December 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Two biographical points: back when I was a teenager a wee bit over a decade ago (wait that can’t be right), I applied a perhaps unfair litmus test to new acquaintances. Specifically, were you a Friends person, or were you a Seinfeld person? If you were a Friends person, I would judge you.
Second, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor has been haunting my soul for weeks; it, and especially the second disc, is what happens when the 1970s fall into a pot of internet, boil to a smoke point alongside an old XXX neon sign, and after being poured onto a chilled concrete slab get smashed into a thousand pieces by a hammer made from David Bowie’s face. Basically, you should go listen to Reflektor; Porno is a good place to start (don’t worry it’s SFW, you babies).
Anyway the above mashup is the least likely thing to ever happen and also exactly right. Happy 25 shopping days till Christmas everybody!
November 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
November 10, 2013 § 4 Comments
Take a quick peek at my “About” page, and you’ll notice a few significant changes to my bio. The first is my academic affiliation, the details of which I just finalized — I am now associated faculty in Sociology at Humboldt State University, which means I’ll be giving guest lectures in various Sociology courses as I await my course assignments for the 2014-2015 academic year. The second and much more significant development is that I’ve accepted a position as the Cultural Department assistant with the Wiyot tribe, and will be responsible for a combination of research, community outreach, and grant management.
Had you asked me this time last year what I thought I’d be doing the following year, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t have suggested either option. In fact, neither would have been on my radar, with very good reason. I was on the academic job market; I was going to be a tenure track Professor (or at least Visiting Assistant Professor), because…just because. Because because. Because that’s what one does.
The following is an overview of how I got from there to here.
October 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Over the last few days, I have been pouring over Jezebel’s reader-submitted scary stories. Last year’s thread is here, 2011′s thread is here, and this year’s thread is here; I’m not going to start reading this year’s till mid-week because I don’t want to spoil the holiday fun.
And can I just say, hot damn do I love stuff like this. Not only because FOLKLORE (I particularly like the ways in which people indicate that they are going into story mode; often they switch to the present-tense, and engage in all sorts of interesting metanarrative framing devices, from basic signal phrases like “anyway” and “so,” to almost sheepish caveats like “Normally I’m the kind of person who laughs at these sorts of stories” and “I know how crazy this is going to sound but”) but also because I just really really love scary stories. I grew up reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (the above image is one of my favorite illustrations from the series; it once hung proudly on the door to my office at the University of Oregon) plus of course R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series and its sluttier YA cousin, Christopher Pike’s thriller/horror novels. And don’t even get me started on Are You Afraid of the Dark; that intro STILL makes me giggle nervously.
Needless to say, this is my favorite time of the year. And while we’re talking favorites, here’s my favorite story I’ve read so far, from user Desesszika. Spooky scary!
Okay, here goes.
A couple years ago I was living in Budapest. It was half study abroad, half hanging out with my family who lives in a town about 30 minutes south. Every once in a while I would take day trips with my friends. We’d drive to Slovakia or take the train to Austria, whatever we wanted. So on one of our trips to Romania (we intended to end up in Bucharest) our car shit out on us right at the boarder. One of my friends had family in Szeged which wasn’t too far away, but way too far to walk.
So the four of us decided to hitch hike.
We grabbed what we could out of the car and then called her family to tell them we were on the way. We locked up the car and made a sign that read Szeged, please. Got picked up in 5 minutes in a Barkas van. These happen to be my favorite and I was quite thrilled to get to ride around in one again.
The guy who picked us up, Andras, was very nice. He was very interested in where we were all from, what we liked to do, where we’ve traveled and what kinds of things we were studying. It started to get dark. Andras mentioned his family had a house not too far from where we were, and that we could stop there for the night and sleep since he was tired and didn’t know if he could drive us all the way to Szeged. We all kind of looked around at each other but ultimately agreed that it was rude to expect this nice man who picked us up to drive us all through the night.
Yes Andras was nice but driving up the dirt road to his house made all of the hairs on my arm stand up. I would later ask my companions and they said the same thing. All of us got silent as we tried to take in the scenery. It looked like any eastern European house set far back on what used to be a farm, with all of the old abandoned equipment around.
We unloaded and shuffled into his house which was very quaint and charming. He showed us into a room off the living room that we could all sleep in for the night. We all set out our sleeping bags and kind of congregated on the floor while Andras went into the kitchen. He started talking to his wife. “Honey i’ve brought back some travelers again” “they are all very nice, some of them are American!” “Yes of course I was going to offer them some brandy” which he did. He came back into the doorway of our room and offered us brandy. I passed but the others accepted.
He brought us out a tray and the rest of the bottle and then disappeared again. Eventually we all drifted off to sleep.
I woke up first, got dressed and went outside to pee. I ran into a little girl on my way back up to the house. She was incredibly shy. I asked her what her name was and if she lived there too. She said she did but she kept saying “but my father doesn’t believe me” I chalked it up to either my Hungarian being rusty or her being a kid but I told her to come back inside, it’s cold out. (She instead slunk back into an old mangled trailer she was playing in).
Inside the house I breezed past the kitchen with Andras screaming out “why are there not enough fucking eggs for our guests!?” “What kind of wife are you!?” But when I got back to the doorway of our room all of my companions were standing up, bags hastily packed mouths agape looking behind me.
I turned and that’s when I saw a scarecrow dressed up in women’s clothing sitting in an armchair at the far side of the living room. I turned back to my friends laughing and said “you guys are afraid of a scarecrow?” but just then Andras came through the door and picked the scarecrow up by the arm and flung it across the room. “You are the stupidest woman in the WORLD!” he howled. “I work so hard and you embarrass me!”.
He went back into the kitchen still screaming and now riffling through drawers. I turned to my friends and we all agreed that it was time to leave. Only the things Andras was saying got worse. “I killed the last one! I can kill you too!” type shit
We kind of stood as a group, frozen. My friend Lidi turned around and saw a window so we decided to jump through it to get out of the house. She was first out of the window. Only when she landed she made this weird squishing sound. My friend Jani popped his head out the window and then started screeching and backing away from it. At this point Andras was stabbing the scarecrow with a very real knife and we were all trying to just get the fuck out of the house. The two of us still in the house pushed Jani out of the window, not really caring why he was screaming because KNIFE. Finally I jumped out and landed in what I to this day pray was animal remains. Blood and guts. Filling this deep trench next to this guys house. There was also a LOVELY portrait of a family painted on the side of the house using what looked like the blood from the giant hole.
The four of us, bloody, shaking and still able to hear Andras killing his scarecrow wife hightailed it the fuck out of dodge back to the main road. We decided against getting into another car and instead ran all the way back to our old car. We also took a break from day tripping for a while.
October 22, 2013 § 3 Comments
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love television (and films viewed on television, which also includes computers because it’s 2013 and what do those distinctions even mean anymore), particularly awesomely bad/weird/creepy television. Shows that make you go WAT, if you will. Television is, hands down, my absolute favorite expressive medium; if someone were ever to write an epic poem about my life and legacy, the opening line would most likely read “All she ever wanted to do/was watch television.” At least, it had better.
So when I say that I have a new favorite show (category: lost classic, subcategory: spoof), you know it’s serious. And with that I give you Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, one of the strangest and best television programs I’ve ever encountered. The premise of the show, which premiered on Britain’s Chanel 4 in 2004, is as follows: Set in the 80s, Darkplace –the eponymous hospital in which the action unfolds– was written, directed and presumably edited by horror writer Garth Marenghi, who opens each episode with a snippet of his own purple prose. (From Episode 5: “Nina’s eyes popped out of what was left of her back. Why oh why had she opened that tomb? The sand turned red. This was because she was bleeding on it. Blood. Ruby red blood. Her blood. Blood. And piss and shit. This was the worst day of her life”; from Episode 6: “He whisked off her shoes and panties in one movement. Wild like an enraged shark, his bulky totem beating a seductive riddle. Mary’s body felt like it was burning, even though the room was properly air conditioned. They tried all the positions: on top, doggie, and normal. Exhausted, they collapsed onto the recently-extended sofabed. Then, a hellbeast ate them.”)
CUE INTRO (starts at 2:14):
According to Marenghi (who is a fictional character, although not according to the title credits), the show was ahead of its time; so much so that Chanel 4 locked away the first season, never to be seen — until now, establishing a fantastically improbable show-within-a-show frame in which Marenghi and his publisher Dean Learner provide present-day commentary on their roles as Dr. Rick Dagless (Marenghi; played by the real life Matthew Holness) and Thornton Reed (Learner; played by the real life Richard Ayoade). The entire series is, in a word, bonkers, and relies on horrendous writing, acting, and production values, including an absolutely pitch-perfect score (complete with Davis Lynchian atmospheric pads) to capture the melodramatic excesses of shitty early-mid 80s and very early 90s television. It is perfect, and has my highest possible recommendation.
Of course, the show isn’t for everyone — and not just because it’s weird as hell. It’s also a winking (if somewhat antagonistic) love letter to a very particular style of television at a particular moment in history. Nearly all the jokes hinge, or at least gesture towards, television done badly. Without understanding –or more importantly, having an opinion about– the components of “good” television (characterized by a specific, historically contingent understanding of what constitutes good writing and acting, proper lighting and sound engineering, and general production values), a person would be unlikely to derive much amusement from the constant, deliberate, and actually quite masterful failures of Darkplace (this show was clearly made by people who know their craft). Rather, they’d likely just see a poorly-made tv show, which in itself isn’t funny. The only people who have any reason to find these sorts of failures funny are the people who know and care about the rules of television so much that their subversion takes on the mantle of joke. I wrote about this phenomenon in my kuso article, and will be revisiting the issue in the below panel proposal for this year’s International Communication Association (ICA) meeting (the conference where I presented this talk in 2012):
This talk will examine ambiguous fan engagement with media content that is, as the saying goes, “so bad it’s good.” Although these behaviors may appear to subvert the hegemonic meaning of a particular text by imposing some new or wholly unintended meaning (Hall 1973), they ultimately adhere to larger and more pervasive cultural conventions, putting a conservative spin on an ostensibly subversive cultural practice. The talk will focus specifically on enthusiastic online engagement with broken memes (that is, variations of a popular meme that get all the details laughably wrong) and the online obsession with failure generally, which worships at the altar of ineptitude and technological incompetence. It will conclude by arguing that appreciation for and engagement with “bad” content is predicated on a high degree of cultural literacy, which itself can only be accomplished via educational and technological access. Put simply, ambiguous engagement with content that is “so bad it’s good” is actually, and ultimately, an expression of privilege.
I’m not sure how or if I’ll be addressing Darkplace in my talk — but will definitely be revisiting the subject in the months to come, as I thrash around to find my next big research project. In conclusion, son of a bitch (I tried cueing it up but YouTube is being annoying; see 3:01):
October 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It is with a heavy heart that I report on this stunning masterpiece, verily the greatest cake I have ever seen. Chris and I thought we’d contributed something special to the pantheon of Great Cakes with our rainbow armadillo wedding number, pictured below. But this, this, is a cake worthy of the Gods. “In ten years,” Chris just told me, through my salty tears. “In ten years you shall have a rainbow unicorn cake to call your own.” What cold, bitter comfort!
Mark our words, we won’t take this defeat lying down. Redemption will be ours.
I’m Not Blaming the Victim, I’m Just Saying It’s Her Fault: My reaction to bullshit victim-blaming Slate article
October 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
According to Emily Yoffe of Slate, a large and influential online news magazine, feminism has taught America’s young women that they should be able to drink as much as men, because Girl Power (what). As a consequence, more women are getting raped. Feminists, you should be ashamed of yourselves! Yes, of course, rapists are ultimately the ones who rape. That said,
we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
I don’t know how pointing to a victim and saying “you did this to yourself” doesn’t qualify as victim-blaming, but ok. Semantics I guess. So I’ll play along — let’s say young women heed this message. That they maintain the ability to be responsible for themselves (because everyone knows that so long as women are responsible for themselves, whatever that even means, nothing bad ever happens to them — it’s only the irresponsible women who are assaulted, harassed, and sexually victimized, those silly little short-skirt wearers). Then who are we supposed to blame WHEN YOUNG WOMEN KEEP GETTING RAPED, which is a funny thing that happens when you conflate the symptom, namely an obscenely high incidence of sexual violence committed against women, with the cause, namely a culture that objectifies and devalues women to such an extent that it is entirely accepted that men WOULD rape, because how could they not with all those irresponsible women lying around??
To her credit, Yoffe tries to try to keep things balanced, and quotes several experts.
“I’m not saying a woman is responsible for being sexually victimized,” says Christopher Krebs, one of the authors of that study and others on campus sexual assault. “But when your judgment is compromised, your risk is elevated of having sexual violence perpetrated against you.”
Now, I don’t want to sound like a racist, but [insert racist assertion here, say about "The Jews" or "The Blacks"]. Before you get any nasty ideas, let me reiterate: I’m not a racist. I’m not a racist because I said I wasn’t.
Which is essentially the argument here. Here I am, blaming victims, and holding victims up as an example for other women (“you don’t want to end up like HER, do you?”), but because I say I’m not blaming the victim, then I’m not. It’s fun to be the gatekeeper for linguistic meaning!
Oh and one more thing:
I’ve told my daughter that it’s her responsibility to take steps to protect herself. (“I hear you! Stop!”) The biological reality is that women do not metabolize alcohol the same way as men, and that means drink for drink women will get drunker faster. I tell her I know alcohol will be widely available (even though it’s illegal for most college students) but that she’ll have a good chance of knowing what’s going on around her if she limits herself to no more than two drinks, sipped slowly—no shots!—and stays away from notorious punch bowls. If female college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their own self-interest—and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary feminist principle—I hope their restraint trickles down to the men.
You hear that, men? Wait for the women to make the first move. THEN you can stop raping. Glad we’re on the same page. But there’s more:
If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.
Hmm, that doesn’t sound like DON’T RAPE YOUR CLASSMATES TIMMY. But apparently it’s the accusation of rape that’s the fucking tragedy. I mean, you wouldn’t want your son’s reputation sullied, would you? That would be horrible and so inconvenient!
In conclusion, I don’t think I could type the words “bullshit” or “gross” enough times to adequately capture the lack of facepalms I have to express even a modicum of the “I just can’t” which is, itself, inadequate.
October 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Way back in the forever ago (last year), I used to write some things for Chris’ blog Modern Primate, may it rest in peace. It occurred to me that someday the site will likely be recycled for scrap metal, or whatever ends up happening to decommissioned websites, so I’d best start archiving.
This realization coincided with an earlier realization that I have done a horrible job indexing this blog, due largely to the fact that the whole thing started out as a haphazard repository for snarky PhD exam commentary. I had been tagging certain things as “Digital Culture,” for example, but only in relation to my digital culture exam list. All the actual “digital culture” posts, you know, the ones in which I talk about things on and around the internet, got filed under “Spotlight On” or “Lightning Round,” tags I eventually deleted because they were annoying (which didn’t delete the posts, but rather how they’re indexed onsite). This has made searching for stuff very difficult, which is silly if the whole point of a blog is to write things that other humans can find.
Anyway, in order to kill two birds with one post, I’ve transferred the full text of all my Modern Primate writings to their corresponding posts here. And then because I was already doing that, I figured I might as well collate them all in a separate, more easily navigable MEGApost. No one cares! So without further ado:
- Life is “Hard” for Rich White “Girls” (Review of HBO’s Girls)
- TLC: A Retrospective
- TLC Virgin Diaries: The Celebration Continues
Of and Related to Dogs:
- The Death of Internet Culture, Or Not
- Honorary Trolls: Hotness Trolls
- Honorary Trolls: Courtney Stodden
- Quitting Facebook: It’s Not THAT Complicated
- Moving (On) Without Facebook
Santorum Slashfic, which got increasingly weird as the months wore on:
- Episode 1: The Cone
- Episode 2: Rank Stinktorium Takes a Bath
- Episode 3: The Dark Side of Santorum
- Episode 4: Santorum Takes a Stand
- Episode 5 & 6: Ricky Santorum is Bad and Filthy, and Ricky Santorum Wears His Bunny Suit
- Episode 7: Ricky Makes a Career Change
- Episode 8: Scratching the Activia Itch
- Episode 9: Looking for Friends is a Real Grindr
- Episode 10: 50 Shades of Romney
- Episode 11: Ricky Makes His Best Friend a Blingee
October 14, 2013 § Leave a Comment
My 666th blog comment approaches, just in time for Halloween. I’m currently at #664, and am really hoping I can get something just as excellent & enlightening as the above (which is an actual comment some robot just posted to my blog) for my DARK MARK achievement badge. Won’t you help me be great, for Satan?
Hugs and kisses, Whitney Phillips
October 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In this film, PhD candidate Jack Torrence is running out of funding and really needs to finish his dissertation you guys. So he convinces his wife and kid to spend the winter in this creepy old hotel out in the middle of nowhere so he can finally get some work done, jesus. For the next few months, Jack spends his days “writing,” i.e. playing catch with himself in the great room and being a dick to everyone, because can’t they see he’s busy?? He also has a series of incomprehensible, drawn-out conversations with random strangers about his work, for example a guy he bumps into in the bathroom.
It’s obvious that Jack is struggling, that he’s getting pale and increasingly irritable, but despite the stress, insomnia, and internalized sense of worthlessness he finds an odd sort of comfort in the process.
And why wouldn’t he; on the other side of the dissertation is the job market, and talk about scary! So he keeps at it, and one day, out of curiosity, his long-suffering wife sneaks a peek at Jack’s manuscript. That was a mistake, because it’s the same bit of nonsense over and over. What is she even supposed to say about that?
Unsurprisingly, Jack gets super defensive, and then things get really ugly, like Lady Gaga in a Kermit dress ugly. Like, what does it all even mean?? So many random references and bizarre asides, and still no clear thesis, right up to the end. I’d love to be a fly in that defense meeting. Blood everywhere.
No but really, Chris and I just watched The Shining. It was much funnier after I decided that this movie is actually about writing a dissertation (I laughed out loud after watching the above “Jack stares out the window at the topiary maze like a lunatic” clip, because that is a look Chris knows all too well), but couldn’t imagine that I was the only person who had that reaction. And no, I’m not. Oh well; it’s a better film because of it.