Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's not April Fool's Day Yet

I'm not a shill. I swear.

Check it out:

Car Repair, the Iron Lotus, and the Restless Panda

After being in the body shop for four days, my car still isn't finished. I must take it back on Tuesday for an indeterminate length of time.


Glenn was kind enough to take me to pick it up at four thirty. I didn't leave with my car until 6:15. What was I doing all that time, you ask? Why, I was reading DUB magazine's latest issue. If you ever want to feel illiterate, I recommend reading a dense technical manual tricked out as a fashion magazine. There was no dictionary present. I recognized most of the words used by DJ Envy and Tony Hawk. Also, apparently, there is some kind of Spike Lee limited edition clothing line.


So, one of my highschool classmates myspaced me last week and let me know he was coming into town to present a paper at a marketing conference. We hung out. Went to see Blades of Glory--which is solidly funny--and discussed things I am not at liberty to discuss here, as I will be using them to my advantage against one or all of you at some point in the future.

It turned out that this acquaintance had been intrigued by my mentioning going to the San Diego Zoo with McKenzie on Thursday. Just as we did, he came to the conclusion that the panda is a terrible evolutionary pathway. But he, unlike McKenzie and I, braved the lines of people straining to see one. Apparently, there was a sign reading, "If the female seems restless, don't panic. She's just in heat!"

Which makes you wonder how many phone calls the zoo received:

"Um, hello?"
"San Diego Zoo. How may I direct your call?"
"I'm standing at the panda enclosure. I'm calling you from my cell. Can you hear me?"
"Yes, sir. I can hear you."
"Um. Well, this panda seems...I don't know. Restless."
"I'm sorry?"
"Well, it's pacing around, and I just don't know what it's going to do next."
"It's like some kind of caged animal, pacing back and forth. Looks like Brando, you know? Dangerous. Unpredictable. Bestial."
"...I'll let someone know right away."

Or how many times someone ran to find a zookeeper:

"You' to come...huhahuh...quick...ahuh..."
"Ma'am, what's the emergency? Catch your breath. What's wrong?"
" a cage....danger to no one..."
"Oh, that. Right. Well, she's just in heat."
"Don't worry ma'am--it's completely natural."
"I'm not sure that would work, ma'am."

Friday, March 23, 2007


The moon is high in the sky, watching me watching them.

Right now, across the parking lot, in a dimly lit window on the second floor of a Palo Verde apartment building, I can see the perfect silhouettes of two young people deliberately, devotedly, with slow and subtly changing rhythms, playing Wii Sports. It fills me with a kind of trembling--an obscure fear before the beauty of human endeavor. A coyote is barking. At a pause in the action, one of the figures slips away, only to return seconds later with a bottle of beer.

Spring has finally come.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This has probably been done a million times, but...

The following is a list of prepositional phrases identifying places where I have recently found religion*:

Between Asimov's guide to Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan.
Behind the Blueberry Zinfandel Sorbet in the freezer.
In a file labelled "2003 Taxes and Misc."
Under the back seat of my car.
In a Jack Chick pamphlet.
In a roadside bathroom.
In the year 486 BC.
In my sinuses.

*You may substitute any of the following nouns or noun phrases for this one: Jesus, one of McKenzie's earrings, corn nuts, change, crumbs, a page from Warminski's exam, mold, or my self-respect.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


My little sister is in town this weekend.

Yesterday, I took her to class with me, where, despite a lengthy explanation of her presence, my kids took her to be a college senior who might--for inexplicable reasons--be transferring to UCI. I guess we Tanners look old.

Last night we watched 8 mile again. For all three of us it had been a long time coming. I, for one, had never seen the movie in English. Thanks, Marianne.

We also played some video games and watched some Family Guy. Then Jessie went to bed early because she had to be at her Honors College Open House registration at 8:00. I wrote until late, and then I went to sleep.

Now, I will go to work. For those of you who get this on some sort of feed, Sterling and Christal will be in town tonight, and we are thinking of going to a late show of 300. Give me a call on my cell phone if you would like to go. (Offer available in Southern California, only.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

JC Ascendant!

My friend and co-conspirator on the much-discussed-but-never-before-heard-by-most-living-souls Battle of the Worlds rap opera project, JC!, just got a job blogging at Wii Fanboy and DS Fanboy. So, if you liked his regular work on 20xx Games, or if you have ten minutes to spend checking out video game stuff, then you should leave him a comment.

Update: I have found and recovered about 75% of Battle of the Worlds off of some back-up discs that pre-date my sojourn in Auvergne. Those of you who express interest might be rewarded with some hilarity.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Sometimes you miss your own point.

Joe, over at The Kugelmass Episodes, recently posted his take on Buffy sexuality as a prelude to a discussion of pop-culture sexuality. If you plan on continuing to read this post after the first two sentences, it might serve you to read that post here. My comment in response follows, and, in re-reading my comment in light of Joe's response (which follows farther down the linked page), I did a double take. Sometimes, it seems, you miss your own point.

I guess I'd start by saying that it seems Joe's point and my point have passed each other in the night without really connecting. You might say they were strangers. Strangers who passed in the night. And couldn't really see each other because it was dark. They might have exchanged glances.

Saying, "Trying to continue holding fast to the shows protestations of romantic feeling creates more problems than it solves," Joe goes on to talk about the romantic choices of the characters as evidence (and, please, correct me if I'm wrong) for the shallowness of sexuality in pop-culture as read through the show.

My point, in evoking Schiller, was completely different from talking about the characters' romantic entanglements as some kind of Tragic Romance that was valuable for the sake of its affirmation of sentimentality. I was trying to evoke the logic of the show itself in Schillerian terms...and I did a terrible job.

Let me try again. After an incredibly long and stupid excursus, I hope to return to Joe's argument on his own terms.

I am going to ventriloquize Schiller for a second. And, since that's boring, I am going to put myself into dialogue with him.

The scene: Jonathan's kitchen, 4 am. Enter Jonathan, hungry.

Schiller: Art is a salve for a wound.
Me (surprised): Who the fuck are you?
Schiller: I am Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.
Me(rummaging in fridge for sandwich fixin's): What wound is that, Johann? Er...Christoph? Can I call you Christoph?
Schiller: I prefer Friedrich, actually.
Me (under breath): Could have guessed.
Schiller: What was that?
Me (toasting bread): Nothing. You were saying? A wound?
Schiller: And the name of this wound is "history."
Me (gets out stone ground mustard, decides to go with white wine instead): Oh, so. Good. Heals it right up, then, does it?
Schiller: No. Nothing can heal the wound that is history.
Me (prepares cheddar cheese) : That's a pretty crappy salve.
Schiller: No. For the wound is not a wound.
Me (disinterestedly folds roast beef slices so they will fit on bread): No?
S: No.
Me (retrieving bread from toaster and constructing a sandwich): ...
S: ...
Me (impatiently): So, what is it then?
S: It is the anguish caused by the ironic position of wanting to be original in the face of history, when one is trapped within the march of history.
Me: And art heals that anguish?
S: No.
Me (looks at sandwich. looks at door): Of course not.
S: Art merely holds up the possibility of creating something beautiful. Something that would transcend history.
Me: So, art is a time machine?
S: No. Art is failure.
Me: What?
S: Art cannot transcend history. It merely provides us with the eternally foreclosed possibility of transcending history. The art that remains is a failure, but one that contains within it that possibility for others.
Me: Okay. Nice to meet you. I'm going to go eat my sandwich, now.


Okay. So, I was not trying to evoke this as a way of saying that the tragedy of their specifically romantic choices was what was worth holding onto in the show. Rather, in my opinion, all the choices by all the characters (not just the principals), through this same formal construction, seem to be attempts to get out of one situation in order to arrive at another. Even the vampires and demons succumb to the idea that the status quo is hell (the status quo I refer to here is specifically not the status quo held up by Buffy as normalcy/popularity, etc, but I will get to that in a minute). The possibility of change, however, is constantly removed beyond reach. Stake a vampire, there's another vampire. Kill a demon, there's another demon. Blow up a hellmouth, there's always Cleveland. The thing that makes this interesting is that it works both ways. Kill Buffy, you get Kendra. Kill Kendra, you get Faith. Kill Buffy again, you get... Like the attempt to make art, the attempt to change the status quo is merely an attempt, and one that results in failure. This is why making art and attempting change are both inferior to making sandwiches.

This particular logic produces two effects, which coincide with Joe's argument in, I hope, productive (or at lest interesting to read) ways.

The first of these effects is the endless production of irony. In the face of the impossibility of the Slayer accomplishing what it is that she is created for, all of her exploits become ironic. This is what leads, on the one hand, to the ironic hahas of the meetings and the Scooby Gang's overall idiom. On the other hand, this leads to those moments of "total negation," where Buffy is alone in the night with vampires: youth destined to kill ancient things that are already dead. This is futility in the face of history. Perhaps that is a useful way to think through the show, perhaps not. It is clear to me, however, how this conception of the show's irony produces the kinds of desire to which you refer, without needing to bring in the death drive.

The second effect that I perceive is perhaps a simple by-product of the first. After all, the problem of irony is that once it begins, it is difficult to tell where it ends. We must examine the status quo with this in mind.

The status quo of this show is ironically presented (it is here where your reading of the show's lack of insight into highschool might be in conflict with mine). The school is simultaneously every school everywhere, and a very specific location--the confluence of ley lines, etc., the Hell-Mouth, we are told. But then, the specificity of this location is revoked. It is A hellmouth. Any hellmouth anywhere. It has become-- because of its ironic construction--both like and unlike any other school.

The normalcy that Buffy craves is ironic because it doesn't exist. The show points this out over and over again. Find one character that fits the image of the status quo that Buffy longs for, and the whole show falls apart. Those characters that are marked by their lack of supernatural abilities, occult activities, etc., are also those that are torn apart in most unnatural ways. Buffy can never win. To win would be to assert a status quo that is some kind of status quo ante. This is impossible both in the Schillerian sense of the impossibility of transcending history, and because there is no before time within the context of the show. Demons have always existed, and vampires, and humankind has always been on the brink of death, ("Apocalypse. We've all been there.")

This is the element of the show that I find to be insightful. It is not the equation of the SAT and money to college applications on the show--just to take one example among many--that is damaging. It is that equation outside the show. The show is contextualizing this kind of decision-making within a discourse wherein everything the viewer's status quo presents as valuable is made laughable by virtue of irony and the basic questions of survival that the show raises.

Last thing. I promise.

This relates to the "'real' perversions" of the show. The thing that is being shown to be perverted on the show is the perception of high school held by people that incorrectly perceive themselves as holding up a vision of the status quo. This is ultimately why Cordelia, the champion of that vision of reality, is subverted and brought into the fold of the Scoobies. If you believe that SM culture--this example will have to stand in, synechdochally, for others--is not taken seriously by the show--is somehow marginalized or made insignificant by the fact that Spike and Drusilla engage in it (and, here, I am thinking of the suggestion that none of the "principals" engage in it)--I suggest that you take a look at the sex life of Buffy and Spike again. There, if nowhere else, are moments that specifically address your concerns about sexuality. If I have to put it in psycho-analytical terms, and believe me, I do so only as an example of the structures I am trying to suggest, what the show does to the status quo of everyday life is what Freud does to the status quo of sexuality in--and here you have me at a disadvantage--"Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality." Please correct me if I have my reference wrong, but it is here where Freud suggests that the norm, when it comes to sexuality, *is* pervervsion--or, if I must qualify, that perversion is present in even psychosexually healthy beings. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from the moment of its title, enacts this belief, but not in purely sexual terms.