Wednesday, March 03, 2004
It was a nice sunny morning and I was sitting there contemplating the void when these sociology undergrads in No Logo logo tee-shirts come over with their old hippy activist professors in tow and say: "Hey, wanna come on our anti-war protest in New York on Saturday, Howard?" Well, my suspicions were immediately aroused. Because I've read Marcuse and I'm very wary about people trying to exploit students. Then they said they had a bus and it was going straight from campus, we wouldn't even need to go into Providence, and it was free. This forced me to reappraise my dogmatism so I said yes (provisionally). Plus everyone else was going. Anyway, Saturday came and we all got on the bus and the ride there was a nightmare, I'm telling you. They were all singing these lame protest songs and ranting slogans through the microphone (like Rumsfeld was on the back seat of the bus) and I just had to laugh at the naivety of it all. They know nothing about politics. They haven't even read all the way through "Empire" and I told them all how they were right-wing dupes and utopian socialists and they should be into the catharsis of revolutionary violence not Joan Baez and their songs were giving me a headache. Which didn't go down too well (what is it with some people and sneers? I don't get it, they loved Elvis). So I thought I'll show you. When we got to NYC, I didn't go to their crappy protest. I snuck off to have a look at The Vinyl Countdown, the new outlet for alternative and hardcore on 33 and 45. It was great. They had the whole Shimmydisc back catalog on vinyl (!!!) so I just had to buy it all plus that album of No-Wave folk ballads Lydia Lunch made with Steeleye Span on DAT (only 30 copies made and I've got one of them. Heh.) Well, it was getting kind of late and I thought I'd better head back to the bus or people would be waiting for me so I had to heave all the vinyl there myself cos no one in the shop would help me on account of the post-contemporary alienation of our society. So I'm sweating and struggling with this heavy load and I finally make it back to the bus and I realize, uh-oh, they're still pissed at me. "Hey, we didn't see you at the march, Howard." And they're standing there with their arms crossed (like I'm impressed)."Yeah, well I changed my ideological position. Some of us aren't stuck in the rut of Stalinist dogmatism." That showed them. But my principled stand had clearly gotten to them and when I wanted to put my stuff in the baggage compartment of the bus they had a hissyfit. "There isn't enough room. We need it for our papier mache effigies", they whined. "Yeah, well if you get rid of one of them you can squeeze my stuff in. Ever heard of compromise?" (I said this real slow, em-phas-iz-ing ev-e-ry syl-lab-le, like when you're talking to foreigners.) "No, I'm telling you, there's no space, Howard." " Hey, you've got your Bush puppet, what do you need a Blair one for too? Have you seen the guy on TV recently? He looks pretty sick to me*. You won't be needing that effigy much longer. Dump it here." Well, they continued to deny my perfectly valid request when along comes Professor D*****g and she starts backing me up. "I think Howard's ideological fluctuations are most interesting", she says very flatteringly and she pats me on the back. Repeatedly. I get a funny feeling about her. She's kind of old (at least thirty, I'd say) and weird but she might be able to help me in my implacable progress through academia so it's worth keeping her sweet even if this means dumping Terri and all the hassle that implies (yawn). Must weigh up the options. Anyway, by that time it had been raining pretty heavily for a good half hour and their Blair puppet had kind of melted. The bus driver said he didn't want a wet Tony in his bus so they had to dump it there, no matter what the environmental implications, which meant long faces and no one talks to Howard all the way back to campus. Like I care. Losers. Christ, they're so puerile! **
(*I know all about British politics - especially the Labor party- because I'm half-English - or half-Manx at least. My uncle teaches at Romford University. He once had a post published at Crooked Timber - well a comment really. Until it was deleted. They didn't want it showing up the rest of their stuff).
**(I know I didn't write this in proper academic style. But I was too mad at the injustice inflicted on me to look up the polysyllabic equivalents on my spellchecker).
Monday, March 01, 2004
Howard has insisted that we reprint some entries from his undergraduate diary for the benefit of our readers and posterity. He feels that allowing selective access to this journal, which he modestly entitles "The Growth of a Critic's Mind", charting his intellectual development with all its peaks and troughs, its triumphs and its tragedies will be an immense boon to future generations of scholars. Here's the first excerpt (note: all names have been changed to protect Howard's career):
May 29: Outside had been quite literally "outside" my conceptual universe for several months as I struggled to make my way through Foucault's "Archaeology of Knowledge". The revelation it had nothing to do with TV's Time Team had been an onerous one for me and yet, like Antoine Roquentin in Sartre's "Nausea", I had not flinched before the rigors of this intellectual endeavor. Having triumphantly conquered this challenge and my inner demons to boot I was exhausted yet exhilarated. I decided to devote my mental powers to other things and go buy some milk since my mercenary roommate was reluctant to lend me "any more" of "his". Crossing the door was certainly a transliminal experience (assuming we are permitted to talk about "experiences" any more- I'll have to check with my supervisor). Inside/outside, I thought. Now I understand the polarity. Deep. The sun was in the sky, hanging there like an overrated lightbulb in some dreary bourgeois household (like my mother and father's, for instance."Wasn't that a lovely dinner party?" "Yes, it's a shame the Hapgoods couldn't make it." "Yes, terrible shame, still, never mind. By the way, we really must do something about this lightbulb. It's quite blinding". Me trying not to puke!). There were shops and houses and trees, all coexisting in astonishing multiplicity and totally beyond the bounds of language and the power structures we impose on them. And squirrels, like little gray things running around grayly but very fastly too. What does Derrida say about squirrels in De Grammatologie? I forget. Bet it's deep though. There were even some people there. I was aware I was in the presence of the Other and acted accordingly and (I hope) responsibly. I was trying very hard not to other them and thinking about what Derrida said about squirrels when I saw this guy beating up on a girl. It was totally gruesome and awesomely "realistic" (I know that's a problematic concept but bear with me) . I got some kind of impression he was mugging her. Anyway she was screaming and he was pulling on her handbag and just hitting her and there was blood everywhere. And, get this, nobody was doing anything to stop him. Nobody. Not that there was anyone around, but even so…I must have stood there for fifteen minutes watching him punch her teeth down her throat and nobody came to help. Finally, it occurred to me I had to do something. I realized I had borne important witness to the alienation of post-contemporary society. I now had an excellent topic for my next paper and rushed back to my room to get it all down on my computer. Oh yeah, I looked up Derrida and he says nothing about squirrels in De Grammatologie. Deep.