Cultural Capital and Cultural Literacy

"Wonder Woman had some go-go boots!"

I feel that all the conversations we have today revolve around cultural literacy. I was at a party and all we talked about was TV, especially Mad Men. What is the point of displaying our cultural literacy? We have stopped living our own lives and now depend on the lives of fictitious characters to give our lives meaning. This is our secularized Protestant Revolution; Jesus is all around us, and always on TV, and often takes the humanly form of Don Draper.

In college, I had a friend, who any time the keywords "Halloween", "Wonder Woman", or "go-go boots" arose solely or in combination would immediately launch into a long description of a youthful Halloween costume she was very proud of. I had heard the story many times, and always found it frivolous and self-promoting. And now I find myself in many similar conversations. ____'s story of the go-go boots is like a haunting. This blog often delights in its cultural literacy, even if it aspires for something transcendent. I suppose this stops when one incarnates one's own piece of original culture, rather than bouncing around in the simulacrum.


“To do great work, you have to have a pure mind. You can think only about the mathematics. Everything else is human weakness...He wants to live this ideal. Now, I don’t think he really lives on this ideal plane. But he wants to.”



  • Cohesiveness: Degree to which the sample deforms before rupturing when biting with molars.
  • Density: Compactness of cross section of the sample after biting completely through with the molars.
  • Viscosity: Force required to draw a liquid from a spoon over the tongue.
  • Hardness: Force required to deform the product to given distance, i.e., force to compress between molars, bite through with incisors, compress between tongue and palate.
  • Fracturability: Force with which the sample crumbles, cracks or shatters. Fracturability encompasses crumbliness, crispiness, crunchiness and brittleness.
  • Gumminess: Energy required to disintegrate a semi-solid food to a state ready for swallowing.
  • Heaviness: Weight of product perceived when first placed on tongue.
  • Moisture absorption: Amount of saliva absorbed by product.
  • Moisture release: Amount of wetness/juiciness released from sample.
  • Dryness: Degree to which the sample feels dry in the mouth.
  • Wetness: Amount of moisture perceived on product's surface.
  • Mouthcoating: Type and degree of coating in the mouth after mastication (for example, fat/oil).
  • Roughness: Degree of abrasiveness of product's surface perceived by the tongue.
  • Slipperiness: Degree to which the product slides over the tongue.
  • Graininess: Degree to which a sample contains small grainy particles.
  • Smoothness: Absence of any particles, lumps, bumps, etc., in the product.
  • Uniformity: Degree to which the sample is even throughout.
  • Uniformity of Chew: Degree to which the chewing characteristics of the product are even throughout mastication.
  • Uniformity of bite: Evenness of force through bite.
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouthfeel


I recently went to a hip hop show paying tribute to producers DJ Premier & Pete Rock, who sat in opposing wicker chairs like hip hop royalty while artists played and sang their work. The closing song, and the one that got the most applause, was "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)", a eulogy for a friend, Troy Dixon (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Reminisce_Over_You_(T.R.O.Y.)). The crowd was singing along, and this song, more than any other, encapsulated the night.

Pete Rock in a 2007 interview with Village Voice:
I had a friend of mine that passed away, and it was a shock to the community. I was kind of depressed when I made it. And to this day, I can't believe I made it through, the way I was feeling. I guess it was for my boy. When I found the record by Tom Scott, basically I just heard something incredible that touched me and made me cry. It had such a beautiful bassline, and I started with that first. I found some other sounds and then heard some sax in there and used that. Next thing you know, I have a beautiful beat made. When I mixed the song down, I had Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School in the session with me, and we all just started crying."
The saxophone hook is infectious, and while not the "hardest" hip hop song ever created, T.R.O.Y. is a synonym for hip hop nostalgia. Fifteen years later, fans reminisce their own youth, their own upbringing (see lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/pete+rock+and+cl+smooth/they+reminisce+over+you_10204298.html). That was the thought I had, standing in the crowd, hands raised: "True school", or "old school" hip hop would always be a form of nostalgia because to feel it, you would have had to been touched in some odd way, the way Pete Rock was when he produced that beat. Not many experience the sensation, but those that do hold it with them through the transition to adulthood. The genesis of the transcendent hip hop moment inculcates repetitive listening behavior, like a two-bar saxophone hook or a classic verse. In that way, the generative hip hop moment is actually already and always a looking backwards, a repetition, a reminiscence.


google: "roy williams" and timeout


Fail Log: Bread

I started working at a bakery in August, and the production was hectic and quality frequently shoddy from the start. My co-baker happily left the bakery for semi-unemployment in October.

A month prior to his leaving, the bakery had received some comments saying that the bread was too dry. To alleviate this, we began baking the bread at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, hoping to trap more moisture in the loaf. This seemed to help the dried-out taste, but our loaves were still often messed up -- loaves that didn't rise enough, or that had a significantly amount of air holes or bubbles in them. When my co-baker left, the owner of the bakery decided to become my co-baker. He had typically found our doughs to be too dry, so during the mixing process, he was adding between 3-10% of water by weight. Also, because we were not selling enough bread, he decided to add day-old bread to the mix; this is a practice (commonly?) used in industrial baking -- the addition of a coarse meal to the dough. We were adding about 2.5% of meal by weight. This would ideally save the bakery some $ in ingredient costs. Well, for a month stretching from October into November, we were making some very funky bread, and when I say funky, I mean funky smelling. After 3-4 days, the added water in the bread combined with the shorter cook time at the higher heat meant that not all the breads were being baked sufficiently. This would cause the moisture in the center of the baked loaf to cause the loaf to ferment and mold quickly. Our loaves typically sit on a supermarket shelf for up to a week. Within days, these loaves were going bad, and some were bad and doughy in the center from the start. At first, the coarse meal, or day-old bread was suspected as the culprit. But given the lack of quality control at the bakery, it was weeks before this practice was ended. But then, the bread continued to be fucked up, which was both embarrassing, and bad for business. The bakery received complaints. At that point, the general manager told us to go back to the way we were baking previously -- a longer bake time at a lower temperature. Now the loaves are more or less normal. It was only yesterday that I realized what the problem was from the start: prior to my arriving at the bakery, the recipes, which had been used for years, and possibly decades, were monkeyed with by the owner. Then, these largely untested recipes were assumed to hold well for every batch size. The recipe book was updated. As far as I knew when I started working, the old orange recipe binder contained the same recipes as the new, but it was old, worn out, and created with a poorly formatting version of Excel (like from '98?). I only found out in the last week that the recipes had been changed in the recent past. And so yesterday, I sat down with the two recipe books only to find that for every dough, the water content was higher in the old recipe book. This meant that the problem from the start with the dry loaves was not the cook time or temperature; it was that the recipe didn't call for enough water relative to the other ingredients. We have been adding an additional 5-7% of water by volume, and due to the guesstamation process, some of that adding comes during the middle/end of the mixing process, when the addition of water can leading to overmixing and too-strong or too-wet doughs which in turn lead to small, undesirable loaves, sometimes with air holes or bubbles in them.

So the short version is that, in the end, it was the recipes' fault. We are in the process of retranscribing the old recipe book, which is yellowed, scrawled upon with notes, and covered with crud. Once this happens, the doughs should be mixed properly from the start, with little seasonal variation relative to the humidity of the air.


I Study Virutal Worlds

As you may know, the Social Science Research Council has just announced six areas for the Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) Program. The areas are:

After Secularization: New Approaches to Religion and Modernity
Discrimination Studies
Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Contentious Politics
Spaces of Inquiry
Virtual Worlds, and
Multiculturalism, Immigration, and Identity in Western Europe and the United States


Fail Log: 6 Degrees of Facebook

I had the idea that one could use the mutual friends network to find how you were connected to anyone on Facebook (celebrities, people worth stalking, etc.). Also, if you wanted to find a contact in the Justice Dept to get the lowdown on a job you're applying for, maybe that person is only a couple of degrees of separation away from you, etc. It turns out that a Facebook app like this has been written, and you can only see the mutual friends of the people using the app. So you would need millions of users before it becomes useful (this app only had 300).

yea son

I Thought I Had Seen It All

I thought I had seen it all. A misanthropic sociologist. A nurse who couldn't take care of herself. Public health students who drank and smoked cigarettes. A baker who couldn't bake. And now finally, a restauranteur who eats none of the in-house food (is it a health thing? I wonder). She literally has no idea how the soups, sandwiches, and bread tastes; she hasn't tried the food in more than a decade, if ever.


El Aleph

Michelet on the French Revolution:

"That day...everything was possible...Future became present...that is, no more time, a glimpse of eternity."


_________ Handbook Table of Contents

Area codes / Atlantis / Barcode / Binary / Box stores / Cell phone towers / Cryptozoology / Cul de sacs / Dewey decimal system / El Dorado / Frontier / Flags / Franchises / Geodesic dome / the Law of Superlatives / Monorail / Miniature Golf / Municipalities / Power Lines / Pizza Hut / Pay Phones / Pneumatic Tubes / Reservoirs / Shopping Malls / Suburbs / Satellites / Street Lights / Street Names / Semaphore / Trap Streets / Trolleys / Weather / Zip Codes

Forthcoming here.

Royal Flush -- "Worldwide"

i always thought "don't provoke and getcha team smoke for broke and no joke" was "don't provoke and get ya teeth smoked..."


Fail Log

I recently tried to do some more creative writing. I would start with a specific memory, and engage in stream-of-consciousness writing while continuing to picture that memory or detail. It often helped to to put that memory in motion, just as it's easier to picture someone moving than simply trying to picture their face. I hit off about fourteen pages of decent stuff, but then lost interest; then, the writing was forced and the voice inauthentic, the flow no longer captivating. It is also painful to travel back to old memories.



Detection & Rhetorics of Evidence

Instructor: Barry F. Saunders

Detection engages the problem of the hidden—criminal disguises, buried treasure, coded meaning, invisible particles—and thus involves modes of conjectural, hypothetical knowing, and histories of curiosity. It also involves rhetorics of evidence and practices of proof. These problems and practices are as ancient as reading—e.g. of animal tracks, and signs of divine intentions.

Detective stories as such arose in the nineteenth century, in metropolitan settings that connected police work (and its limitations) with new popular enthusiasms for comparative anatomy, Egyptology, cryptography, and other projects of reconstructive knowing. These developments were contemporaneous with the consolidation of important new modes of medical diagnosis. This course develops these historical contexts along with some critical dimensions of detective literature and films—and of medical/scientific modes of finding, knowing, and showing. Half the course hours will be shared with 8 second-year UNC medical students.

Course texts may include selections from: stories by Poe, Doyle, Dennis Potter; Benedict, Curiosity; Detienne & Vernant, Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society; Ginzburg, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method; Gall, On the Functions of the Brain…; Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, & The Order of Things; Benjamin and others on the flâneur; Bennett, The Birth of the Museum; Sekula, “The Body and the Archive”; Rosenheim, The Cryptographic Imagination; Muller & Richardson, The Purloined Poe; Taylor, Hiding; Peirce on abduction; Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; Zizek, Looking Awry; Montgomery, How Doctors Think; Burney, Bodies of Evidence. (List is partial & provisional…)


ENGL 785.1 Proseminar in Lit. after 1870: “Posthumanism”
Prof. Matthew Taylor
TTh 12:30-1:45

Course Description
Although the posthuman frequently is associated with current or near-future
developments in cybernetics and immersive virtual realities, the idea that
we might benefit from expanding the boundaries of our bodies (and thus our
selves) is both centuries-old and inclusive of a range of traditionally
technophobic discourses, from aesthetic romanticism and transcendentalist
metaphysics to the deep ecology movement and critical animal studies. With
this broad definition in mind, our course will survey major statements in
“posthumanist” literature, painting, film, web media, and philosophy from
the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries; address the differences
and similarities between popular and critical posthumanisms; reflect upon
posthumanism’s political and ethical implications; and ask what futures, if
any, the posthuman might have.

We will consider the following: short fiction by Edgar Allan Poe and Franz
Kafka; H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau; William Gibson’s seminal
cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer; Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2, a meditation on
the metaphysics of artificial intelligence; STELARC’s transhumanist
website; Peter Høeg’s recent The Woman and the Ape; select paintings by
Francis Bacon; Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg’s A.I.; and Werner
Herzog’s Grizzly Man. Likely theorists/philosophers to be included: Donna
Haraway, Giorgio Agamben, Bruno Latour, Michel Serres, Gilles Deleuze and
Felix Guattari, Cary Wolfe, and N. Katherine Hayles.


“Histories and Theories of Sexuality”
Comm 849: Seminar in Cultural Identity, Spring 2010
Weds 5-8pm, Hamilton 150
Rich Cante

Focus: major redirections of “post-identitarian” anglophone political thought since queer theory and, in particular, during the past few years.

Readings (NOT in this order):
Bataille, Erotism
Berlant, Intimacy (selections)
Bersani and Phillips, Intimacies
Braidotti, Transpositions (excerpts)
Butler, Bodies that Matter (excerpts) & Precarious Life (excerpts) & Undoing Gender (excerpt)
Chauncey, Gay New York (excerpt)
Cixous, Insister of Jacques Derrida
D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity”
Dean, Unlimited Intimacy
Deleuze, Pure Immanence: Essays on a Life
Derrida, “Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas” & “ A Word of Welcome”
Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I am
Derrida, “Circumfession”
Derrida, HC for Life , That is to Say…
Duttmann, At Odds with AIDS (excerpt)
Edelman, No Future
Ferguson, Aberrations in Black (excerpt)
(viewing) Fellini, Roma
(viewing) Fellini, Satyricon
Foucault, The History of Sexuality: Volume I & Volume II & Volume III
Fuss, Identification Papers (excerpt)
Halperin, What Do Gay Men Want?
Kunzel, ed., Queer Futures (issue of Radical History Review, selections)
Lacan, Seminar on Transference
Love, Feeling Backward (excerpt)
Miller, Bringing Out Roland Barthes & Place for Us
Parker and Halley, eds., Writing Since Queer Theory (issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, selections)
“Plato,” Symposium
Puar, Terrorist Assemblages
Scott, “The Evidence of Experience”
Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (excerpts) & Tendencies
Warhol, Philosophy of Andy Warhol (excerpt)


Ideas for free

We need some DJ to juggle Greg Nice vs Barack Obama going "ah oui oui" vs. "ah wee wee". Barack says it at 0:52, Greg Nice says it at 0:49.


Comm 842 Seminar in Performance and Cultural Studies: Surveillance, Simulation, Spectacle

In this course we will be studying surveillance, simulation, and spectacle as modalities of performance. While Foucault defined disciplinary society in opposition to Debord's society of the spectacle: "Our society is not one of spectacle, but of surveillance," and Baudrillard famously told us to "forget Foucault," how might we think these as three distinct but intertwined elements of a performance assemblage? If we are, as Deleuze suggests, in a "society of control," then what can we make of how we are differently positioned as (not) performers: in surveillance, where we are cast as the coerced performer, in a society of the spectacle where are positioned as the entranced audience, and in the culture of simulation where there is only the second order of reality of the theatrical occasion? In addition to the core texts by Baudrillard, Debord, and Foucault, we will look at a broad range of sites where these technologies operate as fundamental elements of daily life, as well as how performance as a mode of "rupture" provides a possibility of thinking their destabilization as operations of power.

Required Readings to Include:
Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation
Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Deleuze, Postscript on the Societies of Control
Hartman, Scenes of Subject: Slavery and Self-making in 19th Century America
Andrejevic, Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched
Retort, Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War
Ngai, Made In China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace
Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture
McDonough, Guy Debord and the Situationist International (selections)
Levin, Frohne, and Weibel, CTRL [Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother (selections)
Duncombe, Dream: Reimagining Progressive Politics in the Age of Fantasy

Tony Perucci, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



"Constant, unabiding consistency in approach and patience and firmness in the utmost."



"The charmed life is about finding feelings where you thought they didn't exist, and religions among the godless. The charmed life is about reflecting on the meaning of 'french sevens'."


National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Anne Truitt

Alberto Giacometti

Also a grid by Agnes Martin that I couldn't get a photo of.


WS 240 Critical Genealogies: US Studies After American Exceptionalism
Spring 2010
Professor Robyn Wiegman
M 10:05 am- 12:35 pm

In recent years, there has been a conscious effort to redefine "American Studies" in global perspective, leading many scholars to focus not on the mythic over-reach of "America" but on the undertheorized nation-state form figured as the "United States." Much of this work has set itself against Cold War exceptionalist paradigms, repositioning the place of US Studies in relation to both area and identity knowledges on one hand and comparative nationalisms on the other. This course will focus its attention on the challenge of forging an internationalized approach to the US an object of study through four points of intervention. The first concerns resituating the history of the formation of the US outside national narratives of self-becoming. One important way to do this is to consider European colonial contestations over "New World" lands, resources, and people as the eviscerated global history in which the US as a specific entity emerged. The second intervention arises in the comparative reframing of nation-state formation, such that we interrogate the strange ways in which the study of the US in the US university has come to be posed against, even opposite to the "international." The third entails analyzing the various emergent paradigms that seek to turn the study of the US outside of itself, including the post-national, transnational, trans-Atlantic, diasporic, bordered, hemispheric, international, and global. And the fourth requires returning to the "origins" of American Studies in the U.S. university to consider the condition of post-nationality as, paradoxically, the precondition from which "American American Studies" was organized. Throughout the course we will specify what is now called "American American Studies" by paying attention to scholarly discourses and critical projects that arise in studies of the US from around the world.
The Center for Global Studies and the Humanities presents:

De-colonial Aesthesis: A Workshop

The Thesaurus Dictionary offers these definitions of Aesthesis:

aesthesis - an unelaborated elementary awareness of stimulation; "a sensation of touch"esthesis - sensation, sense datum, sense experience, sense impressionperception - the process of perceiving

limen, threshold - the smallest detectable sensation
masking - the blocking of one sensation resulting from the presence of another sensation; "he studied auditory masking by pure tones"

visual sensation, vision - the perceptual experience of seeing; "the runners emerged from the trees into his clear vision"; "he had a visual sensation of intense light"
odour, olfactory perception, olfactory sensation, smell, odor - the sensation that results when olfactory receptors in the nose are stimulated by particular chemicals in gaseous form; "she loved the smell of roses"

gustatory perception, gustatory sensation, taste, taste perception, taste sensation - the sensation that results when taste buds in the tongue and throat convey information about the chemical composition of a soluble stimulus; "the candy left him with a bad taste"; "the melon had a delicious taste"

auditory sensation, sound - the subjective sensation of hearing something; "he strained to hear the faint sounds"

synaesthesia, synesthesia - a sensation that normally occurs in one sense modality occurs when another modality is stimulated

Since the eighteenth century, in Europe, the meaning of the word became associated with “the sensation of the beautiful” and with artistic labor. Art and sensation of the beautiful became synonymous.

From the perspective of the colonies, both concepts and practices were on the one hand alien and on the other hand were instruments for the management of subjectivity (e.g., coloniality of being). These “feelings” never died and today they are erupting in both artistic expressions and in art/literary criticism and history.

(Light dinner will be served)


Cash Money Millionaires



Ideas for Free

Mad Men parody where the copywriters are writing the headers and content for spam messages.


chow yun fat from "a better tomorrow" (1986)


Oil Can -- "Waves and Spurts"

My other job is at a big box bookstore selling DVDs and CDs. Starting about a year ago, I noticed a behavioral characteristic of the shoppers. We would have slow to mediocre sales, and then a shopper would come in and drop $150-200. Very few people bought two or three CDs. It was like one, or six. Partly, this behavior can be attributed to the substitution of hard copy CDs and DVDs for internet streams, torrents, youtube videos, etc. But partly, I would attribute this to the economy. Save austerely, and then treat yourself, like an Alaskan survivalist making his/her twice-yearly trip into Anchorage. ___ has said that it is decreasing inventory due to decreased sales. Last night, for instance, I had all of five transactions, and sent the last two Dizzy Gillespie solo albums we had in stock back to the warehouse. When you fully deplete an artist's catalogue at ____, you have to remove the cardstock label that sits behind the CDs. That was emotionally difficult in the case of Dizzy.

I was on a plane last weekend, speaking with a Duke University Investment Officer in charge of monitoring and selecting vehicles for their endowment. He thought after last November, we were headed for a total market crash. And this guy had studied with Ben Bernanke and Paul Krugman at Princeton. So he said that he took lightly the phrase, "green shoots", and thought that the government greasing up the money supply with low interest rates doesn't solve the question of where an economy can grow when 70% of that economy is based on domestic consumption and most of those consumers are heavily indebted.

So what is the lesson here? Companies suspended orders last December, "wait and see". Then, simply to go back to baseline demand without drawing down their inventory too heavily, companies made orders in the Spring. Chinese companies drew down their inventory/glut over the Spring/Summer, and now are hiring again. But does this foretell growth, or stagnation?


Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 7

Pete Campbell: You ever been hunting, Peggy?
Peggy Olsen: No, I don’t think so.
Pete Campbell: You either have or you haven’t. I went a couple of times. With my uncle. New Hampshire.
Peggy Olsen: I saw my cousin shoot a rabbit by Coney Island.
Pete Campbell: It’s an incredible sensation. You have to be very quiet. Take it down with the first shot or you scare it away. Then sometimes you have to go up and finish it off. Then you tie it to the bumper and go home. But do you know what I’ve always wanted to do? I would pick it up, throw its back legs over my shoulder, and I would drag it through the snow to this little cabin. And there, I’d hang it up between a couple of trees, cut it open, and drain it, dress it. Then I’d take my big hunting knife and I’d cut this loin right out the side. And I’d go into the cabin and there’d be this woman waiting for me. Standing by one of those old stoves with a big black pipe. And I’d hand it to her and she’d put it in a cast iron skillet and then I’d sit at the table. And she’d bring it to me. And I’d wipe my knife on my knee. And then I would eat it. While she watches.
Peggy Olsen: That would be wonderful.

Theme de Yoyo


Jung on Self-Analysis

“I should advise you to put it all down as beautifully as you can — in some beautifully bound book,” Jung instructed. “It will seem as if you were making the visions banal — but then you need to do that — then you are freed from the power of them. . . . Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your church — your cathedral — the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them — then you will lose your soul — for in that book is your soul.”

from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/magazine/20jung-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print

Terminator (1984)

(slow, but intense)
Listen. Understand. That
Terminator is out there. It
can't be reasoned with, it can't
be bargained with...it doesn't
feel pity of remorse or fear...
and it absolutely will not stop.
Ever. Until you are dead.

Sarah slump in utter resignation.

Can you stop it?

Reese doesn't look at her.

Maybe. With these weapons...
I don't know.



Chey wrote:
*Blake Mycoskie*
/ Wednesday, September 16, 7pm, Gerrard/
Blake Mycoskie is the founder of TOMS Shoes. TOMS SHOES started in 2006 and has helped 140,000 kids around the world. One of the most celebrated entrepreneurs of our generation, Blake has been lauded by Bill Clinton, Natalie Portman and Barack Obama. Come listen to Blake speak about social entrepreneurship and giving back

Yoyo wrote:

"Blake has been lauded by Bill Clinton, Natalie Portman and Barack Obama."


Blake wrote:


St. Louis

Howard Jones
Solo Two, 1966

at the mildred lane kemper museum


L'avventura (1960)

It's hard to know what to do, to sell you body or to admire the buttons on your dress, to kiss a bald man with a spotted tie or to sleep with him. The dome of San Marco was in the background, and we were discussing very serious things, like money, criss-crossing each other's path, when V with the checkered skirt came up and saved me and we left in the convertible, through the arch, around one side of the traffic circle, and towards inevitable sex.

V would sometimes make me feel guilty when I was having sex, but I knew she had no judgment, because she hadn't had sex with a man in 3 months, and was barely scraping by. The broker called down from his window and I went up, through the barred doors, and into his messy room (who knows how many he'd kissed there). I put my handbag down on the table and felt the breeze come up my legs on the balcony. He had a new suit and a square-edged tie but it didn't make me any more interested. When we fucked, I mostly did it for myself. I would stare at the curly-cue metal grating on his bed-stand and think of V. She had a tight ____ and even when the broker was banging me roughly I thought of her. V was a blonde with a thing for Armenians. She liked to walk in galleries to pick up foreign men, but inevitably left alone because she would scare them off, or vice-versa. She was more intimidating to men than she thought. Meanwhile, I was kissing the broker in the after-sex and thinking about the arch of V's heel.

The broker was taking us together to an island, for an adventure with a number of other game couples. The broker smelled like pussy and V said so under her breath on the car ride out. The dog (a chihuahua) smelled it too, and curled up with him while he slept on the boat. The broker was a big lug of testosterone, a human ball sack who needed sex like food and water, else he got irritable. Now, in the hours after sex, he was careless with his language, a little too crass even for V and me. I undressed and prepared to swim, leaping out into the wake of the boat in my new swimsuit with a trompe l'oeil flower over my pussy. The boat coaxed alongside as I swam, meandering among the craggy rocks of the island. The boys were going polefish diving while another couple had sex and tea in the downstairs living room. I began to feel more and more alone swimming; people refused to pay attention to me it seemed unless there was a crisis or a sexual encounter so I faked a shark attack, saying that it had grazed my bottom.
As I toweled down with V downstairs, I realized that it was probably wrong of me to have sex with V because she had only slept with a couple of men and I had taken advantage of her the first time. She was getting older, I noticed. Her breasts were changing shape, though still attractive to me. I would never grow old, my pussy would never change shape, my hair would always be lush, my skin firm, supple, clear. The boys would age; the broker, he already had the skin of a seaman, and his penis was wilted and scarred.

V dressed in a throw. It was a big puzzle, V. What did she want? Would she settle down with me and be my mistress? The broker could be counted on for nothing but money and forgettable sex. I hope V never has to sleep with him. I've told her how scummy he is, but that might not matter. You can have all the knowledge in the world about a man, and still sleep with him despite that, for the words that he wields, the power and authority that comes with money and of being of the dominant sex. He might not know a plum from a passion fruit, but it doesn't matter, he has the touch that tells you he knows his way around a woman, and that makes the two of you familiar, comfortable, and it is better to be with someone than to be alone, even if he will never care for you or even fuck you the way that V can. And he will want to talk about his problems, and how he says he can't find a good girl, even to your face, and you know you should leave and then he will creep right in back of you and nuzzle in your ass and you will lose your train of thought and still be angry but not even know why. Men are like that, a Bermuda triangle of deception. The weather turned from sunny to cloudy, the sea got rough, and I went for a walk on the craggy island. Someone was having sex somewhere, maybe V, with one of the men on the boat. I could feel it with my feet on the rocks. 

That was why I had to leave. The broker slept with V already, I knew it. I could see it in the fold of his ass when she was around. Sex was all around us, where we least expect it. I can't believe V never told me. But what does it matter, it was just the broker, like a hat that you try on, except it was a man punishing your pelvis, you're holding onto the back of his hair, knotting your legs together, trying not to look at him in the eye and just think about V, about holding V's hair. He might not have even bothered to remove his tie with her. Just pulled up her dress, pulled himself out of his pants, and went to work, incarnating something that was meant to be forgotten.

They looked in the castle, they looked on the rocks, in the inlets, through the great stone faces, in their heels and black dresses, among the sea foam and stalactites and sea urchins. They looked pathetically, despondently, at the coming storm, the clouds tunneling forward as if they were generating their own wake. The broker tossed a boulder down the side of a cliff face. V thought she heard my voice, but it was one of the other women. The wind was really picking up.
The broker stepped out of nothingness, out of his swimsuit now. There were five of them, without V, and they didn't have a buoy for a brain between them, just a couple of straw hats and a short coat. V would stay, looking for me, even if it meant leaving the five others. This was about something more than just me, or the contrast of men and women and nature. They broke into the fisherman's hut, and by the bee-stung lips of V, things got awfully formulaic. The professor pulled a couple of stray hairs across his bald spot. The broker looked startled at a cross on the wall. The fisherman returned and pointed out dead beauties that had drowned on his little spit of land, and also where he kept his hard bread. The broker turned his back on V, and V in return did the same. She took off her coat, alternatively cold and warm, like a current running in a stream.

V slept, then awoke dreaming of sleeping with the broker. Her shoulders were bare, and the professor was sleeping in a chair upright. She took off her nightie, wrapped a blanket around her, and took a peek at the dawn. She knew I was out there, not dead or tossed up ashore among the crags and reeds.

She and the broker met with the clouded skyline in the distance, the wind whipping her face. I could have been hiding anywhere among the rocks, they said, looking solemn, preparing to give up on me. The fisherman and the broker traded words, bisecting the horizon. And through it all, the proceedings of the search, the helicopters, the police, the armed navy men, all I could think of was how horribly boring it was to be alive, how being alive was no consolation because the permanency of death was the only quick good thing that could be counted on, more reliable than sex. Yes, to be dead among the rocks was all I wanted, and if I had not gotten it done then and there, it would have happened sometime for me, like a flight that you miss that ends up crashing, but your flight eventually crashes too, at some point, whether you are putting your hair in curlers and you electrocute yourself, of you slit your throat rather than sleep with you girlfriend's husband. A thousand refusals. V was teetering and tottering on her feet, fairly shook up by my disappearance. The outline of her big blonde hair against the rocks and the skyline, I wanted to tell her that it was all a lie, that I hadn't jumped to my death on purpose, that I had known how close to come to the edge, but then went a little further and lost my balance, and figured that you or the broker would be there to save me, but now this, this catastrophe that actually was my aching desire, to rid myself of the circularity of my life, to blame it on a little fisherman boy that hadn't actually pushed me because I wouldn't sleep with him, or even give him a kiss. The broker knew why I did it. Because I was bored, tired, tired, so tired of being the center of attention because I didn't know any other way. Did I kill myself because he slept with V? Or because V slept with him, because he was able to find out about the arch of her foot? The broker had a long shadow following him, and he wanted to replace me now with V. He told her they were still searching for me. She tried to be interested, to care, but by now, a day or two later, the shock had already worn off and she was just back to being V, flighty, vapid, stunning, and troubling. She and the broker were quite cross with other, about whose fault it was, and how they could get from here back to sex, even if the sex had not been that good, it was a connection that they had had and now they had nothing, less than nothing now that I was dead. V was quite emotional about it, and the broker couldn't convince her otherwise, so he would follow her wherever her emotion led the two of them. The broker was already dead, he had already given his heart to one dead girl, and now he was going to try to penetrate V's mind with what remained of his emotion for me, to pierce her heart with the prosthesis of our affair. The complication for V was that she couldn't tell the broker that she had fucked me more times that he had, and that made things complicated. All around them, things reminded them of their connections to me, as if I was the top node, the queen bee of a hive of reality that disseminated from the time point at which I had died. V was beginning to transfer her lust for me to the broker, letting down block by mental block. And then, just when the broker thought that he was about to get in her pussy, she rejected the transference, and pushed him off the train at a country station.

The broker hadn't learned anything about women from the whole ordeal. V went back to her old life with her mother and rich friends, smoking cigarettes, and watching the sordid sex lives of those in her circle, humoring writers, and trying not to think about me. But in that veil of ignorance, a little thought crept up. Something the broker had said, about there not being enough time for any of us. She saw her girlfriends going with younger men, boys some of them. Was she aging? she thought. Was she any less beautiful than at nineteen? The broker had blinded her with compliments. Was he right, or did he want something else? Where was he now? I could go with younger men, V thought. I could wear a skimpy dress, and still pull it off. She looked at her image, and saw a color-blocked Cezanne, or an abstract Picasso, with three heads and too-large breasts, with the rotundity of the Red Queen, lips too big, neck too long, and too much pubic hair. Eyes glaring, she dressed. It doesn't matter, she thought, the broker will be back for me.

The broker and V didn't have much to do now but fuck. There was no longer any trace of me in their minds. It was almost mechanical. They were in the car, and crossed a number of bridges, and began to build something together, something that would last, they hoped, longer than either of their affairs with me. It was lonely and tentative starting anew, but they whitewashed the past, and found it harder to tap into their memories of me. V could scarcely remember the things we would do together. All there was for her now, she felt, was the broker. The broker, coming out of the darkness, illuminating her life, teaching her about her past, creating a revisionist history of their sexuality, tolling the bell of her orgasm, putting his mental machinery about me to work on V, her ears, her face, her eyes, her lips, her hair. It felt so good, in that moment, an orgasm like a truck backing up through her pelvis, the sleep afterwards the first real sleep that she'd had since before the island.

He left her after that, coldly, mechanically, sterilizing the wound he had opened up with an abrupt turn. He tried to say otherwise, but she knew it was over. A cup of coffee, V? Shall we get married? The broker liked architecture in a bourgeois way. He saw V as a great work of art. The broker had been trained to admire, to practice his bourgeois affectations, and that included those on innocents such as V. He had an agility to his charms and seductions that V could never replicate or counter. All she had was that hair, and the art that she emulated. Her art, his artifice, they were quite a couple, but without me to mediate the two, they were selling themselves just enough rope to stitch a spider's web. There is no ecstasy of the spider, only automatic relations upon a vibrating surface, an auto-catalytic process of orgasm, she in a housemaid's dress, he in his suit, a voluptuousness of a bell continuously ringing, flowers always abloom, no outside to the act of euphoria, their shadows refracted through a mirror and blotting out the sun. He didn't stay for coffee, and left her on the tile floor.

He was inside V's mind now, they were both inside the prison house, the labyrinth where casual lovers go to perish, where they refuse to be seen with commonplace people, where shadows of death are cast across their backs without the slightest hint of recognition. Everyone knew V's dirty secret, that she's been banging her dead best girlfriend's lover. I can barely feel V's heartbeat now, so faint it is. Where are your principles now, V? She attempted to act out the broker's fantasies, to be alluring and sexy, never knowing that what attracted him to her was her innocence, his desire to defile her. V took off her shirt self-consciously and he ignored the cue, instead petting her face and tucking her into bed like a child.

Hidden from V was the fact that the broker had already cheated on her. She could not sleep. The anxiety was too great. She had become the sexualized object that he wanted, but her desires were out of his control. She searched for him among the genealogy of their past just as she had searched for me on that island, fruitlessly. Instead of a dead body washed up to shore, she saw a sad middle-aged man kissing a prostitute on a hotel sofa. As the broker cried (is there anything more pathetic?), V saw the stain I had left on him, and this moved her to place five fingers on his head, to accept him and her debasement in the face of infinitude.


One of my favorite things about Dash was always his unconscious moving hand. He would be sitting there smoking cigarettes, writing his tag in the air without being aware of it.
-- ryan mcginley on dash snow, from vice magazine

My Department Chair's Signature

"Don't take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be thevictim of needless suffering."-don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements (1997)

Howard E. Aldrich, Kenan Professor
Sociology Department, CB#3210
University of North CarolinaChapel Hill, NC 27599-3210
web page address - http://www.unc.edu/~healdric/

Say It Ain't So, Chow Yun-Fat

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B C -- "There are no other things (but music)" / April in Alaska

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Passion of Joan of Arc / The Cross and the Spike

Renée Jeanne Falconetti

A horny man with a diamond pendant looks at a captivating nineteen-year-old girl in leg shackles.

In the presence of this girl, he sees the crack through which one could perceive the opening to the world. For behind her teeth, she understands the pleasures of an insanity brought on by religious devotion and entrusting one's soul to the Lord.

The air inside a man's skullcap; the spears held by guards; a cross in the window; the ring on her finger; her lips sing the Lord's prayer; she wears a crown of thorns and holds an arrow.

"Alert the executioner!"

And then they cut her hair. And then they beat her until she could not believe she had been sent by God. And still Christ followed her, like a servant, to her martyrdom. There were twenty-six doves present at her immolation. The smoke remained afterwards like a shadow over all Rouen.