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My colloquium paper overview is essentially finished. It magically shrunk from 15 pages of convoluted argumentation and allusion to a tightly written 6-page statement of direction for my dissertation. I am pleased with this. I may post it here soon. Meanwhile, my chapter breakdown is a big mess. I have about a million ideas and I don’t know how best to logically order them. Right now, I am conceiving of the dissertation as three long essays–each respectively on the theory, practice, and politics of postirony–the first of which is called “The Malignant Public Sphere of Postmodernity,” the second “Hip Capitalism and Commoditized Irony,” and the third “Serious Politics.” Which is all well and good, but I have to be much more specific in my chapter descriptions and even propose an argument or two. I feel like I’m slogging through the muck right now, and that everything I write is logically predicated on establishing things that I mean to establish in later chapters. Ugh.

I have a title

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I have settled on, for now, the title by which my dissertation will be called by when it becomes a book. Because dissertations have to have different titles than the books they become, I will probably come up with some academic sounding title when I file in a few years. But when the thing comes out in book form it will be called, copyrighted drumroll please,…..

Wipe That Smirk Off Your Face: Postironic Fiction and the Public Sphere

…. I have now, in the public forum of internetland, claimed this title for myself. Anyone else who might even remotely come up with a similar title is clearly plagerizing from my own endless brilliance. Right. I should do a google search to see if some variation on this title’s been used anywhere else, actually.

The Kitchen Sink

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I talked with my advisor and with a friend of mine today about my first draft of the colloquium proposal. Both meetings left me feeling good about the state of my dissertation idea, although I also have come to feel that my writing is less disciplined than it should be. My main problem as a writer is that I tend to want to put everything that is on my mind, whether or not it is related to the main topic, down on the page. This can lead to a false sense of intellectual density when it fact it reflects a lack of focus and an inability to prioritize my ideas. My sentences also have a tendency to ramble on, to deploy semi-colons unnecessarily, to use emdashes when commas would suffice, to run on and on and on. This has to stop, I’ve decided. I think, as an exercise, I will try to rewrite my colloquium with absolutely no semicolons, emdashes, colons, and other unnecessary typographical tics. Then I can reintroduce them where they are most needed. That’s the theory, anyway. We will see if I can maintain my discipline.

I’m Wiki-fied

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So, I’ve agreed with a friend of mine in the Modern Thought and Literature program here at Stanford to write a long scholarly manifesto on the concept of digital democracy and its prospects for our future. As part of this project I have started my first wiki. Holy moly. Wikis are very cool. I think I’m in love. Are wikis the way to digital democracy? Can we expect Google Wiki anytime soon? Will Wikis replace the mainstream media? Do wikis have anything to do with postirony? Well, as a matter of fact, no: except that I will now try to keep one for my notes on my postirony dissertation.

I am currently working on drafts of my proposal. I will post a version of that proposal, maybe, on this site in December.

The more I look the more I see postirony everywhere. If you spot postirony, send me a line. Send your information in Where-in-the-World-is-Carmen-Sandiego-style puzzle clues.

The Squid and the Whale

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Speaking of postirony, and I’m sure you were, I went to a press screening of Noah Baumbach’s new movie The Squid and the Whale. It’s supposedly based on his childhood experiences of his parents’ divorce in Park Slope, Brooklyn in the 1980s and in a lot of ways it perfectly deploys a thousand points of hipster light: the Park Slope locale; a Pink Floydish soundtrack; spot-on 80s fashion; tennis; allusions to postmodern fiction; more quirky characters than you can shake a stick at.

The most striking thing about TSatW is its intensely (Wes) Andersonian aesthetic sensibility and its peculiar sense of cinematic timing (the way it synchopates its scenes, frames its actors, synthesizes music and action). It seemed to me like nothing short of a realist version of The Royal Tennenbaums; feelings of deja vu became quite overwhelming at times and I thought God, this guy is such an Anderson knock-off. To my great surprise, though, I discovered (upon doing a bit more research) that Baumbach actually co-wrote The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He’s not like Wes Anderson; he is Wes Anderson, or a part of the aggregate constructed persona that gets the credit for the hard work which goes into making one of his movies.

TSatW implies, like most Wes Anderson films and most works of hipster art, that under its shiny glaze of sophisticated irony beats a sappy twenty-chambered heart brimming full with deeply sincere personal conflict and tangled but earnest emotional depths which only art can plumb. Right. If we were to diagram the narrative arc movie that diagram would look something like this: Quirky-Clever-Quirky-Pink Floyd-Sad-Quirky-Funny-Gross-Quirkysad-EPIPHANY-Credits

We’ve seen this postironic metafilm before: I [heart] Huckabees, Garden State, Eternal Sunshine, Rushmore come to mind. This, it seems to me, is a significant new film genre and every time I see a new one I get that sense that I’ve seen it before–it’s the same feeling I get reading David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, and the whole lot of young-and-up-and-coming working-out-of-Park-Slope tennis-obsessed preppy-but-guilty-about-it Kafka-lovers.

If this sounds like a negative review then I should mention I fall for these movies every time.

Back to Postirony

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I am back in the US. My trip abroad was all quite fun, but I’m glad its over. Enough fun and games, eh? So I’m hopefully going to get back to blogging on Update your bookmarks, Loyal Readers!

And Now I’m Really Pissed!

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I was checking my credit card bills online today and I noticed that my MasterCard, which I haven’t been using all summer, has accrued a mysterious charge of $6.83 (for the second month in a row, perhaps for more months even) from Pollo Rey, Stanford, CA. A quick Google search revealed that this is nothing other than The Treehouse, everyone’s favorite campus burrito joint. I have obviously been nowhere near The Treehouse in the last three months.

Three possible explanations occur to me right off the bat: (1) Someone has stolen my credit card information and is using it to purchase one burrito+coke every month from The Treehouse; (2) An employee of The Treehouse has acquired my credit card number (and probably many others) and is charging about $7 a month on it (I have to look over previous statements to confirm this); or (3) The Treehouse is doing this on an official basis with my card and other Stanford students’ cards.

(1) Seems highly implausible to me; (2) seems the most plausible; (3) is also possible, but less plausible than (2). I am very pissed off about this. If either (2) or (3) are true, I am launching a campaign against The Treehouse. I will do everything I can to make sure they are punished. GRRR.

The Next Week

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Summer fun is coming to an end here. Tomorrow evening we go to Prague; on the 19th, I fly to England; on the 20th I’m back to NYC; on the 25th, Palo Alto–ah, home sweet home. I am actually quite eager to get back to work and to my ordinary life. These long European trips can get tiring. Poor little me.

Mrs. Watson in Prague

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I offer a dialogue from the book angličtina, a book that Ema’s mother used to learn English when she was in high school during the communist era of Czechoslovakia:

Mrs. Černá: I hear you are leaving Czechoslovakia, Mrs. Watson.

Mrs. Watson: Yes, I am leaving tomorrow.

Mrs. Černá: And how did you like life in socialist Czechoslovakia?

Mrs. Watson: I think the people here live very well.

Mrs. Černá: Some people say that people in your country live better.

Mrs. Watson: Well, life in our country is different in many ways. Rich people can buy what they like. In your country the shops are always full of people. Some people say it’s a bad thing. But I don’t think it’s bad at all.

Mrs. Černá: I am glad to hear you like our way of life. Will you come to Czechoslovakia again next year?

Mrs. Watson: I don’t know. I ‘m not one of the rich, you know. But I shall certainly try to come. I have some very good friends here now and I shall be very happy to see them again.

Mrs. Černá: Good-bye, Mrs. Watson. I really hope to see you again next year.

Mrs. Watson: Good-bye.



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Was watching VH1 today, and they had a program in which the New Wave band Berlin was reunited for a one-night-only concert. Very amusing, esp. tsince he band had mostly morphed into middle aged, middle class, and kind of overweight folk–nothing edgy or hip about them anymore. They’re the group, if you recall, that brought the world that famous version of “Take My Breath Away” which adorns the Top Gun soundtrack, the pop success of which apparently broke the group up. Very ’80s.

Nothing else here in the Czech republic. Hot, rainy. Looking forward to getting back to New York on the 20th. I have been working on my novel, though, which is nice. Maybe I’ll even finish it someday. Imagine that.

Press has calmed down on Katrina. 9/11 celebrations have come and gone, quietly. No one inside the US seems to be reporting the leaked contigency plan to use nukes against “credible threats” of a WMD terrorist attack. The foreign press is taking note, though. We’ve demonstrated to them an uncanny ability to accurately predict WMD threats, as demonstrated in Iraq. When the world’s superstate says it reserves the right to set off nukes when and where it likes, the world takes notice, though the superstate’s media seems not to notice.