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This never gets old:

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I wonder if she’s already writing it?

Because it is May, and because I once used the word “salutatorian” in a post about how stupid capitalism is, a top search that finds my blog is “what makes a good salutatorian speech?”

Kids, let me just say that I am the last person you should ask. I have never been a salutatorian. I was more the kind of student who screwed around and then sneered at the kids who thought they were smart, but who were obviously actually just working really hard. Because of this retrograde attitude and general lackadaisical approach, I came in 12th, not second, place. For the same reason, I also misspelled “salutatorian” the first time around.

Despite my total lack of credential, I want to offer you some advice on your speech. I may have never been a salutatorian myself, but I did date one. Or maybe he was a valedictorian, I can’t recall. In any case, he was the kind of person who was very smart and who also worked very hard. That is why he is now a doctor, while I remain a doctoral student.

Though my date’s actual rank my have receded into the distant haze of memory, I do recall his speech. He quoted it to me the night we met, in the back of a student ride van between elite liberal arts college campuses. It went like this:

A man goes to a monastery to find enlightenment. The program is that he meditate alone for a year at a time–no speaking, no singing, no human contact.

At the end of each year, the man is permitted exactly one word with the great teacher of the monastery as his only guidance through this intense spiritual task.

At the end of the first year, the man is approached by two monks and led to the top of the mountain where the teacher lives. He is led into the presence of the great man, who looks at him, inviting him to speak. The man says, simply, “The.”

He returns for another year of quiet contemplation. Again, two monks come to take him back to the teacher. This time, the man says “Food.” Then he goes back.

The third time our hero gains an audience with his guru, after 3 full years of arduous spiritual struggle, he looks at the teacher and say “Here,” and then returns to his isolation.

After four years, the now practiced student completes his sentence, relating the insights of his four-year-long meditation practice to the teacher, saying “Sucks!”

Now, I realize this is not an incredibly funny joke. But it is kind of funny as a dig at compulsory education, and I think my friend even managed to get in trouble for this speech. That is, if he even gave this speech. I have no way of knowing, so I can’t say whether using this silly joke as a salutatorian speech will work to earn you the campus-wide recognition that you deserve. But I do have it on good authority that sometime in the future, this speech just might help you get a lazy college freshman into bed on a first date.

Go boldly into the future, runners-up!

Meme Gone Wild!

May 22, 2008

Some people are masters of the quotably pithy; some aren’t. As it turns out

What happens when an innocent blog “meme” is ripped loose from the social conventions which traditionally bind it?

What happens when cheeky bloggers act as though no “tag” is our master?

I’ll tell you; more fluffy blog content! I stole this meme, too:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Locate the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences on your blog and in so doing…
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged me.

1. Three books were equally near to me. They are, in no particualr order, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville; The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead; and The New Imperial Challenge, eds Leo Panitch and Colin Leys.

2. done, done and done.

3.ok

4. quotes as follows:

“Regarding religious institutions in a human point of view, he acknowledges their influence on manners and legislation. He admits they may serve to make man live in peace and prepare them greatly for the hour of death. He regrets the faith that he has lost; and he is deprived of treasure of of which he knows the value, he fears to take it away from those who still possess it.”

Hmmm. You would think that randomly isolating sentences would make them seem more profound, but in this case, decidedly not Next!

“‘Did you miss me?” Lila Mae asks, before she can check herself. Check that impulse. Natchez sweeps his arm into the foyer.”

The Intuitionist is a truly great book, but nothing about that passage particularly suggests it. Moving on:

The reaction to the invasion of Iraq was dramatically different. There were enormous protests well before the attack began, and again on the day it was launched –with no counter demonstrators. That is a radical difference.

I have to say that this meme just made me think that (barring some notable exceptions) most words aren’t very interesting without a whole lot of other words spread around to back them up. I suppose I really am a grad student.

5. Instead of tagging, I’m just encouraging more stealing.

Somewhere, some Black people also think this is funny.

Apparently, many white people really like the blog Stuff White People Like. I have been sent the link to Stuff White People Like by aproximately 1,297 white people. They thought I would like it, being a white person and all.

White people like Stuff White People Like for the same reason we like jokes about how white people can’t dance. Because it implies that whiteness is a cute, if inherent and unchangeable foible. We can’t help it! We’re white!

Whats wrong with Stuff White People Like is that it is basically, totally wrong. First, there’s its utterly class-blind approach, a problem which becomes apparent if you are unfortunate enough to peruse Stuff Educated Black People Like.

As a result of this significant lacunae, Stuff White People Like is more or less completely off the mark, obscuring the stuff all white people *actually* like. I’ve begun an incomplete list below:

1. Jokes about how white people can’t dance

2. Police protection

3. The freedom to do lots of drugs without going to prison.

4. Book deals.

Feel free to contribute!

Holla Back That Ass Up!

April 29, 2008

Handy illustration of hot feminist activism? Or just more sex-sells advertising? I can never tell…

Some of you may be aware of the much-lauded feminist self-defense project, Holla Back. The project started with Holla Back NYC, and has spread to an uncountable number of world-wide locations.

Personally, I’ve always had some concerns.

First, some of these cretinous Dudes are probably proud to have their grinning mugs and exposed penises posted on the internet.

Second, many of the comments on Holla Back trade in heavy doses of classism to put pervvy assholes in their place–including on post in which the poster called the harassers’ “nice,” “polite” boss. This is unsurprising, but strikes me as a strategy likely to reproduce, rather than eradicate, a cycle of shame, resentment, misogyny and harassment.

But my main concern is that there is nothing particularly feminist about the technology of the camera phone-plus-internet combo, or strategic about this kind of individual resistance to street harassment. In the context of a sexist, porn-sick society I fear that defending our right to take pictures of whomever we want in public and do whatever we want with them on the internet will be more than likely to bite us in the ass, than solve the problem.

The Camera phone expose is a neutral technology on a power-infused field; who’s going to be more humiliated to find their picture posted on the internet against their will (given that a main function of the internet is collection and delivery of pornographic images)–me or some asshole street harasser?

I don’t know quite yet, because I haven’t located my picture on the internet as of this morning. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. My feeling is that 80’s night should be a sacred space of cheese where I’m allowed to dance in peace without some shitbag taking pictures of myself and my companions to giggle (or worse) over with his friends, but, alas, it isn’t.

Which leads me to my final point. Regardless of what recent 20/20 “journalism” might suggest to the average viewer, straight men getting turned on by live girl-on-girl action and then hitting on said girls or taking their picture or laughing and pointing or following them home really doesn’t count as social “approval” of gay public displays of affection.