesterday morning, I was deterred by two new additions. Please keep in mind that this criticism is by no means directed at the shoppe's employees--who, contrary to popular belief, I have always found to be quite affable--but rather at the unseen hand of Yale middle management, no doubt responsible for these heinous accruals.

1. The appearance of a Purell hand sanitizer outside the entrance. To a convenience store? Really? This extraneity--no doubt paid for with pennies plucked from my unanticipated contribution to the Senior Activity Fund--can only mean one thing: Durfee's is legitimizing my petty theft of candy.

2. The sale of an $8 bag of dried, organic pineapple rings. Look like anuses (anni?). Enough said.

3. The new sign placed on a post outside, which reads:
con‧ven‧ience[kuhn-veen-yuhns] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1.the quality of being convenient; suitability.
2.anything that saves or simplifies work, adds to one's ease or comfort, etc., as an appliance, utensil, or the like.
3.a convenient situation or time: at your convenience.
4.advantage or accommodation: a shelter for the convenience of travelers.
5.Chiefly British. water closet (def. 1).
I hate it when advertisers, copywriters, idiot HR people making powerpoint presentations, etc. use "the dictionary definition" as a resource. And I can just imagine some shrill manager hanging up that sign, pointing at the definition and reading it aloud to the cashiers, then crossing his arms, smugly pleased with his idea and his access to a dictionary.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Democratic Dreamboats

I'm writing this from Jonny Dach's apartment, above Cafe Adulis on College St. Right now, it's the unofficial headquarters of The New Journal as we trudge through production before Volume 39, Issue 2 debuts next Friday. It's been a busy week--I've been pulling all nighters working on my article, which is longer than a hillbilly's rattail--and now its a busy weekend, as production demands my presence from noon 'til night.

I had enough free time,
however, to spend a few minutes reading this WaPo article, courtesy of my friend Stan. The piece appeared in Saturday's Politics section, but it may as well be a Modern Romance column in the Times: We're given an in-depth examination of the new crop of H-O-T-T-I-E-S on the left, and told how it's going to pan out into a Dem-packed congress this fall.
Maybe Democractic candidate Michael Arcuri is running strong in this Republican House district because he pledges to expand health coverage, balance the budget and raise minimum wage.

Or maybe its his piercing Italian eyes and runner's physique.
Great writing. Picture at the top of this post is Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Martin O' Malley, the current Mayor of Baltimore (that's him and his wife, doing their best JFK and Jackie O impersonation). He's an awesome guy--I met him three years ago, when I was teaching in an inner city Baltimore school--and, as you can see, a stone fox. This is a big season for governor's races, and Maryland's is no exception. In the last Gallup poll, O' Malley was beating incumbent Robert Erlich by a little over ten points. If it comes down to the wire, might Martin's baby blue eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and the sleeveless muscle tees he wears while playing in his rock band nudge him to victory? Is that very question problematic?
Arcuri's theory is that voters have an immediate, visceral reaction to candidates that, if powerful enough, can trump ideology or party affiliation. "How do you get around the status quo? You look for younger, energetic faces," he said. But while people may decide in an instant whether or not they are able to vote for him, he said, "then they have to know you can do the job."
Stan sent me this article because it's something we discussed a lot over the summer; the question stemmed from a debate over the rationale for Barack Obama's immense popularity. I sent him a Joe Klein article about Jon Tester (D-Montana) for the Nation web feed; Klein's language, while couched in a more sophisticated argument, uses an eerily similar rhetoric. (Side note: The Klein article was bumped off the feed because, apparently, Katrina van den Heuval hates his ass)
Tester, who is the Democratic candidate for the US Senate from Montana, has the most distinctive hand wave in American politics, a thumb-and-pinkie hook-'em-horns waggle. Indeed, Tester's physical presence--he's a big old farm boy with a flattop crew cut--is a political statement that stands close to the heart of the national Democratic congressional campaign of 2006.
Leftist academics like Stan (joke) are wary of this tactic: drawing voter's attention to qualities like physical appeal, character traits, or colloquial hand waves rather than issue stances seems so...Republican. My first instinct, however, was to applaud these appeals to the lowbrow. Call me a cynic, but I'm reminded of my mother, a fence-sitter during the 2004 election, phoning me and saying, "Honey, that John Kerry isn't so bad...I just heard on the radio that he windsurfs."

The issue parallels, I think, a famous debate between Peggy Kamuf, a French deconstructivist, and American Nancy Miller over the role, purpose, and theoretical stance that feminism should take in an age where post-structuralism had done away with the subject. Kamuf, coming from Theory's corner in the conceptual boxing ring, speaks against the danger of institutionalization--against embracing an essential female subject/genre for pragmatic purposes. On the side of Practice we have Miller, who argues that feminists' political demands outweigh epistemological concerns. In shorthand, she says that you can't play with Theory if you don't have the power to do so.

While I tend to agree with Kamuf--or at least, my senior essay will--I realize that, although the Democratic party hardly aligns with marginalized groups like Feminist, Queer, and Postcolonialist critics, condoning the usage of physical/character appeals over the issues enacts a similarly strategic operation. Lately, I feel like every problem I come across boils down to this binary: Theory vs. Practice. I suppose the correct move, then, would be to prove that the two aren't mutually exclusive...

Monday, October 09, 2006

a gem found on new haven's craigslist

Calling all nerds, weirdos, cosplayers, goths and martial artists - 25

Reply to: pers-217762946@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-10-08, 4:36PM EDT

So the above types are basically what I am and also the type of girl to whom I'm attracted. Unfortunately, girls who fall into these categories tend to be either heinously ugly or already have a boyfriend.

About me, I'm a Yale Grad. student, 25, 5'7" longish brown hair, green eyes, athletic. My hobbies include martial arts, travel, cooking, manga/anime, Chinese and Japanese literature, video games, music, etc. Kind of shy at first, but very talkative once you get to know me. I'm kind of hoping for an ltr eventually, but I don't mind taking things slowly...I don't mind chubby, but please don't be obese. I also have a particular fondness for Asian girls and girls with very fair skin, though neither of these are requirements.
  • this is in or around Yale
  • no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Saturday, October 07, 2006


As I began writing a post today, I realizd that this blog's color scheme--sepia and burnt orange--suddenly felt too autumnal. If there's anything I hate, it's being seasonally appropriate: just ask my 7th grade orthodontist, who was appalled by the vehemence with which I reacted to his query, "Christmas colors?"

So, I decided to go minimalist. Wanting to spruce up the vast expanse with a little picture, I spent a few minutes skimming through a folder on my desktop titled "random images" and came across this gem--a doodle of mine inspired by a Buck 65 show I saw with my ex-boyfriend at Sin-E, back in 2004. As I recall, the Canadian rapper just kept repeating, "Skeleton...on fire. Skeleton...on fire."

I'm going to start putting up these random images more often--they make for lovely blog posts. I have nothing intelligent to say about doodles at the moment, other than that I collected about fifty of them for a graphic design project in 2003. Today, I tried to spy on the work of a man who was sitting next to me on the train back from New York, drawing in a moleskine notebook, and we ended up chatting for a while.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

aesthetically pleasing

As of this week, the living room in my apartment is almost completely painted. My roommates and I are trying to find a large painting for the biggest wall, but we're not sure where we can find an pretty-looking piece that costs next to nothing.

I have very mixed feelings about art--or at least, my own ability to define such feelings. Aside from determining the accuracy of representation, I often find it very difficult to account for artistic value. What makes a painting beautiful, if not its resemblance of a photograph (or, conversely, defamiliarization)? When I was younger, my mother would always ask me the same question in museums: "If you could take home any painting in this room, which would you choose?"

In Literature After Feminism, Rita Felski discusses the question of literary value, arriving at the conclusion that "there is nothing natural about loving literature."

Those who value Shakespeare and Shelley, Dickens and Dickinson, have learned to do so. This usually means growing up in a household wher reading and talking about books is taken for granted or taking a lot of literature classes in college. In other words, aesthetic appreciation is linked to social class and access to education.
For Felski, then, there is no a priori aesthetic of literature; value is inherently structured in terms of culture and power, and, consequently, open to interpretation. As counterpoints, she offers Rorty's discussion of "the inspirational value of great works of literature" and George Levin's lamentation that, in the wake of post-structuralism, "literature is all too often demeaned, the aesthetic experience denigrated or reduced to mystified ideology."
Rorty argues that contemporary criticism is losing sight of the power of such works, their ability to awe us, amaze us, inspire us to see the world in a different light. Great literature, he suggests, can radically recontextualize what we know.

"You cannot," he declares, "find inspirational in a text at the same time that you are viewing it as a product of a mechanism of cultural production."
Literary value, as Felski maintains, is undeniably laden with socio-cultural baggage: even the most wizened opponents of post-structuralism will concede to the instability of aesthetics. Beauty and brilliance can be deconstucted, and perfect representation--the invisible point where mimesis meets reality--is not only impossible, but deconstruct-able itself; the original depends on the copy. The same hierarchy of supplementation can be applied to the relatonship between Ulysses and Chloe Does Yale.

Framing, of course, is what constitutes art, and critiquing the constructed nature of such criteria endangers not only the works that are priviled by standards, but art itself. While I find myself averse to reactionary defenses of literary value--Rene Wellek et al--in some ways, I can't help but identify with Rorty, wondering if the realignment of aesthetics with politics belies my appreciation of certain literature. When I consider the reasons why I love certain books and hate others--it certainly isn't because I admire things like the rhetorical subversion of phallocentric narrative structures.

While recognizing the political ability of aesthetics--the capacity (and necessity) of form to become content in itself--I also feel compelled to occasionally depoliticize value when deciding what I find the most valuable--to consider my own visceral reaction to words without considering the social, cultural, or economic bases of the reaction. In the end, this takes me back to the museum, where I simply wanted to leave with the piece of art that made my heart skip a beat.