August 24, 2007

You’re different. So are we.

Filed under: Blogs Themselves, Literati and Cognoscenti — tomemos @ 12:35 am

Just before the wedding (which went great, by the way—more later, but see here and here in the meantime), I finished reading Jonathan Lethem’s novel Fortress of Solitude, and I’ve been talking about it ever since. Maybe I’m just deprived from not reading any contemporary fiction in the run-up to the exams, but it seemed like the sort of book that could get everyone talking. After a couple hundred pages I knew I was going to want to blog on it, but I couldn’t think of how to get beyond “this book is really interesting” and thus make it interesting to those (probably almost all of you) who hadn’t read the book. Luckily Joe Kugelmass called my attention to Timothy Burke’s proposal for a “Department of Everything Studies” (by posting his own excellent response to it), and I realized the way in: the novel intersects with a debate, bubbling especially over the last few years, over the juxtaposition of pop culture with high culture (or the outright substitution of the latter with the former), in art, in academia, and in society at large. Incidentally, feel free to put invisible quotation marks around “high culture,” but to a large extent I believe in the distinction so I’m leaving them out.

What I’ve written below is pretty sprawling, and I don’t pretend to have a particularly clear thesis—except insofar as, once again, I propose the Middle Path. Instead, I want to use the book to examine some of the issues that surround the interaction between pop culture and high culture, including the canon, race and class, and “nerds,” and look at how academics might resolve these. (A note to those who haven’t read the book: I’ll try to avoid spoilers here, but obviously a certain amount of reference to the events of the plot is inevitable.)



August 15, 2007

The beginning of a beautiful friendship

Filed under: Funny Stuff, General Me — tomemos @ 6:02 pm

I’m up in Berkeley to get married this weekend. That’s largely why I’ve been so quiet over the last month, that and the process of moving into our new apartment in Long Beach. The apartment is great, but there’s not much to say about it other than that you should all come visit. Long Beach is also great, and I imagine I’ll come back to what it has that Irvine doesn’t. And the wedding will hopefully—along with being married—be great, but it’s too early to tell.

As for the wedding planning itself, it’s exhausting, of course, but it’s not (contrary to what I wrote back in May) as bad an experience as preparing for my exams was. It’s easily as much work, and a lot more running around—95% of my work for my exam was done within about five square miles—but it lacks the element of terror which was so essential to the exam experience. Plus, some of it is actually fun, like making the wedding playlist (the biggest mix CD I’ve ever made) and even, to some extent, making the seating chart (also like making a mix CD, but with friends and loved ones instead of songs). There’s still time for a debacle to develop, of course, but … actually, I can’t think of a good way to finish that sentence. It’s all going to be fine.

Before I get back to whatever it is I’m doing next—shopping for cartons of disposable cameras, or stuffing paper bags with party favors (no spoilers!)—a quick, irrelevant annoyance:

On the plane up from Orange County this morning, my seatmate gave me his copy of the Orange County Register. This is a bad newspaper, as those in the Southland know—not only for its right-wing political stance, but for crap like this, which I came across within two minutes of reading the paper:

We’re shocked, shocked to find they’re playing politics in Sacramento. Well, we’re not really shocked.

Oh my god, it still makes me so angry. Look, “shocked, shocked to find …” means that you’re not really shocked. That’s the reason you say “shocked” twice—it emphasizes the insincerity. So you don’t have to say, “we’re not really shocked.” It’s from Casablanca. GOD.

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