Hip Grit Fills Seats I'm currently considering responding to an email I got that announces a book signing by Denise Uyehara, who according to this email is "a pioneering performance artist, one of the first to explore Asian American queer subjectivity through performance." The post, destined to be satirical in nature, would mainly be about how ineffective academic advertising is, how closely it resembles parodies of itself. For instance, Uyehara's website bills a previous show, "Hello (Sex) Kitty: Mad Asian Bitch on Wheels"--which I'm sure really has, in the words of the Metro's karaoke-loving music editor Todd Inoue, "enough hip grit to attract fans of poetry slammers" to make "sensitive people of all colors...shi(f)t in their seats"--as one that "excites all the genders to laugh, talk and respect each other." That sort of hip grit won't fill up the shi(f)t-filled seats of any auditorium... So, you ask, why wouldn't I consider posting something about Uyehara? The answer is obvious: I don't want people thinking I'm a homophobe. I've already got Some Gay Guy responding to what I write... ...but the real issue is--as Mrs. Acephalous mentioned to me this morning-- why all the film screenings and performances mass-mailed to various departmental listservs are about queer subjectivity in one form or another. Not that I mind queer subjectivity. In fact, I have 150 lbs. of queer subjectivity on my couch most every Saturday night.
Everything has its precedent... Everything has its precedent. As Erik Larson* notes in The Devil and the White City, one of the members of the workforce that built the legendary 1893 World's Fair in Chicago was a humble carpenter/furniture-maker by the name of Elias Disney, "who in coming years would tell many stories about the construction of this magical realm beside the lake. His son Walt would take note" (153). So as I sort of said, nothing is without precedent. So as I rail against the many offenses of the hippies and those who studied them, I want to acknowledge that nothing I say can capture the intellectual and emotional vacuity of the hippies near as well as a single sentence from Joan Didion's essay "Slouching Toward Bethlehem." If you had half a brain, you'd stop reading my sorry blog, punch up Amazon.com and get yourself a real education. What? You're still reading? I appreciate it. Dumbass. So, as Didion says, "We were seeing the desperate attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vaccum. Once we had seen these children, we could no longer overlook the vacuum, no longer pretend that society's atomization could be reveresed .... As it happens I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one's self depends upon one's mastery of language, and I am not optimistic about children who will settle for saying, to indicate that their mother and father do not live together, that they come from 'a broken home.' They are sixteen, fifteen, fourteen years old, younger all the time, an army of children waiting to be given the words." I read and re-read these lines, wondering how anyone could miss their import, and then it dawns on me: the people who should've recognized their import had--sort of ironically but really awfully--been trained to ignore these signals of idiocy. Instead we have linguists like Paul A. Eschholz blithely analyzing the wordlessness and, as Didion would have it, the conceptlessness of "hippic argot" as if it weren't something dangerous.** In his article "Freak Compounds for 'Argot Freaks," published in the Winter 1969 edition of American Speech, "largely as a result of the hippic movement, the last decade has witness not only a widespread resurgence of the wod freak, but also a curious mutation in the essence of the word itself. When long-haired, outlandishly dressed, drug-using hippies pilgrimaged to Haight-Ashbury in the early 1960s, they were quickly dubbed freaks; the perjorative appellation was both obvious and intended..." Blah blah blah. In the end, Eschholz would have us embrace the "bizarre fashion and popularity" of the redefinition of the word freak. And I, for one, won't stand for it. I don't care if "Newsweek in a small lexicon of 'now words' states that freak is 'sometimes the hippie ideal,'" or if its editors believe that "the adjective freaky is defined as 'quintessentially psychedelic,'" because, well because they're unwittingly enlisting American children into that army waiting to be...