Archive for the narcissism Category

The Village Virus: When your thoughts are in a box, box up your things and leave

Posted in academic speak, blogging, narcissism, Queer life, social networking, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by katekanno

Wow. A two-week blog fail.

Preparations for moving, the two day trip abroad for a job interview, followed by two more days of clearing out and scouring our apartment left little time for reflection, much less blogging. But we are out, out of our apartment, out of Irvine, and now out of California.

After the surprise feelings of guilt over selling our car — it felt like we were hocking the thing to an orphanage — it was a little strange to feel nothing upon leaving our apartment. We did our final walk through, said our “goodbyes” and “thank yous” to each room, and left. That was that. Not a second thought or a tinge of sadness.

There are lots of things that might explain this non-reaction, namely, the disorganization and frenzied activity that always works to anesthetize any departure pains. When you spend days clearing your home of its character, and follow that by scouring all of the places you’d preferred not to look, even the most stubborn grime of nostalgia is bound to come loose.

But there was another far more important reason: Irvine was quite simply sucking the life out of us. Despite the sun, the quiet, the stacks of books, we both felt we were catching Sinclair Lewis’ “Village Virus,” the provincial coma whose only cure is to get the hell back to a city. And it wasn’t simply Orange County’s 10-mega-church-per-block zoning laws, the bookstores that that exclusively sold the Twilight series, or the legions of Humvee driving republicans, but the university itself, which had a taken cultural and class snobbery to a level all its own.

It was a place where subtle pronunciation wars over the names of critical theorists meant social death for the loser; it meant wearing knit caps in the middle of 80 degree afternoons; and the overuse – and very often misuse – of the word meta. It meant the hip denigration of the academically unhip identity politics by people who mostly, despite their pseudo support of LGBT rights, either just couldn’t see what was wrong with allowing Donnie McClurkin to bash gays at election rallies, or were too afraid to say anything.  As a non-academic,  I often felt  that I was regarded,  to borrow an excellent description from Neil Stephenson, like “a test subject on the wrong side of a one way mirror.”

In short: It was time for us to go.

I’ve been reflecting on this since being back in Portland. This city may have its share of hipsters, but the discussion, the books, the humanities themselves are open to everyone. No academic jargon or mannered diffidence required. Powell’s books is unionized, and the vegans at the vegan cafe are actually interested in labor history, rather than using their veganism as yet another tacit class distinction.

Blaming the Victim, American Style

Posted in education, narcissism, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2009 by katekanno

brightsidedLast year, while working in one of the roughest schools in one of the roughest districts of Orange County, I had a chance to see how the positive thinking/ self-help movement had slimed its way into public education. Each day at School X came with newly minted (and labeled) behavioral problems, expulsions, and cop cars, always cop cars. Many of the kids were flirting with, or had already taken on, gang membership, and during my last week a group of students caused a five car pile up by hurling rocks into passing traffic.

Despite the poverty and often abusive conditions under which many of these kids lived, the only remedy the principal could arrive with his fevered lack of imagination was chicken soup. Real soup might have been better considering the crap they were being fed at school, but no, I’m talking about Jack Canfield.

Yes, indeed. The school had made a deal with the Chicken Soup tripe spewing machine, and each week before their lessons for the day would commence, students were subjected to a three minute mini morals read in a cracked, schmarmy voice that made the After School Specials of the 70s seem weighty in comparison.

I remember standing in the classroom one post Christmas morning, the economy having just ground to a halt, when a story about a curtain salesman who screws up an order sprang forth from the loudspeaker – riveting, I know. The salesman, you see, had mistaken a customer’s order for Venetian blinds, but rather than owning up to it, he’d blamed the credit card company for his mistake.

I couldn’t help wondering what kind of loony, officious moron would think that a lie told by a terrified, eight-dollar-an-hour service rep, would be interesting to kids whose parents, in the age of deregulation, mostly like had one or more creditor’s hands at their throats. More likely, if they were listening at all, they would probably side — as I did — with the salesman whose foisting the blame on an industry responsible for so many of this country’s financial ills was less a character -damning lie than an act of resistance.

I tell this story, because it is exactly the kind of thing that Barbara Ehrenreich eviscerates in her book “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America.” Ehrenreich’s book explores how our Calvinist work ethic mingled with the new thought of Mary Baker Eddy into a gallimaufry of blind optimism and a blame-the-victim mentality just ripe for corporate manipulation. If I have one complaint, it’s that she doesn’t cover the education system; her descriptions of laid-off employees being cheerfully browbeat into submission were certainly a larger version of what this principal was doing to these kids.

It’s not your poverty, or your “language arts” teacher whose interest in the spoken work stops at the Michael Jackson slogans she’s pasted to her podium; it’s not the lack of art or music available in your school because your test scores haven’t met state requirements; it’s not the standards peddling principal who won’t let even your good teachers enjoy some creative freedom; it’s not the fact that your parents must work two or sometimes three low-paying jobs in order to feed you, and often must take you with them while they work. It’s not the two or three shootings that happen weekly outside your house, or the fact that you live in a motel or share an apartment with three other families.


It’s your attitude, see?

Now, click your heels.

31/31 "Listen to the Silence" by ?

Posted in ghost stories, Halloween, narcissism, old time radio, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2009 by katekanno

muirListen to the Silence is a dark take on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. An aging spinster finally decides to end her media dependency and turn off the radio for good. In doing so, however, she is faced with the alternative of growing a tad too in touch with her inner self.

I could say that it’s commentary on the narcissist tendencies evinced by those who protest too much about the boob tube or the radio, a parable about the danger of eschewing outside voices for the prospect of internal validation. This is a single woman, lonely, but supporting herself. We expect the ghost to help her take charge of her life, but instead he takes charge of her. It is the grandfather, after all, who’s had the adventures. He’s simply headhunted her as a secretary of sorts, dictating his narrative as she grows weak and malnourished. Her choices are limited to two: return to the anesthetizing voices of modernity or retreat to the control of a patriarchal ghost.

Give me media oblivion any day. At least I’ll have control of the dial.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a far more liberating tale. Gene Tierney still gets her life, the captain’s stories are in fact sexually freeing, they provide income and sustenance rather than starvation.

I’m unable to find out the name of the author and can’t research his or her background. The broadcast begins immediately with exposition. If anyone knows, I’d be grateful.

Today’s story was found on Relic Radio, another great OTR site.

And no, FCC, they aren’t paying me. They’re just terrific.


Your literature is too trendy. Oh, wait! So are we!

Posted in literature, narcissism, politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 9, 2009 by katekanno

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize from the same organization that just a year ago dismissed American literature. American writers, they said “are too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture.”

I think we can say the tables have turned.

Yes, I voted for Obama in the general election, even if I feared he was a tad too conciliatory to the party who had made a mess of foreign policy, our finances, and our rights. I did not do so because of overwhelming and disappointing pseudo leftist concerns about America’s image in the world, a topic that when it came up — and it often did when the music was Sufjan Stephens and the clothes were vintage — made me suspect that what people were really fretting over the prospect of an unpleasant backpacking trip through Europe.

Congratulations to the President, I guess.  I’ll thrill to see the wing-nuts froth at the mouth once again. Obviously this will lend credence to their U.N. conspiracy theories. But I fear this development will only help feed the delusions of  those conflict resolution addled, and often narcissistic, members of my generation and below who have mistaken compromise for a virtue.

And I wouldn’t tear those maple leaves off of your backpacks just yet.