Monday, August 31, 2009

Pieces of Youth's Dark Awesomeness

If there is a comic sublime, it's in teenagers' diaries.

Just read these magnificent glimpses into young tortured souls -- on Jezebel.

My diaries are hidden (probably too poorly) at my parents' house. They go as far as my eighteenth summer, which I spent traveling to festivals and odd places around Poland and during one of those escapades met my future husband. I have the record of what the eighteen-year-old me thought of him, believe me, although she liked him back then, she would be quite surprised if I could tell her she married him years later.

Adrian Mole's Vogue

Needless to say, I'm not a reader of Vogue. I'm the kind of person who reads about Vogue and similar magazines online and checks out their covers on Photoshop Disasters. At the same time I will stand by my one-time confession that I love women's magazines.

Why do I love them? They make me nostalgic after Communism. Of course, in a Good-bye, Lenin kind of way, because it's a fragmentary, deluded vision of Communism. (But still.)

The issues of Pani, Twój Styl, and Zwierciadło with which I stuff my suitcase after a visit in Poland are very different from Western glossies. Unlike the magazines Naomi Wolf describes in The Beauty Myth, the Polish ones did not result from a deal between plastic surgeons and fashion moguls. When they took off, the economic landscape was a lot like the first seconds of this excerpt from The IT Crowd.

In light of this paucity of beautification options, magazine makers assumed that women can read. Which is why until this day, despite the increasing amount of advertisements filling their pages, those mags still contain a considerable amount of text. So you get actual articles on politics, pains of modern society here and far away, interviews with writers and theater directors, painters, fabulous short essays -- all before you hit against the fashion spread and descriptions of cosmetics that cost at least half of your salary.

Maybe because I've been spoiled by these mags championing the assertion that women can process information and -- like the people in the reportage pieces -- may sometimes be poor and not dine in Manhattan or go to movie premieres, I can't take Vogue.

I got to this piece via Jezebel, probably something like a year after its publication, but as amazed as if it were hot off the press. Like the editor who covered this article on Jezebel I have absolutely no idea what the hairdo it's supposed to describe looks like, even though I think I've seen it in pictures.

The most fascinating thing about this piece though is that it sounds like it was written by Sue Townsend: it's like a scene from a yet non-existent new Adrian Mole volume, in which Adrian gets a job at a women's magazine and, trying hard to figure out a topic fit for ladies, he ends up writing nonsense about hair.

In the book Adrian would get fired for this kind of crap, but in the real world Vogue this runs smoothly and this does not come across as an insult to intellect. How strange.

My naive thought, from which I was cured when I read up more on the writer on Jezebel, was that it really was Sue Townsend writing under a pseudonym. Or at least a major fan of British satirical novels.

Wouldn't it be wonderfully postmodern if Plum Sykes consciously parodied herself in a Sue Townsend style?!

Unfortunately, Sykes has probably never heard of Townsend, probably has no sense of humor, And on top of it all I would not be able to find her piece in an actual issue of Vogue among all the photoshopped adverts of perfume, jewelry, and nose jobs.

I know there's yet another movie about Anna Wintour but I'd personally prefer to find out who the actual Vogue readership is and what brings them to read such inanities and not think it's a postmodern satire.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

First Class

was a failure just because I didn't expect the students to be so mindless as not to leave me place at the table. When I got to the class, my first thought was to say that since I didn't have any place to sit, they can manage the class on their own, bye-bye.

And I should have done that. It would have been much more effective than sitting down in the corner, desperately trying to get to my notes and lesson plan, and mumbling things about how I object to eating and texting in class.

I hope I was weird enough to scare some of them off so that we can actually have a normal number of people on Monday.

I need a crash course in being serious and scary.

Advice! Advice! Please!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blunders and Duties

Reader (if anyone should stray here from their blogging path for whatever reason), I have married, I have become a teacher (sort of like a governess but I have to pay my rent myself).

I got sucked into the abyss of pedagogical duties just around that last post in June. The abyss is technically supposed to look back at you when you look into it, but mine just spat out student essays.

As luck would have it, the recession has hit the cheerful land of graduate study, where kiddies venture when they're too scared to face the job market. The sharply reduced number of free photocopies was, I think, just enough for me to copy the syllabus; my so-called office doesn't have a window (curious savings) but it does have one of those locks that let you lock yourself in easily; I get to teach on the American Labor Day, while all the cafeterias on campus are closed (because it's Labor Day). Oh joy! And the (censored) publishing house *forgot* to send me desk copies. Twice. Now I can only eat bread and water until the next paycheck comes.

On the whole it's fine, I guess. If only I didn't have a big fat exam hanging over my head...

Meanwhile, I still have my secret imaginary life in Berlin, where I have imaginary kids, say, in Prenzlauer Berg and am able to afford eating out, and where I take long walks like someone out of Baudelaire and I don't have to submit 25 pages about it by the end of the semester.

PS: I don't even know how to reference this gem.