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More on Answering Machines: An Audio Essay

February 28th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Fischerspooner: Odyssey

Last week while getting some grub at the student union, I waited patiently in line as the cashier kept staring at me. When I was paying for my meal, I asked for five ones instead of a five, because I needed to use the stamp machine downstairs. “Oh my goodness,” she said, “your voice is so sweet, but you look so mean.”

As I was reviewing my audio essay, which I’ve finished and sent off to our respondent, I was wishing my voice was at least deeper. And the essay is soooooooo stupid. I’m delighted with its stupidity. It will play in lieu of me at a panel titled, “On Disembodied Voices” at the SSCA convention here in Baton Rouge. I’ve uploaded pieces online here; the whole thing is about eighteen mintues.

PART ONE: On the Haunting of the Obscene Phone Call

this is an audio post - click to play

PART TWO: Pazuzu Speaks! More on The Exorcist

this is an audio post - click to play

PART THREE: Mercedes McCambridge Is (Not)Dead, or, Three Packs A Day

this is an audio post - click to play

PART FOUR: Backmasking and the Replication of the Abject Voice

this is an audio post - click to play

Perhaps I should do all my convention papers this way and simply stop showing up. I hear some lame DJs are doing that: instead of showing up at a club to spin a gig, they send iPods pre-mixed to port into the system. At the very least, I can remix this puppy. Indeed, I intend to do just that for NCA next year if our panel makes . . . .

(Getting the) Sickness

February 24th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Roxy Music: “A Really Good Time”; Big Star: “You Can’t Have Me”

I’m sitting in the office watching a downpour the likes of which we’ve yet to see here in some time; the scene outside my window is blurry. I regret spring hasn’t quite sprung, so the usual treat of wet t-shirts . . . well, I’ll leave off with that. But, her Hotliciousness just walked by my window without waving. Umbrellas bob along as students are starting to leave class; soon, there will be a swarm under the canopies that frame the green.

My class and I got locked in a classroom today after class, presumably because I slammed the door during my lecture on Freud (I get excited talking about libido and, of course, slamming doors is a good exemplar of sublimation; I was actually scolding students in the hall who were making too much of a racket for me to concentrate on the lecture). The students were amused and then distressed; I wasn’t terribly bothered by it myself, imprisioned with and by youth. There is something terribly liberating about what Larry Rickel’s calls The Great Teenage.

I do not have anything of interest to write today; I thought about sharing–student just popped in to say that he really “dug” my office, which is lined with movie, rock, and pin-up posters from floor to ceiling–I thought about sharing my plans for writing about answering machines, which I hoped to do tomorrow. But then my mind is a sieve and unfocused thinking about all the other things I must accomplish: overdue drinks with A Master Poet and fellow Spanish Townsian this evening; Flogging Mollys tomorrow night at the House of Blues; DJ-ing a 5-year old’s birthday party on Saturday; hanging out with a colleague on Sunday . . . yeah, I don’t think much writing will be done.

I’d rather be fishing; or rather, in the Eurythmic argot: “No, it’s not raining with me.”

I former student who graduated two years ago wanted to meet and discuss graduate school studies last week. I took her to lunch and we talked about her interests. Eventually, however, the conversation turned to the abuses of religion. Indeed, the conversation we had was not unfamiliar to me, as a number of students often want to discuss religion: how they feel constrained by it, or how they have escaped it, or sometimes, lingering fears about going to hell. I think this is, in part, because I often reference my own religious background as an evangelical in the class room for examples (you cannot separate rhetoric from religion in this country, and I defy anyone who claims otherwise to prove it). I think I happened upon a metaphor during that conversation, one that I think was ripped from a favorite Grateful Dead album of mine: Live Without a Net.

“Learning to live without a net,” I said, “is really though.” Religion is a nice net to fall into if you stumble, but the choice to jettison religion and retain spirit is much harder because, well, there is “no net.” Having a partner can be that net for many, too, but if you’re a single guy like me whose ideal of a partner is “two independent friends who happen to enjoy each other’s company enough to sleep together,” that means there really is no “net” there either. Or at least I try to avoid making another my net (not like I’ve had the opportunity here to really tempt it, though).

Well, that seemed to make sense for both of us. I told her about a night I had last week where I was in bed but never got to sleep. I kept mulling over “what the hell am I doing with my life?” Actually, I asked myself “what the fuck am I doing?” but I didn’t want to communicate that extra edge. I have nights like that every now and again, in which I’m made painfully aware of not having a net. Networks are great, so are support systems. I have those. But there’s no certainty to what I’m doing with my life. I said to her that I didn’t think that this feeling really ever went away (it is, indeed, that sickness unto death). Funny, but when I have these heart-to-heart talks with students (who are coming in some sense for counsel, and sometimes worse, for answers), I often end up in this place: “I toss and turn and continue to have doubts like you.”

I think this essential insecurity helps me. God help me from ever becoming certain, from taking up knitting.

The Somerville Gates

February 18th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Faithless: Outrospective

Gretchen of Three Farmers Fame passed along the following link to the Somerville Gates Project, inspired by shower-curtain genius of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

The scope of this domestic version of the project is simply breath-taking. It is wonderful, marvelous, a testiment to the true spirit of art! While you are viewing the photos for this fabulous installation, perhaps a sountrack, “Dragostea” by the Romanian boy-band Ozone, will help you to better behold the beauty of domestico-humaniod invention!

Post-Smugness

February 17th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Cocteau Twins: Garlands

Tonight was a regular communication at the lodge, and after brief business, a Master Mason degree was conferred (ever heard the phrase “I gave so-and-so the third degree,” or “so-and-so gave me the third degree”). I enjoyed not being the candidate and getting to welcome another brother.

Curiosity and my own intellectual interest in the history of occultism caused me to pursue the Craft; now that I’ve had time to study and be a part of it, I can honestly say I appreciate the fraternity and what it offers its members. I enjoy the company of my older brethren, most of whom are in their 60s or 70s; they are kind, welcoming, never judgmental but open, never quick to advice but there to counsel. I’m reminded when I am there how much I have to learn about being a good person.

The meeting did go much longer than I had anticipated, however, and by the end, I was ready for bed. So, as I sauntered home I decided a nightcap was in order, of course.

Walking downtown to the regular haunt I started thinking about moving this summer, and how much I will miss downtown Baton Rouge at night. Downtown at night is desolate and bright, cold structually but oddly warm with the smell of petrol refining and possibility. The buildings are a hodgepodge of ugly 70s structures and older art deco, the latter usually lit with strategically placed spotlights (especially the phallic “New” capital buidling). The town at night creates a pressing feeling of solitude–like being at home in the winter, by yourself, with some comforting quilt your Great Granny Freeman made (it’s fallen to pieces now, but I loved that quilt). , And then, when you happen upon a bar door and open it, it’s full of people smoking, drinking, and talking (more the first than the second, and the second, the third). This sense of solitude, then suddently, PEOPLE, reminded me of Minneapolis in the winter, when everyone is indoors.

I walked into the Red Star hoping to see a neighborhood face (everyone does like to be in a place where at least someone knows your name). No one was there but for a cadre of young mods (it’s all about the hair, as Mirko says) waiting around to see the Death Ray Davies. I wedged into the bar and ordered a Manhattan (an old favorite that I’ve just started ordering again after a many year binge on bourbon on the rocks) and found a chair in the middle of the bar an plopped, as there was no room at the bar-bar. No cranny to hide in to people watch, no place to go but, well, the spotlight. Me and my Manhattan and the best jukebox in town . . . but sitting in the middle of the people-watching-X without a friendly face to say hello to.

I’ve been coming to this bar semi-regularly since I’ve moved here. The bar staff revolves constantly; the only stand-by who has been there long enough looks like one of the kids in The Killers (yes, it is all about the hair) but is a horrid bartender with an attitude that does not befit Baton Rouge. I don’t understand the new NYC/Miami attitude that has started to infect some of the bartending staff downtown, but that’s another post for another day.

So I am sitting and drinking my Manhattan and trying to people watch. To my left, in the periphery, a beautiful woman, 23 perhaps, with long dark hair. She is with a very scruffy older man, say 27, who is on the other side of a beam supporting the roof (so I cannot see him, only her, again, in the fuzzy right of sight). She’s staring at first, then gawking, then talking to the boy-behind-the-beam.

I realized I was wearing a very conservative blue blazer, with a red polka-dot tie, conservative shoes and khakis. I looked like a Republican with long hair (a bow tie would have sealed the deal). It occurred to me that she was trying to figure me out: who is this old thirty-something guy, what’s his story? Why is he here . . . .

I let myself think for a moment that I knew her, had her pretty much figured out as this was my scene then, although I admit it was much larger in DC. I knew her dreams and desires and what she was all about; I knew the lay of hip-star and why she held her cigarette the way that she did.

But it was just a moment, because I remembered the meeting I came from and how non-judgmental my elders were there. I was angry about feeling 27 but having to admit I’m almost 32.

I have no idea what this young woman’s life is like, what her dreams are, or why she holds the cigarette the way she does. I’m open to being surprised.

I finished my drink quickly and walked home leisurely.

Pre-Order Madness

February 14th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Cocteau Twins: “I Wear Your Ring”

I Am Obsessed With Amanda Reed

February 13th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Peter Murphy: Holy Smoke

Here on the Valentines Day Eve, I found myself smitten with the hotness of Amanda Reed. I have been trying to work all day today, trying to index my book, but her face keeps popping into the mental theatre. So I could not help myself: I had to build a shrine to her hotness.

Speaking of hotness, the Mardi Party pictures are uploaded and waiting to be witnessed. See what you missed?

Laissez les bons temps rouler

February 4th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Lights of Euphoria: Queerschnitt

It’s time for a big, week-long party. I think I want to party. I do not need to party. But when the party is in your front yard, it’s difficult to work and therefore, you must party. Fortunately, Mirko is coming into town to help set the party mood–as are a number of friends. w00t! Headlong, debauchery!

Passing the (Young) Buck

February 2nd, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Dirty Vegas: One

I’ve almost finished grading a batch of one to two-page student papers that I received last week. These are papers in which the students are to find an argument and describe: (1) the advocate; (2) the primary audience addressed; (3) the central claim; and (4) the support the advocate marshals for the central claim. It is, I think, a very basic assignment that most of the students managed fairly well.

As they should. This class is an upper division undergraduate/graduate hybrid course designed to explore “advanced argumentation theory.” Frankly, I thought the assignment would be beneath the capabilities of the class. This is not true.

Indeed, over half of the papers submitted are so rife with basic subject-verb agreement problems, incorrectly documented sources, and mechanical snafus that it has taken me over eight hours to mark them up. I’ve found myself writing on a number of them, “you have serious writing problems that you need help with before you graduate. This is not college level work.” I’ve written this before on student papers, but never on this many.

I’m feeling both guilty and angry. I’m feeling guilty because over the past two years here I think I have taught mostly the kind of upper-division courses that provided a buffer, as it were, from working on these kind of writing issues with students. One of the major shifts from graduate studies to the professoriate concerns precisely this new layer of buffering: once faculty, we are no longer “in the trenches” working with students on basic skills. It is widely known collegse, especially state colleges, are now training students in basic, often rudimentary competencies, as this training is no longer possible in many high school programs (and don’t get me started on Louisiana public schools . . . .).

I’m feeling angry too, angry that my colleagues in other courses–all those who have had my students previously–have let the student get to the point of graduation virtually illiterate. I’m angered that no one before me has ever told a student, “this is not college level work.” Whenever I write this on a student’s paper, for the most part, I expect to see them in my office quite unnerved. They usually explain they’ve never had a problem writing, that they’ve soared through classes at LSU and in high school without ever encountering resistance, and that I am the first one to ever bring it to their attention. One student last semester told me I was insane, and that I simply misunderstood “creativity.”

And—I don’t even consider myself a great writer either! I’m a “B” writer at best myself.

[sigh] I know this is a tired conversation among my commrades in English Composition. I know they take a lot of shit from their self-proclaimed betters who are free to examine the purity of literature (from a Marxist vantage, of course, a vantage that masks the true party affiliation . . . ).

I’m ambivalent about this. I don’t fault the student.

So I am guilty, for not having assigned more writing, for not doing what apparently only a handful of others are willing to do. And I’m angry that I have the perception (hopefully, unfounded) that there is only a handful of the professoriate who are willing to say to a student, “this is unacceptable and you need help.”

Ok, I need to get to school. Big day today, and a panel response to write tomorrow.