Category Archives: Politics

47. P.J. O’Rourke

P.J. O’Rourke is one of my favorite writers of all time. You must read his book, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut. It is hilarious. Here is an excerpt:

From Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut

From Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut. The reason “His whole life was an act of literary criticism” is highlighted because this is the quote I googled to get the quote. Obviously I remembered it verbatim!

And that’s just from the Acknowledgements section of the book. He is absolutely hilarious. His “Website Welcome” page on http://www.pjorourke.com is PERFECTION, seriously click on this link and read this thing. Basically I agree with every word and gosh it is SO FUNNY. So where am I going with this? I don’t have any exciting October Garden How-To’s and didn’t take any pictures of golden sunlight or frolicking children and puppies today. So in searching for something to write about, I decided to search for something I already wrote. As an English major at Wesleyan University, I wrote the paper below. It was supposed to be a reflection on Dictee (which is a very abstract, disjointed book by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha). Pretty much the whole book is in the nonsensical format of my paper:

My Name Was Here

le 24 avril 2003

givemeanA. Issac

The Sad, Lonely, and Crazed Woman of Dictee:

Links in the Web of Knowledge Systems

The multilingual work that provokes readers to consult an outside work in pursuit of a knowledge can claim a priority in stimulating thinking at the same time that it points to the necessary intercultural, weblike nature of all knowledge systems.                             (Spahr 139)

Je pense donc que je suis.

Je pense [excessivement] donc que je suis [fou].

Elle pense. Elle parle. Elle prononce. She thinks. She speaks. She utters. “Hers now. Hers bare. The utter.” (5) The utter, bought by a high price—the woman’s sanity—lost in nervous anticipation. She is not at ease. Cha’s Dictee “is built around discomfort. It has little reading ease.” (Spahr 124)

“She hears the ringing and the call is announced.” (139)  She labors over the ring. She thinks too much. She is mad. She overstates the obvious.  Reading in too far, too many Re’s and she knows it, “Re dust[1]…Resurrect it all over again. Bit by bit. Reconstructing step by step…” (129): because she is so lonely.  She says “You fade.” (128)  Perhaps the subject is physically absent but with obsessed words she shows that her subject still actively torments her, and it is her own fault: (1) she creates the Re dust, (2) the Re dust becomes “A shadow”, (3) she reconstructs, re-enacts, rebuilds: (4) creates “a new shape” reminiscent of the original, but without true form. “It seemed to resemble but it wasn’t.” She is heartbroken and crazy over something or someone, she recreated its/his/her image over and over, and continually her Re creation reveals itself to her: reminds her she was only pretending.  All of this Re business results in trouble with the verb. To go. Aller.

“Something takes only one to start.” (128)

The Aller passage is vague, vague, vague. Because of this ambiguity, the reader can connect it to other passages. Connect it to Laura Claxton. Laura writes to Mr. Reardon unaware that he has moved. H. Small writes, “Of late I have not heard anything from him and cannot advise you of his present address.” (142) Laura will be sad when she reads these words. Sad for her sister. Her sister who “is in awful shape/she threatens/to kill her self and/her children and/husband has done/all they can” Her sister is crazy (over/under Mr. Reardon?). So crazy, in fact, that perhaps she doesn’t even have a sister: she writes to herself in 3rd person. Her doctor told her to do this, in a journal, for therapy, to help her eat.


[1] Re dust: The fictitious world created by too many what ifs? Too many re-readings, re-enactments. The writer addresses the personification of what is created by these re’s: “You Re dust”

Beat her anorexia, stop her from going crazy. “She is afraid of going crazy.” (146) Much easier to write those words in 3rd person. Elle s’écrit. Reflexive verbs. She fights with her body.

“In the whiteness/no distinction her body  invariable no dissonace synonymous to be come yours.” (118) To become yours. DO become your body. Devenir. “The verb.” (118) To become.

dreyers joan of arc

Carl Dreyer, 1928: La Passion de Joan d’Arc. Impressive fanatic. Crazed? We were in confirmation class reading Catechism and trying to finish our French homework we found it “NOT possible to distinguish the speech” (67) of either. READ and call crazy what is wildly ambiguous. The ambiguity invites unusual juxtapositions/relationships because it does not have to be read LINEARLY.

*             *               *

Ok so that’s the paper.

It’s over (thank goodness).

If you are confused right now, that’s the point. IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Did I actually “read” Dictee? Of course not. Part of being an English major is writing pages and pages on things you know nothing about. Thumbing the pages as you would do a picture flip book one can quickly conclude: This work is disjointed. It has no plot. It makes many vague social/cultural/political references.

What was at stake that we spend 2-4 hours of class time (at 40 grand a year that is some expensive class time) in such serious discussion of this crappy book? Well…Theresa Hak Kyung Cha is a published author. While I am a lowly blog glog writer. Interestingly enough she seems FAR less concerned with the reader’s pleasure in “reading” her book than I am.

So, the punchline, people, is, I got an A+ on the paper. It took me ten minutes to write. If you can appreciate this paradox, you seriously need to read some P.J. O’Rourke.

3. War and Pouf Sleeves

At the impressionable age of eighteen in the 2000 US presidential election at a small church in Fort Myers, Florida, I arbitrarily cast my vote. I didn’t read the paper, watch the news, or vote in the primaries. I chose Dubya in the little voting booth and decisively punched my chad (no hanging or pregnant chads here!) and went on with my life. I wasn’t particularly proud of the vote at the time. My parents rarely discussed politics with me (I, being an obnoxious teenager, they being conservatives) and I had no idea who they voted for until after the voting was over. In the 1980’s my dad paid cash for a new boat, house, and cars. We traveled to Europe and took cruises around the Caribbean. My mom chaired a charity ball, where I (one of the privileged children allowed into the ball) donned a white dress; ruched at the torso and chiffon at the knees with a black cropped jacket—short sleeved, sparkly, with pouffy sleeves.

Adorbs Hahahahaha

Adorbs Hahahahaha

But an outfit is not an outfit without a Hair Concept. Is that really a thing? Yes it is!

French Braid

French Braid

I wore the dress and French braid hair concept at the Ritz Carlton in Naples, FL. This girl I know did some sculptures that, now that I think about it, kind of reminds me of that place. These memories: riding horses at summer camp, learning to sail, snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, and playing outside with wholesome neighborhood kids, defined the ideal political state for me. Perhaps I connected this time with republican ideals and thus voted for Bush? It wouldn’t be much of a stretch, but I never really read into it at the time.

The next August I flew into Bradley International Airport to attend Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Surrounded by new ideologies and non-Christians I felt encouraged to explore these new, previously taboo, ideas. I heard a lot of complaining about “the man” and recognized an acute attention to the faults of the United States. The fact that I mentioned, on several occasions, in the company of these “progressive thinkers” that I, in fact, voted for Gore, and was therefore clearly disparate from the bumbling idiocy of Florida, reveals that I was more interested in talking about most anything other than politics. Admitting to voting for Bush would’ve meant a barrage of questions. Questions would lead to a debate that (at that time) I would’ve entitled, The World’s Most Boring Conversation Ever.

My 19-year-old sentiments exactly!

My 19-year-old sentiments exactly!

My little white lie reveals a total lack of political conviction. There was a lot of complaining about things I had never heard complaints about. “White people are too privileged.” “Americans are stupid and don’t care about the environment.” Growing up I intensely enjoyed the Floridian wildlife: catching and watching hundreds of different species from barracudas to coral snakes to panthers to manatees, I felt protective of these creatures. I invented a portable photometer to measure water clarity (it would replace the Secchi disk)! Surely I was an environmentalist?

Secchi Disk How-To

Secchi Disk How-To

I liked to paint and wear weird clothing. Surely I was avant-garde? I was as hip as these hipsters? But still, I never related to the incessant airing of grievances against “the (ever oppressive) man”. I thought that I must not be passionate about politics. I didn’t really know where I stood and didn’t think much about it.

homer

Just after September 11, 2001 I went to an on-campus vigil. I was confused, and mostly sad and worried about the people suffering as the world trade center smoldered. I don’t remember really listening what the speakers had to say (again, a testament to my lack of interest in politics), but the last one, a student, ended his thoughts with a chant of, “No More War.” My heart started pounding and I felt enraged and even offended to be enveloped by this stupidly idealistic cry. I looked to the outer bounds of these chanting twenty-somethings to see a group of 20 or so Middletown residents, some with children, protesting the hippified plea with “U-S-A”. I knew then that I may have a little bit of hippie in me, but I was no liberal. I did not chant along with either group, because chanting, frankly, is just un-cool. My political disinterest remained and I mostly remained silent when politics were discussed still mostly thinking it was a boring topic.

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Two semesters and I was off to a summer job in northern Maine as a white water rafting guide. The river manager of the rafting company and I immediately hit it off and haven’t been apart since. He served in the Marine Corps from 1992-1996 and I feel fortunate to know a veteran’s perspective when forming my political opinions. Understanding the importance of morale for troops in war times was important in my understanding of the war on terror, and specifically the war on Iraq. Fighting against terrorists didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Plus, to be honest, the “Hey y’all watch this!” mentality appeals to me in most activities.

I am, after all, from south Florida.

I am, after all, from south Florida.