Category Archives: Everything is Academic

Conceptualizing Groupies, Bad Boys, Wonderbread and Water Sports.

In theory, I am writing a chapter proposal on Bad Girls this weekend. Whether or not this will come to fruition is a question that will best be answered on Monday. When the proposal is due.

My academic career and research curiosities (okay, so that comes out really badly) have led me to skirt around the subject on a number of occasions, riffing off of the stories of Lilith, the Queen of the Night, assorted fairy tales, video characters and Diamanda Galás at various times. There exists a thread between these fictional and real women, but I’ve never attempted to suss it out clearly, and I am not certain that what the call for critical responses to the “bad girl” in popular culture is looking for is this binding. I have the shape, the notes, but not that…whatever it is the yanks this together (that isn’t Benjamin).

(Before I move on. Diamanda Galás: “This is the Law of the Plague” and “Skótoseme“. Oh, hell…”Do You Take This Man“, for sport, particularly if you want to go for something more…straight. And the last two are with John Paul Jones. Plague Mass is also worth a listen. You’re welcome.)

Certainly there are elements of the big theme–redemption–is here, though that goes in dozens of directions (though, having typed it…this could be the starting point I was looking for. Violent redemptions. Redeeming bad girls–or not, as is the case so frequently, etc. ACK! I know what the damn thread is! I knew I’d find it if I stopped looking).  I was looking for a story about Joan Jett that I ran across a dozen or more times in the punk oral histories, and damned if I can’t lay hands on it this time.

What I kept returning to as I worked through an outline without the hook (I knew I should freewrite) was the narrative of the groupie.  I even reread parts of Roxana Shirazi’s book, Last Living Slut, reminding me just how degradation was framed throughout. Specifically, I reread a scene I have written about before (misspellings and all), when she depicts encouraging Synyster Gates to urinate on her breasts. (N.B.: Piss is apparently a theme for them. There is something here to unpack, but I suspect it ends around egotistical assholes who know how to play the roles. I swear, if the porn remark on the second link doesn’t scream “no, really, trying to be bad boy,” I’m not sure what does)**. She describes them, on the one hand, as so frightening that she can’t look at their pictures for long, particularly Shadows’ (Matt, though the stage name does seem relevant here). She does note that “though their look seemed aggressive at first glance, their reputation for excessive behavior unfortunately reeked of public-relations press release” (171).  See also, “World’s Most Dangerous Band” motifs.

Though she twice uses “serial killer” to describe one or more members of the band, she also uses “instant cake batter”, “cute as puppies” and “soft, Cheerios-fed, California beach boys,” which may be my favorite description ever. Brian gets an additional nod toward “blue collar machismo” (which is interesting in light of the rest of the chapter). With respect to Matt, she later remarks “[his] face was actually less of that of a ravaged serial killer than that of a lovely little boy. That damn marketing department didn’t do them justice” (173).  I’m still trying to figure out the ravaged serial killer bit–that marketing department (and the band) was never unaware–no matter the characterizations–of the, um, attractiveness of the band members (for the love of Pete, you need only see them once to recognize that they are perfectly aware of it too. Watch Brian identify the young ladies who are seeing the band for the first time. Trust me, he can. He flirts shamelessly and wins their hearts. Every. Single. Time. Man knows how to perform. Then there is that vocalist and his dimples. He can get away with pretty much anything with just a smile. I feel certain he’s known that since childhood).

The chapter’s structure seems to bear some of the dichotomy of bad boy/wonderbread out: Brian and Roxana go off alone, engaging in an act neither have done before and subsequently return to the bus in silence.  Her following descriptions of her infantilize him: “He was mumbling, and I just wanted to hold his hand and tell him it would be okay” (179). Here, she sees herself entirely empowered in the situation–he is merely following her lead. He subsequently disappears only to return in a bizarre…not sure what to call it here…Brian ex machina?  He stands at this point as the confirmation of the archetypal PR-created bad boy (heart of gold near the surface, of course) that she thought they would be in the first place.

He comes of as so much the little boy, which was, I suspect, the point, particularly as he serves as the foil to the Rev in the next scene. While the first scene was shrouded in sort of privacy–though outside, they were alone–this sequence is public (even though on the bus). She follows the Rev and her friend Lori upstairs… I can’t do justice to this paragraph in summary, so…here:

I can only describe what ensued in the next half hour as nerdy frustration. The Rev tried to fuck me while the singer, M. Shadows, watched [***]. When Synyster showed up, though, The Rev’s dick died. He kept trying to fuck, but his dick was spaghetti limp. He tried to shove it in again and again. (179)

That “nerdy frustration” apparently comes out as a fairly violent, perhaps drug-induced assault on Roxana by The Rev. She grabs Lori and her clothes and leaves furious…”because I hadn’t got proper sex’ (180). I don’t even know where to start with this. The humorous: where exactly was Lori (who goes unmentioned between upstairs and exit)? Unless bus lounges have gotten somewhat less cozy, we’ve got a considerable number of people stuffed in here. Not going to touch the Magical Brian ™ arrival. And then there is the obvious thing–she brushes off having had her head slammed into the ground, angry instead at sexual frustration. Granted, I’m making a judgement here about how she “should” react–certainly she has her own agency, but it’s troubling, particularly as it is hardly the only denial of violence.

Also…nerdy?

I confess that my recall of her depiction was off–I thought she had described Matt in some detail during this scene (including some reference to the omnipresent aviators), but I apparently made that part up. Which means I am rewriting this book in my head. I’m not sure I want to follow that too much further.  But, now that I think on it…The Rev and Brian are both framed as little boys, aren’t they?  One is shy and mumbling in the face of her empowered self, and the other is an angry little boy who doesn’t get what he wants (and, to that end, she doesn’t either). The whole damn chapter is about children, isn’t it? Right down to Matt as “lovely little boy.”

How in the blue hell did I end up here?

Well, at least it’s getting research out of my brain and into the ether. Even if it is research I would never submit.

Though apparently I’ll happily post it publicly.

W.T.F.


*What are the corollaries for bad girls on this? I suspect there are more similarities that I was assuming at first blush. Bad Boys with hearts of gold are, after all, stock in trade.

**Important reminder: immaturity. Eye-rolling, remarkable, immaturity. One hopes this is at least partially self-aware caricature. Actually, it’s damn difficult to ever read Zacky through any other frame. As the world’s finest internet troll (retired), he knows something about how to stay in character.

***Fits nicely with the porn remark, yes? Straight on, dude.

Fangirls and Community

Weirdly, this post occurred to me as I finished Brad Warner’s Sex, Sin, and Zen last night, coupled with the exciting revelation that I get to go be a fangirl with some of my favorite fellow fangirls in April *bounce, bounce,* when Loaded plays the Revolver Golden Gods Awards Show (add to this Alice Cooper AND Avenged, how was I to miss???).  Anyway, I’ll get back to his book and his notion of the effect of personal choices within a community in a bit, but if I recall correctly, I was initially inspired by the realization that I am something of a Brad Warner fangirl (read all the books! link to his blog! *sigh*) and in that regard, fangirl possibly doesn’t mean in my head quite what it might once have.

Fangirl (per Urban Dictionary) [A/N– all spelling errors belong to the site/poster, not kitsch]:

A rabid breed of human female who is obesessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obesessions. 

I’m fond of the use of rabid here; good image, fits the rest of the definition, which seems to regard fangirls as a subspecies of Saint Bernard (read it again, am I wrong?).  I tend to use the term somewhat more loosely, as a female-identified fan of a particular stripe.  You sort of know us when you see us at a concert (yes, I have an lj, and yes, we’ll get to that in a moment).  We often travel in packs, it is true, and we are often a tad…let’s go with overwhelming to the uninitiated.  Couple of examples, all pulled from personal experiences:

At the Avenged show last month, I found myself, as my partner-in-crime observed, square in the ZackyV fangirl squad.  This was not, she also rather cheekily noted, an entirely incorrect placement, either (and not a bassist.  Who would have imagined?).  Now, I’m older than most of the denizens by a decade or more (man, that was horrible to admit–and older than the object of their affection by 6 years.  Ack), and while I sport a few tattoos, piercings, and dyed-hair, I’m afraid my particulars are rather tame in comparison to most of the girls that were in the area around me, owing to the realities of my calling (the industrial, visible tattoos, and penchant for wearing combat boots or Converse high-tops have probably pushed it about as far as I can go, though I would rock blue hair and a lip ring, thank you).  Now, for those of you who don’t congregate in General Admission pits, please note that I am not referring to the sort of lady who pitches her recently-shed thong (not footwear) on to the stage.  Or bra, if you were from an older, calmer era–about 1990.  Those are not fangirls; we have other names for them….like Roxana Shirazi (I kid).  Fangirls, at least the younger and more boisterous set, come equipped with signs that name the object of affection’s dogs (case in point:  “Icky for Prez”* was one that was spotted) and stuffed animals of various sorts.  While such items were certainly present in the ZV fanbase, I did find myself wondering what the group in front of stage left was like…I couldn’t see any of what was thrown at Syn, but I feel certain there were similarities.  Including signs about Pinkly (shut up. That one at least has an easy explanation for its placement in my brain).  And the pet thing…I’m pretty sure this random information collection habit is a holdover from my youth (I arguably reached stalker-like knowledge of the objects of my fangirl affection pre-internet.  Fangirls got it easy now, I tell you.).

More well-known around these parts is the fangirling over Duff and his various bands.  I’ve connected with other women (and men, but we’ll leave them off for right now) over Duff’s bands and Duff himself through various media, including (once upon a time) letters and (now) email, discussion boards, the comment section for Duff’s blog on Reverb, and in person over the years.  And while we embrace our inner teen divas when we rock out at concerts (yeah, much excitement right now), gone are the signs (mostly–they still crop up from time to time) and gifts are likely to be books from discussions or food, should there be any at all.  Giggling and screaming, admittedly, has probably not reduced by much.  Pack-level attacks, on the other hand, probably have, what with our far cooler adult approach to seeing the objects of our affection.

Hey, I managed to keep a straight face to write that!

Once upon a time, of course, I was one of those teen fangirls, complete with signs suggesting rather lewd behaviors (the lovely lady formerly known as CDR, should she read this AND remember any of those signs, is specifically forbidden to relay the contents of those messages.  Ahem.) and, probably, some sort of gifts.  I know I gave Steve Brown (Trixter) a photo album for his birthday one year–filled with live shots of the band (I think.  I don’t really recall what was in it now).  So, I get where the young fangirls were coming from, and I was amused and amazed at the similarities some 20 years on.

What I want to get at here is the formation of community–real, functioning communities–built around a shared adoration of a band/book/person/etc.  I’m utterly fascinated by the creation of such communities, their ability to self-sustain (or not), and the particulars of the communication strategies.

One other common feature of (some–YMMV) fangirls, and this is particularly visible now in communities,  is fanfiction.  Real Person Fiction, as such, has been around practically forever (I’m willing to hazard a guess that Farinelli had a good bit scrawled about him, never mind the fannish movie made in 1994.  Ah, stupid me–googled it.  There is fanfiction NOW about him.  Sheesh.).  I wrote (hideous) fanfiction as a teen, most of it band-related, along with those friends who participated in the same.  In those stories, we tended to work out our anxieties about growing up, about identity–and the band members functioned mostly as sockpuppets for whatever crisis we were attempting to work through at the time.  While I’m sure communities did arise out of such works, I first became aware of such communities only in my twenties, when a friend of mine joined a Xena community (I’m not sure how most of their exchanges were conducted, though.  One person subsequently self-published a novel from the community works, if I recall correctly).  I don’t write fanfiction anymore, but I do read it (as I’ve mentioned endlessly), and I participate at slightly more-that-lurker levels in some commenting areas, but the primary difference for me between now and then (other than identity establishment, maybe) is that I now have a shared language based on community (and to describe the fanfiction community as large would be a rather egregious understatement) standards and agreement, which means we all can more or less have a clue WTF the other person is ranting about.  The language includes an extensive vocabulary, rules–these are the most fluctuating**–and expectations of behavior from authors and commenter.  I’m also fascinated by the breadth of fandom–fiction, discussion boards, tumblr sites, and so forth (along with related expectations regarding ownership, censorship, and plagiarism); take a gander if you’ve not–it’s wild out there.

For the most part, the fanfiction of my youth, not unlike zines and DIY cassettes of the same period, was exchanged primarily through personal means–there was no large-scale publication that I am aware of, prior to the advent of online exchange.  Say what you will about fanfiction, there are serious communities that form around it, and those in bandoms are particularly interesting to me.   These communities form rules–some highly concrete (how to post, standards of exchange (banned words, slash/gen/het), ) and some more ephemeral–particularly in the portmanteaux that have become so common (Brangelina), the alliances behind which can cause some almighty arguments in communities*** (to say nothing of the One True Pairing fights) over what will be regarded as a canonical shorthand for a particular pairing; Glee fandoms have some of the best fights about them (personally, I still haven’t recovered from the advent of Puckleberry).  Like other online communities, the fangirl/fanfic communities have particular attitudes and, for lack of a better phrasing, flavor, based on the personalities of those involved and the participation level of the moderators (who deserve their own discussion).

To follow:  Some Communities are Self-Policing.


*Were Rikki sitting here, she would require the following confession, so in a spirit of honesty, she nailed me on the appropriateness of our placement in the pit when I translated the sign for her.  Her response was naught but a lifted eyebrow and a giggle.  At me.

**A recent occurrence, courtesy of one of my favorite fandom rant sites:  a lengthy debate over the necessity of trigger warnings and, more over, correct trigger warnings (that this debate mirrored one that happened at Shakesville was both astonishing and a bit heartwarming, though I tend to suspect there are more than a few of us in both communities).  The Supernatural fandom was particularly set afire by fics posted on this matter after episode 6.15.  That I am aware of the ferocity of the debate in that fandom is testament to how widespread it was (for that brief internet moment), since I am not a part of that fandom, though I do watch the show.

***We’ll leave off the various splinterings in fangirl communities over wives/girlfriends.  That, my friends, gets ugly.  Far more so than I care to touch, thankyouverymuch.  Like some of the stuff below, I feel certain the same existed in my own youth (I seem to recall some of it in conversations), but nothing like what I see online.  These debates seem particularly common on tumblr sites.

Drama Queens and Riot Grrrls

Apparently, according to my less-than-subtle subconscious, my mind regards me as something of a drama queen.  I’m not altogether surprised by this, mind you; I indeed fit the description from time to time.  However, I’m not sure I deserve what my brain chose for last night’s dream.  I mean, Rachel Berry?  Really?  I’m as bad as a teen drama queen from Glee???  Shopping for furniture? I figured out the Rachel Berry part–anyone with insight into dreaming about furniture shopping, feel free to analyze as you will.

For the record, I reject this characterization.  I am no Rachel Berry.

*********

Over the break, I read Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.  Now, I typically avoid books with the phrase “true story of,” unless I am buying a bit of true crime  schlock (since one knows more or less where the bias will lie with those writers), but I was intrigued enough by a relatively concise history of the movement from someone who was not busily trying not to be a leader of said movement (there was a fair bit of that–I understand why, but it often ended up clouding the situation needlessly).

For those who are left clueless or struggling to recall what in the world Riot Grrrl refers to at this point, here’s Kathleen Hanna’s manifesto for the movement and Allison Wolfe’s response to Marcus’ book, which provides further context.  Even from my limited perspective, Wolfe is correct in her assessment that there are some dissonant moments (I’m trying to recall which one made me stop and stare at a wall for about 10 minutes, trying to figure out if I had completely lost my mind in my recollection of the history of American punk, but it was apparently insignificant enough in the end that I neither wrong WTF? in the margin nor can I come up with what the factoid was.  Assume that the triviality of it is indicative of the level of geekiness involved here).  And, while I’m not altogether thrilled at the dismissal of those who “sold out,” that’s one of my personal irritations with much of punk, though, again, I get it.  And the dismissals are often veiled or incidental; Marcus notes, for instance, that

L7 played second.  The LA band–whose breakout album, Bricks are Heavy, would drop the following week–had recently founded Rock for Choice, an organization that sponsored benefit concerts to support abortion rights.  L7 was also the only group that hadn’t objected to MTV’s designs on the night. (116)

The “designs” to which Marcus refers was MTV’s request to film the show in question.  For Bikini Kill and Fugazi, in Marcus’ words

But it was still the organ of commodified youth culture, and true punks* would have nothing to do with it.  Plus, the channel wanted to install tracks for its camera in front of the stage, cutting off the audience from the musicians.  There could be no better metaphor for the sinister reach of the spectacle, trying to butt its way into the middle of a human interaction, to turn an authentic exchange of energy into debased image-production. (115)

I feel certain that it is obvious why L7 might have acceded to MTV’s request, with their album set to hit the market.  By 1992, the relationship between artist and MTV was fairly well sealed (though, one might argue, it would become both murkier and more problematic in coming years–I’m looking at you TRL).  I get the point–MTV in the middle (literally, in this case) of audience and artist does change the dynamic–it has to, insofar as the physical separation, and, of course, to whom do you play on stage–the human audience sweating in front of you or the camera’s eye for the audience at home?  That choice is not insignificant; even as far back as Pirandello we were aware of that distinction (I don’t have a copy of Shoot in front of me, or I’d quote the matter right now).   Cell phone cameras (video and otherwise) have likewise altered the dynamic, even if the means of production are no longer in the hands of the devil, er “organ of commodified youth culture”.

In the main, Marcus’ book is well worth the read, at least from where I sit.  I learned a bit of context I’d never gotten before, and I realized a few odd, odd connections.  Her analysis of the media’s representation of Riot Grrrl is particularly worthwhile and noteworthy.

As I wasn’t part of the movement (though, as they say, every girl is a riot grrrl), it was the media representation that I was first met with.  I didn’t even hear the term “Riot Grrrl” until around 1993, likely after I was pregnant with my son, despite living only 3 hours from one of the revolution’s epicenters–Washington D.C.   Part of this comes from cultural context; Riot Grrrl had a hell of a time laying tracks period, but in an area culturally subsumed by large military bases and the headquarters of the Christian Coalition, feminism had an odd role in my hometown.  And my own head, which was largely pointed toward “getoutofheregetoutofheregetoutofhere” up until I discovered I was pregnant, left something to be desired when it came to listening to what was going on around me–particularly if it was something I might have regarded as helpful.

Because, at it’s heart, it would have been–a group of people who saw the world in similar colors and shapes to me?  Yeah, that would have been quite the lifesaver at the time.  And the things the members of the movement were regularly accused of–manhating feminists and the like–yeah, I heard that.  Often.  Usually from football players, but not exclusively.  I heard it from teachers who thought I had no place in a Physics class and friends who thought that picking me up in the air when I had said no already or me–ardent feminist and self-avowed bitch that I was–barefoot and pregnant was the funniest thing ever.  It took me far more years that I think I want to admit to realize the levels of fucked up I was not to see how insulting that was.

But, in reading Marcus’ book, I see some of what my friends and I were doing was similar–even without the context of Riot Grrrl, not incidentally “Girls to the front.”  Ladies of my general age, tell me if this sounds familiar to you:

There they’d stand, planting their legs in broad Vs and linking arms with each other or balling their fists at their waists, daring anybody to challenge their right to the space [at the front of the stage] where moshing usually held sway. (124)

Mosh pits in my hometown were not as wildly violent as such could become, at least until Desert Storm.  There was, at least from where I was standing (up front, of course) a pretty significant change around that time, not surprisingly.  The most notable experience I encountered was not in a club, but at an arena–at a Guns N’ Roses show in 1991 (I’m sure I mentioned this before), where the pit got so violent that scores and scores of people were pulled out.  Had the few women in the pit been able to lock together (as we did in other situations–usually smaller venues–and often not so much to hold back moshing as to hold back the jackasses who were trying to feel us up), we might have collectively been able to hang on that time.  As it was, I ended up–by chance, by height, and by broad shoulders, to be the last female standing on my side–and that by the end of the opening band.  My much smaller friend had to get out far earlier, for her own safety.

Little things.  Little connections.

********

Finally, a funny.  The search term that led some poor soul to this blog recently: “gravity’s rainbow coprophagia.”  There’s meaning there somewhere, right?


*ARRRRGH.  True. Punks.  *bangshead*

Fan Fiction

Right, so, ignore the title for a spell.  We’ll get there.

Hi!

Couple of public confessions to dispense with (otherwise known as public self-flagellation, about which I know an immense amount–far more than is rational–due to ye olde dissertation and because I’ve a tendency to engage in it virtually myself):  First, I’m in a *bad* place right now–have been for a while (gee, ya think?) and I expect it will last a bit longer, but today’s a good* day.  The badness involves myriad pieces of unfortunate incidents and questionable choices on my part (partial read: decided to try the drinking experiment again.  Has gone better, well, until October’s attempt to avoid taking Oxycodone.  We’ll get to that bit of stupidity sometime I am sure).  Second, I owe myself a running update, so I’ll try to post that in the next couple of days, cause, damn, I ran the freaking miles, I should bother to brag about it (also, must show off new Vibrams.  Must.  Maybe I need to have a shoe blog.) Third, and finally,  the confession that titles this post.

I’ve been reading fan fiction.  A shit-ton of it, as a matter of fact.  And, yes, 90% of it really is that bad.  Indeed, I believe my time has made me a veritable connoisseur of the fantastically bizarre world of Internet Fan Fiction.  I can spot a quality piece in seconds (thank you 8 years of graduate education.  That Ph.D. is well-earned, thank you).  I am particularly good at sighting Remarkably Bad Fic–in large measure because that is what I have written myself over the years, when engaging in Fan Fiction (this would be one area of writing in which it is safe to assume that I’ve matured not one iota since my teen years.  Thankfully, I’ve sense enough not to publish any of my, er “work”).  Now, let us agree that Fan Fic can be very funny (especially the really angsty ones.  Good stuff right there).  I’m not here to belabor that particular nuance of fandom.

I’m…curious.  How–and more to the point–why do we move the fantasies of the mind onto the paper (virtual or otherwise) with the expectation that it will now be read?  I had a…let’s be generous here…torrid teenage fantasy life (oh, what the hell, still do).  I fall asleep to some misbegotten adventure story populated by whatever or whomever I happen to be obsessing over at the present moment practically every night (a habit I learned early to deal with the insomnia–might as well make a game of it, yes?).  So, on the one hand, I get it.  I even get the Mary Sueisms.  And dragons, though they’ve been rather absent of late.

Here’s the part that has been keeping me awake the last few nights**–at what point does canon slippage occur for a given author?  Canon slippage is my own term, I’m certain a term or phrase exists for the phenomenon I’m referring to–the moment at which the canon “reality” is subverted by the fan fic, but I don’t know the coinage.  Jossed is close, but not quite what I am referring to.  Let me try an example or two.  One of the most well-known examples of a fan canon being Jossed is the age-old “Ginny Potter’s full name is Virginia.”  This, for the uninitiated, is practically, er, canon, in Potter fan fic (Rowling, however, provides a different full name eventually–either in the series or on her site.  The series, I think).

This tendency to create fan canon where there is little or no information is particularly interesting in the notorious and dangerous (see how much I’ve been reading?) realm of Real Person Fiction, most of which I have encountered through various modes of Bandfic (that is, the main characters are loosely based on–use the names of–band members.  Def Leppard has a steady following of such, and, apparently, the Beatles did as well, though theirs started well before the advent of the internetz).  The basic idea is simple:  take the public persona of a figure (including name, and, usually–though not always–situation) of a band member (or other real person) and use that persona as the main character.

For instance, one could (Pete, please forgive me) take the public persona of one Pete Loran*** (no links.  If you know who I mean, lovely, if you don’t, it’s not especially important that you know who he is): teen vocalist, nice NJ guy, band is composed of bestest buds who grew up together, and so forth. But, given enough PR and/or fiction on the matter, a piece of Pete’s life (that may or may not be accurate) becomes canon.  Now, in his case, it was wholly deliberate–they shaved several years off his age, and he first gave himself away during an interview on…Headbanger’s Ball, I think, when he referenced being of age to go to war and to drink alcohol (according to the band lore, he was not yet 21).  THAT is piddly example of being Jossed, incidentally.  I recall sitting with friends for more hours than I care to admit to trying to figure out if he was a bit daft or if we were that bad at arithmetic.  I’ve never thanked you for that time spent, have I?  Yeah, thanks so much, Pete.

What can you do with this handsome type?  Well, any damn thing you wish, once he’s your character.  Perhaps nice Pete becomes EvilVampire!Pete–who terrorizes Hoboken and, I don’t know, kicks puppies.  It is unlikely that this factoid will appear time and again (what with the whole vampire thing), but  canon slippage (or whatever we wish to call it) occurs when some factoid from rumor and/or fiction is taken as fact and comes to replace reality–the factoid is seldom anything of consequence (several of these exist, BTW, about our hero Duff).   For instance, let’s assume that a story is published about Pete that includes him (I suck at this, sorry, and I’m trying not to come up with anything that will haunt me in my sleep) owning a pet sheep named Dexter.  Now, Pete doesn’t own a sheep–nevermind one named Dexter–but, one story makes reference to it and it’s taken as cute or funny (ah, I think I answered my own question) and appears in another and another…and so forth.  And the next thing Pete knows, someone is asking him about Dexter (or not–I shudder what people would ask based on some of the stories).

And fanfics develop their own canons–the pairings (esp. in slash–the fiction–not the guitarist), the crossovers, the AUs (Alternate Universes), the character qualities.  I hereby giveaway my current reading marathon: Zacky is cute!  Always.  And has an odd predilection for babytalk.  *shudder*  Johnny is a prick.  And so forth.  Draco, by the way, was nearly always either an inveterate wimp or the “real” hero-dark and suave. (Stop laughing–that’s rude) Anyone who shies away from or subverts the accepted character qualities is expected to explain why.  Which is itself rather odd, really.

So, I wonder if it is that simple.  The story or image is so appealing that it takes on a life of its own.  Fantasy becomes more important than reality.  Come to think of it…music videos were (are?) one controlling mechanism for this, aren’t they?  We take the video characters as elements of the “real person” and operate accordingly (hence the inclusion of significant others in some videos??). Songs, too, naturally–especially those in the first person.  I guess it isn’t that distant from rumors that become more real than non-fiction–but why?  Is it a control mechanism?  Ownership?

Okay, somewhere I got off the track.  There was a point to all of this, but it seems to have wandered off to read more fanfic.  Perhaps I can persuade it to return later. I guess that means I have to go read more….****

<hr>

*Qualified.  But, I’ll take what I can get.

**Unqualified and utterly, hopelessly true.

***I use him because as far as I know there are no published fanfics about him.  Also, because the band had a fairly well-constructed persona for each member.  Nevertheless, I’m sure such stories exist somewhere.

****Final Confession:  for reasons at present unbeknownst to me (perhaps a desire to avoid buying yet more books), I really do enjoy the sport of fanfic hunting.

Mohawks, Irony, and Youth Culture

TG’s first weekday wrestling match was last night, and Boyo won one of his two matches.  He was pleased with the win, critical of his overall performance, and, generally, a Tough Guy.

This morning, he’s a tough guy with a backache.   Poor boyo.

High School Wrestling is a strange enterprise.  For myriad reasons, but I’d like to address the reason most closely associated with this blog’s enterprise.  Oh, wait.  Okay, the second most closely…

First would be the potential addictions, of course.  Steroids are of major concern, but after seeing them twist the bejesus out of each other last night, I’d say that those mats are likely the beginnings of more than a few painkiller addictions.  Hell, I wanted painkillers, and I was only watching them.

But, I want to address something close to my heart: punk–this time, via the mohawk.  Now, those of you who aren’t hanging around high schools or watching Glee (or UFC, according to my High School fashion correspondent) might be a tad baffled as to why I am discussing a trend to indelibly linked to my own teen years.

My tweet-o’horror last night:

I’m disappointed in the quality of the mohawks here today. Kids these days. Sheesh.

Well, perhaps not horror exactly.

I’m fond of the mohawk*.  In the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve had a few students who sported them, even one fellow who wore some truly impressive Liberty Spikes (I admit it…I covet the style.  I’m not sure I have the patience for the maintenance, however.).  Some were of high quality and talent and others were of middling effort, but acceptable, for the most part.  Granted, in the last year or three, I’ve had several students sporting  faux hawks, which disappoint me tremendously, but I’ve not encountered the likes of the ones I saw last night outside of television.  Say, on Glee’s Puck, for instance:

I should have known…there’s Glee fanfic.   OMG.  Sorry.  Oh, and PUCKLEBERRY????  WTF?  *headdesk*

Now, Puck’s hairstyle is clearly intended to be all about intimidation.  He’s the jock with an attitude, given to lying and threatening as needed, tossing the occasional slushie, and to singing “Sweet Caroline,” should it help to get in Rachel’s pants (or Quinn’s, or whomever he was actually hitting on in that episode).

*headdesk*

According to TG, UFC fighter Chad Lidell is responsible for the appearance of mohawks on the mats.  Now, I’m not sure I agree completely with his assessment, but this picture amuses me sufficiently to include it here.  Lidell’s mohawk is not of my favorite style,admittedly, as I am rather fond of the more flashy, work- intensive mohawks.  The photo is apparently from Lidell’s** stint on Dancing With the Stars.  But it is serviceable, and, I suppose, it does fulfill the intent of being “intimidating” (I guess.  Not for me, but, hey, maybe it works in the ring).   Football players have used a similar mowhawk-style over the years, with a varying degree of success with regard to intimidation, but certainly they do tend to stand out (Chad Johnson’s blonde mohawk–there is a pic on the mohawk link above).  I’m not a huge fan of the wide mohawk look in any event, so I’m probably a bit biased on the matter.

Thing is, the kids last night had either poorly maintained mohawks (sides growing out really, noticeably–perhaps working on getting rid of the ‘do??) that might have worked or were, well…it looked for all the world as if we took a standard, every day male haircut and then removed the sides.  Pitiful excuses for mohawks.  What is this world coming to?

There was a point here…

Ah, yes, I recall.  I had been pondering punk and youth cultures in general of late, and wondering how applicable the theories (link points to previous brain droppings on the matter) might be to current American, and, particularly, Southern, white Millennials–and, more to the point–if they could be applied at all.   I keep reading incredible rage in papers from this group–especially the males, and I haven’t pinned down where the rage is coming from, largely because it is so diffuse. They rage against everything…

And, yet, much of it seems to be a tempest/teapot thing.  Indeed, on more than one occasion, it has occurred to me that I am seeing reflected rage–“I’m supposed to be angry” so I am, but there is no identifiable trigger.  Some will cite the economy and current economic practices, but these are also upper middle-class students, many of whom do not pay their own tuition, who live away from their parents, but are largely subsidized by the parents, and often approach college with radical learned helplessness.

And yet, rage.

What are the points of resistance?  What are the specific spaces of frustration, change, etc.?  How is it (and is it) reflected in the codes of their behavior and dress? Most of this was idle thought, but looking over the mohawk-travesty got me wondering about it again.

Much of punk style was initially ironic co-opting (one could argue as much about the mohawk, certainly).  Sarcasm and sardonic humor are a mainstay of the punk music genre (thank goodness).  But, as my colleagues often point out (following just about every 20th century European literary theorist), our American students have almost no sense of the ironic.  Many of them simply cannot recognize it, even when it is pointed out to them.

And I caught myself wondering if these half-hearted ‘hawks were significant in that fashion (a mohawky death of irony).  The styles  come to the students via media images from sports, which co-opted the “fierce” associations with the mohawk and reflect a period these kids don’t recall, but have likely been exposed to via the Quincy-punk media image (again, fierce, violent, but also often ridiculous), which does still pop up every once and again.  But, students do seem to be aware on some level that punk was associated with rage and rebellion (at least, those who have any concept of punk do)…so are they co-opting it without irony?

*sigh*

Yeah, kids these days.



*Okay, I have to admit something here. I have Darby Crash’s voice in my head right now bitching about the use of the term mohawk. Mohican, it keeps saying, Mohican. Gimme a beee-ah. Mohican…. Oi.

**Every time I type his name, I find myself wanting to go read Borges’ “Garden of Forking Paths,” which faux-references (sort of) Liddell Hart.

Stepping Back

Courtesy of a friend afar, I’ve been pondering AA again.  I sucked at AA, or, at least, I sucked at being a part of the group I was in (and I freely admit that it could have been the dynamics, but much of it was me).   See, AA requires of one, in order to be successful, to reach out and depend on others, and while I can do that in some areas of my life (admittedly, too few), sobriety wasn’t, at the time, one of them.

Granted, I also relapsed.

This blog being what it is, a chronicle of diseases beautiful and occasionally manageable, I’ve been thinking through what happened to get me to the place that relapsing was possible, seeing as I’d rather like to avoid taking that particular route again.

I originally chose to get sober in March of 2007.  I quit because I was miserable, and I finally came to the conclusion (with the help of a therapist and some excellent books–I cannot recommend Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story highly enough) that I was not avoiding misery with alcohol, but creating it.  So, to the admitted surprise of said therapist, who had initially recommended trying to teach myself to drink less (it was, I came to realize, a ruse on his part– he just hadn’t expected that I would figure out the message as quickly as I did), I up and quit the day I spoke to him about drinking.

Interesting to note that “my drinking” is the phrase I first used there, and then deleted.  On the one hand, the ownership is apt– drinking was certainly “mine.”  On the other hand, it was not just mine, because the ramifications of my addiction reached far beyond self, and I’m not sure how to convey that.  “Our” drinking is inaccurate and disingenuous.

I was pleased by the results–I felt better for the choice quickly.  I built a garden wall (I was off that week), and I read and otherwise took care of myself.  I didn’t talk to anyone about my choice, save for G (and him only minimally), and I didn’t attend AA meetings because I was terrified of the whole talking in front of strangers bit.  Of course, it was only later that I realized that I was substituting a familiar fear (that of talking in front of strangers) for the real problem (having to acknowledge a need for others).  I had been sober 30 days when I went for the first time.

I think I still have my coins (my AA group used coins instead of chips), but the one I encounter most frequently is my 90 day coin, as it sits in my car–in the cup holder all the time.  Haven’t a clue why I leave it there, mind you, but it does comfort me at times…so maybe that is the only reason why and the only reason necessary.  It’s green and a bit banged up around the edges; I’ve had it for more than two years now.  I stopped attending AA meetings not terribly long after that…I think I made it to 6 months, but I no longer recall.

I began walking more, began talking more, and the first year blew by.  Suddenly, I was in March 2008.  I’d been sober a year.

I was teaching two classes that semester–World and British literature, and I was having a ball.  Seriously, it was one of the best teaching semesters I’ve ever had.  Part of that joy stemmed from my impossibly delightful World Lit class (this is not to suggest that the Brit class wasn’t wonderful–they were, but the World lit class was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before nor since).  I met a student who challenged me from the get go–I’ve encountered students like him before–ones who knock me off my stride and make me rethink approaches and conversations and basically give me license to go wildly back into the books and mine them more deeply.  This guy stopped me in my tracks repeatedly.  And, better, he got the rest of the class inclined to do so.  It. Was. Awesome.  For the first time in years (and certainly since sobriety), I felt confident.  Bright, funny, interesting, even lovely.

All of which, again, not incidentally, was interpreted as a crush on said student (he was my age.  calm down) by damn near everyone around me.  And I, even as confident and groovy as I felt, couldn’t produce the necessary verbiage to explain what was happening in my head.  Crush, though, wasn’t it.  He and that class were an incredible touchstone of possibility, and I was completely swept away by them.

During the spring of 2008, I was riding high.  In hindsight, I can see the negative side to this ride, which bordered on mania (and probably crossed the line a time or two).  I talked fast, moved fast, got caught up in intellectual whirlwinds.  I wrote, dreamed up projects, ran, played bass, listened to music, learned to knit,  wrote more (OMG the notebooks I filled, wow).  I obsessed about a number of things–talked about all of them way too much.  My obsession and energy manifested physically in an awesome blushing response.  I’m pale (very, incredibly pale), so the fact that I blush over, well, everything, is of no real surprise, but it was so bad in 2008 that I thought I was going crazy.

Which, in fact, is probably accurate.

My high lasted into summer and on July 3, 2008, I was confident enough to “try” drinking again.  It didn’t take terribly long for it to get out of hand again, though I can’t remember exactly when I realized that the wheels had fallen off again.

One of the myriad reasons I sucked at AA was the failure to give the steps their due.  I “worked” them, but like everything else in that spring, I worked things too fast.  I moved too quickly.  Looking back, I can see that I started that rapid movement from the beginning.  I spent much of that year and change–Spring 2008 for the most part notwithstanding–angry and spiteful, what the experts tend to refer to as a “dry drunk.”  I was nasty (it occurred to me from time to time that G probably preferred my drunk self, because I was likely nicer, if somewhat more given to dramatics) and turned deeply inward (hence the voluminous writing from that period).

Step One, for anyone who has managed never to run across it before, regards recognition and confession.  For someone whose freaking dissertation was on redemption, this path felt like home.  See, in traditional redemption narratives (as I have mentioned in these pages before), confession is the first step toward absolution.

Confession–>penance–>

Okay, so the next step is a little tricky, and in the literary world, whether confession and penance bring absolution or merely precede damnation is subject to the (often–I’ll grant not always) political and social whims of the author.  Nevertheless, confession felt good, normal, and the place to begin.

I confessed to G and to my therapist and, eventually, to my son and others, though, even now, not everyone.  Step one–> “admit you are powerless over your addiction” looks like confession.  It smells like confession.  Confession is good, right?

Well, yes.  Except that Step One is most assuredly NOT about confession alone, and that is the part that escaped me.  Part of the confession must be recognition–a baring of oneself to oneself.  I once made a list of those things I’d done while drunk that were dangerous (not many) and/or embarrassing (gads, awful, awful, awful).  I didn’t make that list until after I had relapsed.  The list, however, is far more valuable to me now than the fact that I can articulate the phrase “I’m an alcoholic.”

The recognition of myself and my culpability was integral to Step One, and I missed that part the first time through, because I was still so much in denial.  I recall, vividly, telling G in one of the few conversations we had about me and alcohol, that I wouldn’t feel safe to take a drink until I could imagine drinking and stopping after only one. Want to guess how many I had the first night I relapsed?  Suffice to say that while I could “imagine” only one–I certainly didn’t practice that policy.

I had much more clarity in the matter after I relapsed.  Part of why I was able to relapse was that niggling confidence, combined with the failure to recognize what powerless meant, meant I thought I could teach myself to “drink normally,” despite the fact that I’ve no clear idea what “normal” really suggests in this context.   I did realize early on (even in 2007) that Step One would have to be revisited often and carefully, though I failed to heed that recognition.

As a result, I think it is fair to categorize the last 8.5 months as “working Step One,” insofar as I experience each day through the recognition of powerlessness.  On the upside, I’ve no desire to traipse up the wine aisle or to be the “good wife” by going to pick up something at the liquor store (did I mention my failure of recognition?  Does that example illustrate what I mean clearly enough?).  But, I’ve not been working the step (or trying to move through additional steps) in concrete ways, and I think, thanks to my friend (seriously, thank you, Lady) I’ll try to do so.

Credit to NeanC’s most recent blog for getting me spinning on this.

The Death Plague, or Rest and Reflection by Force

So, I took Monday and Tuesday off this week.

I arranged to be off on Monday and Tuesday so that I could go climb Mt. Le Conte with G. on his yearly adventure tangling with mother nature. I did not, however, climb Mt. Le Conte, nor leave the state of Georgia nor even my house on Monday and Tuesday (save for the obligatory picking up of TG from school). Instead, I’ve spent Monday and Tuesday in my pajamas, fighting with the beagle for space on the couch, reading, and answering emails.

Why?

Very simple, my friends. The death plague came to visit. No, no, not any swine flu claims (or seasonal flu claims, for that matter) here, though I expect to see an upswing of them at work, as we head into midterms. The death plague is a much more insipid animal, one that leaves the afflicted incapable of successfully fighting said beagle and spending most of the day as a pad for the beagle to growl, drool, and dream upon.

Hey, well, he’s a cute beagle, right? That has to count for something.

The death plague, for the uninitiated, is what tends to afflict me when I fail to listen to my brain and body demands that I take some time to do nothing. See, I’ve not managed to actually take a day to rest since changing jobs, and, in fact, since well before that. Now, I’ve taken some vacation days here and there, and on every single one of them, I’ve worked–housecleaning, running a marathon, taking too few days to reasonably travel long distances (rather takes away from the whole rest part), painting, whatevering, but not resting. Explicitly failing to rest, as a matter of fact.

I realized last week that I’d not finished a book in months, which, you might realize, is a bit odd for me. In fact, it’s damn odd and usually associated with depression. And while it is true that I seem to be emerging from my annual summer depression, that was not the reason I wasn’t reading. The reason is more simple: I am not taking the time.

Not I don’t have time, mind you. Nor do I need to “create” time (which I can’t do in any case). I am falling into the trap I knew well enough to avoid when I got into the particular profession I entered. Let me clarify: ever heard profs joke they got into the business for the summers? Well, for the most part, that’s a lie. Profs often spend summers scrambling to make ends meet–teaching three short session classes or what have you. Summers don’t tend to be especially restful. But, even teaching a 5/5 load, I was able to create spaces of rest and spaces of calm that I seem to have lost in the past year. I got into academia because I love to teach, and I love the sanctuary and freedom teaching offers me.

Now? Much more the rat race. I’m working longer hours at work (which is, for me, quite different from grading on the couch, which at least had the benefits of a cat to amuse me); I’m not able to disappear on Fridays, Spring Breaks, odd-summer days. I’m just there. And, worse, I’ve let work intrude at home.

It didn’t occur to me how bad it was until Monday, when I was feverish, achy, miserable, but pleased to sit on the couch (well, the part the beagle would cede to me, at any rate) and reading. And jumping up to answer my emails, every time my phone buzzed. Now, how ridiculous is that? By early afternoon, I had received 30 emails. And, I was answering them.

Because, like, you know, they can’t function without me!

Yeah, right.

I said–out loud even–than I needed to take a day several weeks ago, after all the church and flooding BS. I even planned a day and then didn’t take it off, but went in like good soldier.

This was not an intelligent act.

And that’s the problem that allowed the death plague to come calling: not the hours, not the stress, not the anxiety about upsetting the higher administration or, worse, faculty and staff, not the “OMG, I have to get to X in 5 minutes! (or 5 minutes ago),” not the feeling that my students are somehow getting the short end of the stick. It’s the connectivity and the failure to respect my ever-so-well-known limitations. So my body rebelled against my unwillingness to let it go for a while, and I was forced to let go of the race (though, admittedly, how many emails did I keep answering?). My brain was so unwilling to accept silence or solitude that my body was forced to resort to dastardly measures, including ruining a perfectly good chance to hike a mountain.

The fever seems to have taken the hike (up Mt. Le Conte, I’ve no doubt!), so I’ll return to work tomorrow, a bit more relaxed, and a bit more willing to take a vacation day here and there, so as not to become the (literally) feverish whack-a-loon I was becoming. And, better yet, the phone is going to get turned off. I am NOT checking email all-freaking-night-long just because there *might* be a crisis that I need to swoop into rectify.

There’s a reason why hire wonderful, competent people. It’s so we can be wonderful and competent together, and not require pseudo-superheroic deeds of anyone.

So, I’m going to turn off the connectivity for the evening and curl up for the next few hours with the couch-hog beagle and a lovely cup or three of tea.

Cheers, all. Stay well, be well, and be kind to yourselves.