A Few Thoughts on Nostalgia

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(Isn’t it great that we can title things “A Few Thoughts On…” and it gives us the excuse to totally abandon all but the barest bones of form and cohesion? I’m just so glad I live in 2013, you know?)

It’s nearing midnight here in the magical city of Bloomington, IN, and I have created a lopsided playlist of twangy-sad songs about loss and heroin addiction, and I’ve been feeling that vague and pervasive sense of unplaceable nostalgia that I believe haunts any person with the slightest religious and/or artistic inclinations who happens to live in the Internet age and/or happens to be Proust.

Then I made the mistake of looking at photos from my last visit to my Chicago home, which took place right before my parents moved halfway across the country and abandoned me to the wilds of the Midwest.

My parents aren’t even in the photos–much less my thousand and one crazed younger siblings who are all freakishly athletic, whatever, I can  touch my toes if I warm up for like 2 minutes–they’re mostly just photos of our neighborhood, bathed in this weird blue sunset light. It’s taken with my old camera (I have a new camera now) and I’m wearing my favorite summer shirt. And since when are sunsets blue?

Here’s the thing about nostalgia: I’m not necessarily longing to repeat the experience, or to see the people. I don’t even need to write about it because oh wait: I’ve written about this exact experience before. It’s just–it’s just–I was just wracked by the fact that it ever existed and now I am somewhere else. Do you see the difference? It’s not the desire to be there, it’s the little grief over the fragmentation of past and present selves. In a way, nostalgia is a deeply selfish emotion, but of course it will always be one of the most forgivable ones. For me, nostalgia is always going to be intertwined with love: I miss you because I love you, I love you because I miss you. You can feel nostalgia for things you have never experienced, and you can love intangible things, and you can miss people when they’re right next to you, and you can hold a million things in your heart.

Deconstructing the Deconstructionist: Graduate School Lingo I Cannot Tolerate

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All industries have their insider lingo. When I worked in publishing, we frequently burned huge piles of books while shouting, “DIE, WITCH, DIE,” but all it meant was, “Looks like we’re gonna be a little late on the print run this month.” When I worked at Starbucks, I would yell “DON’T YOU JUST HATE ALL THESE YUPPIES SO MUCH RIGHT NOW?” across the crowded cafe and whoever was manning the espresso machine would nod and say, “Double tall latte, got it.” I myself have my own insider lingo that only I am privy too, so anytime you think I’m insulting you to your face, I’m probably just indicating my desire to rewatch How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days (my favorite movie ever).

But, my dear ones, while I do love a good romp in the linguistic fields every now and then—bro lingo, biddy lingo, lowbrow lingo, Kreayshawn lingo, euphemistic Shakespearean lingo—there is one type of lingo that I absolutely cannot and will not deal with: the nefarious thornfield of pretension that is Grad School Speak. I mean, I try to sound as terribly smart in class as the next guy, and I usually accomplish this by referencing specific outfits featured on Gossip Girl and then adding the phrase “…as Foucault grapples with in his Illuminations,” but even I have my limits.

Here are the top 6 offenders in my book (“book” being insider lingo for “a thing that truly smart people use to prop up the corner of their walnut dining room table”):

 Offender: “…troubles the notion of…”

Example: “The offensively bright yellow font on this bag of Doritos troubles the notion of consumption in grayscale.”

I’m sorry, what was that? Did you just use unnecessarily high-brow syntax to tell me that SOME THINGS ARE DIFFERENT THAN OTHER THINGS AND NOT EVERYTHING JIVES WITH EVERYTHING ELSE? Because I was pretty sure that I lived in a homogeneous, trouble-free world! I am so confused right now! Don’t we all get along no matter what? Isn’t everything perfect?

Offender: “…the act of…”

Example: “the act of consumption” “the act of discrimination” “the act of alienation”

God has given us a gift, my friends, a gift called Verbs. Verbs are already actions! You don’t need to turn them into nouns and then remind us that they’re actions! Unless…you’re purposefully padding your language as a way to compensate for the fact that the world is run by lean mean killing machine alpha males in finance who don’t appreciate what you do?! I get it, really. But come on.

Offender: “…calls into crisis…”

Example: “The concept of a ‘flavored’ snack chip calls into crisis the privileged Western notion of corn as the ultimate bland food group.”

A ‘crisis’ is something like a hurricane, an earthquake, or the fact that Anthropologie canceled my shoe order (don’t worry, I fixed the problem, I will have those boots). There is no crisis happening here. Don’t words mean anything anymore?

 Offender: “…the space of…”

Example: “Calvino works within the space of the traditional fantasy oeuvre in order to both subvert and manipulate the troubling notion of ‘other’ selves.”

My hatred of this phrase stems from a little peoplegroup I like to call “theater majors at Northwestern University.” Oh, you’re working within the space of the black box? Your character’s emotional problems originate within the space of the domestic sphere? Shakespeare just died a second death. Unfortunately, this insidious phrase is a popular one in the grad school classroom, so, if anything, my quality of life has deteriorated from those troubled days as an undergrad until now. The phrase is entirely redundant, people. Unless you’re talking about literal space, I don’t want to hear it.

Offender: “the Other”

Example: everything ever written about humans (and especially stuff about Caliban)

Ugh, do we honestly have to capitalize it?

 Offender: the terrible format of academic paper titles*

Example: “Snappy Opening Phrase: Huge Academic-Sounding Word and Huge Academic-Sounding Word in Specific Text and the Problem of Something That’s Not Actually a Huge Issue.”

I tried to title my last paper “Monsterz in Ur Closet!!!!” but everyone shunned me for six hundred and sixty-six days so I had to change it to “The Beast Within: Metaaural Dissonance and the Question of the Deformed Other in Feminine Domestic Habiliment-Centric Space.”

*I know this academic-paper joke has been made before but I HAVE TO CRAWL BEFORE I CAN SOAR, OKAY?

Call for Submissions

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My friends, I have two truly hilarious blog posts waiting in the wings. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder if I’m talking about you, you’ll know I would never do that because I’m a good friend, you’ll ask yourself if we’re really friends, you’ll ask yourself if you even like me, you’ll wonder why you’re still reading, you’ll find me slightly annoying, you’ll want this sentence to end, you’ll marvel at its Faulknerian breadth, you’ll be totally impressed, you’ll subscribe to my RSS feed, you’ll have a great time.

There is a time for those two blog posts but the time is not now.

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Can someone please tell me what they’d like to see on this blog? Is it too negative? Should I post more pictures of latte art? More personal anecdotes? More lists of terrible societal trends? Blurry photos of “Kim Kardashian’s fetus” that look suspiciously like my foot? Let’s recall the halcyon days of Toridotgov when I was interviewing Barack Obama and let’s dream big, okay? I am open to all suggestions and I will even take requests. If you want to write a column for me, and you’re funny (or friends with Quentin Tarantino), shoot me an email or leave a comment below.

XOXO, Gossip Tor