March 21, 2013 § 3 Comments
As videogame rhetoric continues its intellectual promiscuity, many of the culture’s pettiest affects persist inside the husk of objective-seeming argument. There is special and hypocritical nastiness given to war shooters like Call of Duty, which many categorize as a sub-genre of “dudebro” adventurism, stories told about men so masculine their gender needs repeating. I too have indulged in this loose and prejudicial stereotyping, subheading a criticism of Gears of War 2 as “The Broman cometh.” I hoped the contrast of lowbrow social stereotype with a callback to early 20th Century melodrama would capture the tonal disparity of that game, serious as a sandbag in one scene, and thoughtlessly savage in another. But these words have become so imbued with negative social coding that, like the empty signifiers of hippy, douche, hipster, and nerd, they mean nothing now, vessels meant only to carry aggression, directed toward a demographic that the writer presumes most of her readers will dislike.
March 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“There is a conspiracy of indifference against me, and I can’t take it,” Jon-Jon Goulian writes of his classmates’ failure to react when, in 1985, he attended prom in women’s clothing. During the following two decades Goulian won notoriety among New York party hoppers as a fabulous recluse, a man of intelligence and Ivy League credentials who nonetheless insisted on earning a salary by babysitting for $12 an hour. This grandson of political philosopher Sidney Hook, and one-time assistant to The New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, declined, at every major stage in his life, to build upward. Instead, he sublet a portion of a room in the Lower East Side, and chose to live a neurotically abstemious life while finding succor in four-inch heels and belly shirts.
December 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
As a baby I used to scream when black people held me. This was awkward for my parents because we lived in Tanzania and the number of proximate black people with an interest in holding me was high. I can imagine them handing me over to their friends and neighbors who’d thought to come by with felicitations for the newest addition to the family, wondering whether or not I would convulse in a spasm of racism when delivered into the onyx arms of neighborliness.
August 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I wanted a map. The only unmet desire I had from my warped old clamshell cell phone was access to a map. For this desire I had a perfectly symmetrical argument: I will never again be lost. No more will I get off the subway and not know which way is North, nor realize I’ve forgotten to write down the address of a party or meeting room. No more will I stare at the dumb faces of buildings, trying to match their bricked frames and shaded windows with an arrangement of numbers and letters, whose only real order lies in some old civic planner’s papers, which even she’s forgotten by the time I’m trying to find the outlines of her work in the gloaming streets of outer Queens.
March 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
I get nervous jaywalking in Washington D.C. As I was trying to navigate the streets between the Judiciary Square Metro Stop and the U.S. Supreme Court–a convoluted dual grid of square city blocks and diagonal gashes that cut across the city—I felt a fear that the last two years of life in New York have numbed. There is no such thing as jaywalking in New York.
September 21, 2010 § 3 Comments
My parents were born and raised in Denmark, just a few miles from each other in the countryside north of Copenhagen. Danes are secular and irreverent, heavy consumers of alcohol, tobacco, and pornography. My parents were both brought up as Seventh-Day Adventists, an austere sect of Christianity that was viewed with skeptical peculiarity in Denmark. They didn’t actually meet until years later in Michigan, where my Dad was finishing his PhD and teaching at a small Adventist college. My Mom had come there to further her nursing career. Less than a year after meeting they were engaged. This is the dimple in time when they met, and when my arrow in time began to stiffen.
July 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
In his recently published memoir, Christopher Hitchens wrote something that encapsulated all of the guilt I feel about my confessional writing. “For those I have loved, or who have been so lenient and gracious as to have loved me, I have not words enough here, and I remember with gratitude how they have made me speechless in return.” When I write, I have a recurring fear of betraying the loyalties of the people I write about. This is bearably nerve-wracking when profiling people or characterizing someone’s work or public opinions—a kind of writing I find painfully boring.