Monday, 01 May 2006

Non-Eclectic Eclecticism In response to comments on Friday's Random Ten, I wonder if the class would like to discuss why so many academics have such similar taste in music. Dr. Virago, Belle Lettre, Lauren, Craig and Jon all correspond to different colors in the leftist intellectual rainbow. Yet if they ask their portable .mp3 players to speak they do so with one voice. (Which apparently sounds much like Jeff Tweedy's circa Summerteeth.) How is it that thinkers who pledge allegiance to Green have the same taste in music as those who espouse undying love of Blue? And what are we to make of the Reds and the Yellows? How did this strange state affairs come to be? Common roots? Were we outcasts all in high school? Does reading too much at too young an age predispose us to love of Morrissey and "alternative country"? An article about Morrissey's wild popularity in Mexico claimed that Mexicans love him because of the melodramatic ambiguity of his lyrics.* Is that why we love him? "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" [edited to refelct the fact that I confuse the lyrics with the title of that song] moved my adolescent heart via its elegant and articulate bombast. Why did it cause yours to skip a beat? Why does the answer to that question have anything to do with Theory? I'm not sure. But perhaps we can tease out some sub-sub-sub-cultural distinctions which will account for our apparent similarities in musical taste. Do those who favor theoretical eclecticism tend more toward experimental music? Or do they also have a soft spot for Springsteen's working class epic "The River"? Why (hypothetically) can they abide by Morrissey but not Springsteen? &c. *At a concert in Arizona, Morrissey told the largely Latino audience that they could stay for the concert but would have to return to Mexico at its conclusion. As Gustavo Arellano noted, "Only one white man in the world—and he's not the Pope—can tell a group of Mexicans in the United States to return to Mexico and not only avert death, but be loved for saying so."
Why Deaf Men Are Breast Men [Two posts written while Typepad writhed: "Get Your Pretty Tired Act!" and "I Don't Speak Neanderthal, But . . ."] Tonight I want to talk to you about staring at women's breasts. I do it all the time. I'll be standing there talking to a woman only to be stricken by the sudden and irresistible urge to stare at her breasts. She'll register her discomfort by pulling her lapels close or yanking her plunging neckline chin-high. Then she'll become intensely interested in objects in the general vicinity of her feet. But I won't let that deter me. I'll continue to stare at her breasts until she won't be able to take it anymore and informs me in tones of suppressed outrage that she had some important elsewhere to be fifteen minutes ago. Then she'll never talk to me again. Such is the experience of the deaf man in America today. When the eyes of a hearing man break contact and wander south, the obvious conclusion is the correct one: he is staring at her breasts and she is justifiably uncomfortable. When a deaf man who relies on verbal cues and lip-reading to converse lets his eyes drift south of his conversant's, he stops at her lips. (You can tell because if he didn't—that is, if he actually stared at her breasts—he would have no clue how to answer whatever it is she would have said to him while he indulged in some "covert" sexism.) Why mention this in the one forum this commonplace of deaf life will never make anyone uncomfortable? Because I've acquired another rude habit: Talking to people while wearing headphones. People who know me—for example, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barry Siegel—won't bat an eye when I talk to them with my headphones on because they'll know that I'm reading their lips and not paying attention to the music. They'll know that I'm so invested in the conversation that I've forgotten that I have the headphones on and have merely neglected to remove them. But other people—for example, the inimitable Gay Talese—will look at me horrified as I chat with Barry without removing my headphones. His eyes will rebel against the solipsistic impertinence of youth culture he detects in my actions. I register his discomfort but, blinded by reputation and desperately trying to impress him, I won't understand what it is I've said that so offends him. I'll rifle my brain for the offensive statement the entire walk home and come up empty. Only later that night, as I force myself to stop thinking about the events of the day, will I realize what I've done. And then? So much for sleep.

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