Poseur Alert

“Actually, there was one time I had graduate students participate with the inmates in a joint reading of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. I got permission from the prison administration to have fifteen students come, and the prisoners prepared punch and cookies for our meeting, and we just sat down together and talked Foucault. We had also read Goffman’s Asylums and one other book in that vein, and the interesting thing was that in discussing each of those books, the Foucault in particular, the inmates were very upset about the construction of subjectivity, the way in which institutions create a subjectivity,” – Michael Hardt.

Poseur Alert

“As a friend put it to me: A tattoo isn’t the Word made flesh, but the flesh made word. It may strike old-fashioned types as pedestrian narcissism and adolescent conformity, and sometimes it surely is. But in a deeper and more troubling way, it is canny and subversive artifice, spiced with a moralistic claim to personal liberation. A tattoo is a personal statement but also an anthropological position that accords with the prevailing transvaluations of our time. It’s a wholly successful one, too, judging from the entertainment and sports worlds, and youth culture. With the mainstreaming of tattoos, another factor in the natural order falls away, yet one more inversion of nature and culture, natural law and human desire. That’s not an outcome the rationalizer’s regret. It’s precisely the point,” – Mark Bauerlein.

Poseur Alert

‘”The Mockingbird Next Door’ conjured mostly sad images in my mind. Ms. Lee has a regular booth at McDonald’s, where she goes for coffee. She eats takeout salads from Burger King on movie night. When she fishes, she uses wieners for bait. She feeds the town ducks daily, with seed corn from a plastic Cool Whip Free container, calling “Woo-hoo-HOO! Woo-hoo-HOO!” Somehow learning all this is worse than it would be to learn that she steals money from a local orphanage,” – Dwight Garner, NYT.

(Hat tip: the wonderful Michelle Dean)

Poseur Alert

“At the start of every dance, my heart would lift again, noting some marvelous feature of Bolshoi style. The communicative generosity of manner! The thick-cream legato flow and keen dynamic sense! The juicy red-meat richness of texture! The unaffectedly erect posture of the torsos and their gorgeous pliancy! The easy amplitude of line! The powerful sweep through space! Yet nothing availed. Each dance soon grew monotonous,” – Alastair Macaulay, NYT.


Update from a reader:

There are plenty of pretentious twits out there to go after but your condemnation of Macaulay’s Bolshoi review is unfair.  This is a DANCE review and Macaulay was using ballet aesthetic terminology to describe the performance, which to non-dance fans sounds ridiculous.  You might say the same about a medical journal written for fellow doctors.  Are they poseurs?


Poseur Alert

“I have no axe to grind about the ban on smoking in public places, nor do I resist the shift in social mores that nowadays makes it, oftentimes, a solecism to light up in a private home. Nonetheless I miss smoke; it draped a decent veil across interior vulgarities, while softening our loved ones’ hateful features. Moreover, it was something to look at: its chiffon convolutions and tulle thunderheads made perfectly dull places seem excitingly mysterious. I don’t think the NHS’s smoking cessation schemes make enough of this: what we smokers need to help us kick this obnoxious addiction is a portable son et lumière, not a packet of nicotine gum. Nicotine gum is in fact the spatial inversion of smoking: the gum-chewer, instead of looking out, as the smoker does, on a roiling boiling atmosphere, has his attention driven entirely inward to a dark and claustrophobic space where giant teeth clash and clash again,” – Will Self.

Poseur Alert

“69 confronts us with an unfortunate truth: it is a distinctly capitalistic, efficiency-emphasizing endeavor that erases the unique personhood of each participant by relying on a crude approximation of how human bodies fit together if human bodies are conceived of as identical, two-dimensional figures like the numbers of its name. … The position also echoes the service economy in its demand (mainly on women) of a convincing performance of pleasure. It’s not enough to simply be present and to competently do the job that’s asked of you by your lover, you must also appear to simultaneously enjoy said lover’s ministrations, regardless of the delicate balancing requiring to keep from suffocating him or breaking his nose. This is a form of emotional labor like that demanded from baristas, servers, and sex workers; not only do you have to do a good job, you have to like it,” – Susan Elizabeth Shepard and Charlotte Shane

Dan Savage suspects the piece is a parody. But several of his commenters are taking it seriously.

I don’t think it’s parody so much as whimsy. This paragraph convinces me:

We will be silenced by your sexual hubris no longer. There can be no freedom without an end to the tyrannical mediocrity of 69. Let us commit to a new world where this vision can be realized. Working together – but not at exactly the same time – we can achieve it.

I would call this “tongue-in-cheek” in any context less charged.


Poseur Alert

“What is above us in the atmosphere is daily simplified into one or another of those icons beloved of weather forecasters, which, in their naive reductiveness, stand in relation to the subtleties of the sky rather as news reports stand in relation to the complexities of existence,” – Alain de Botton, in his new book The News: A User’s Manual. Flagged by Claire Carusillo in a list of the book’s “11 most Alain de Botton sentences.”

Poseur Alert

“The McRib is like Holbein’s skull: we experience it as (quasi-)foodstuff, as marketing campaign, as cult object, as Internet meme, but those experiences don’t sufficiently explain it. To understand McRib fully, we have to look at the sandwich askew. … The McRib’s stochastic return mcdonalds-mcribmakes visible the relationship between the eater and the McDonald’s menu. It produces a stain, a tear in the order of things that reveals the object-cause of desire for McDonald’s, but only briefly before it evaporates like faux-cartilage. The fragile conditions that make the McRib possible also insure that desire for McDonald’s food more generally speaking is maintained.

Desire is a delicate system. For Lacan, the lover “gives what he does not possess,” namely the objet a that incites desire rather than sustaining it. Likewise, McDonald’s sells what it does not sell: the conditions of predictability, affordability, and chemico-machinic automated cookery that make its very business viable. … Industrialism is also a kind of magic, the magic of the perfect facsimile. Eating at McDonald’s—eating anything whatsoever at McDonald’s—connects us to that magic, allows us to marinate inside it and take on its power,” – Ian Bogost, contemplating the return of the McRib. Update from a reader:

Does the Bogost piece really belong in that category? Seems pretty tongue-in-cheek to me.

Poseur Alert

Boston Red Sox Practice

No, not Mike Napoli – Richard Brody, of The New Yorker:

One of the beauties of the beard is that its lushness is polysemic, lending itself to an interpretive exuberance to match its flow.

A beard is a celebration of nature that brings appearance closer to that of untamed human animals—a Rousseau-esque gesture that was crucial to the age of Aquarius, a time when long-established norms of behavior collapsed and made public life a clearer expression of formerly unspeakable private desires. By contrast, the shaven and crew-cut athlete suggests a martial fury that is joyless—a grim, self-denying efficiency that may work in war but is exactly the opposite of the essence of baseball, which, for all its competitive ardor, is playtime. (And the over-all increasing regimentation and militarization of modern life has no more powerful, intimate symbol than the fanatical prevalence of depilation).

Roger Angell, objecting to the idea of unkempt beards rather than the peuce prose, only makes it worse:

How does it feel to wake up, night after night, in immediate proximity to a crazed Pomeranian or a Malamute or an Old English sheepdog stubbornly adhering to the once caressable jaw of the guy on the nearest pillow? Doesn’t it scratch? Doesn’t it itch? Doesn’t it smell, however faintly, of tonight’s boeuf en daube or yesterday’s last pinch of Red Man?

Boeuf an daube? Probably remnants of chowder.

Look: Beards need no highfalutin defense. They’re simply the default for most men. Do nothing and you’ll have a beard.  At some point, you’ll need to trim it. Go to a barber who knows what he’s doing. That’s about it. Keep it as you would an English hedge. Tended from time to time but not fussed over. And if you see a debate in The New Yorker on their “Rousseau-esque gesturing,” roll your eyes and have a good chuckle.

(Hat tip: Amanda Hess. Photo: Mike Napoli’s magnificent manliness, by Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe via Getty Images. Dish Award glossary – explaining all our annual awards – is here.)