The strangest stop you have ever made on a road trip
Home and Away Dave F - 03:11 pm PST - Jan 25, 2000 - #44 of 46
About fifteen years ago, I had to go to a rural part of Oklahoma for a business trip. I flew into Oklahoma City, rented a car, and started driving, on Interstates and main roads.
My first intimation of weirdness came when I stopped somewhere to use the bathroom and grab a burger and fries. When I returned to the car, someone had gone to great pains to hawk up a huge wad of phlegm, and spit it on the side window.
A bit later, when I stopped for gas, I realized the reason. I returned to the car from getting a coke, and the pump jockey says:
"Hey, mister, that's some license plate you got thar."
"Huh?", I say. "It's a rental car."
"Oh. Well, if'n I wuz you, I'd turn right around and go back and get another car."
"Well, hail, don't chew know nothin? That there's the mark of the Devil, raht out of Revelation."
The license plate began with 666.
Great Books for Girls
Books Caddie Woodlawn - 11:41 am PST - Jan 24, 2000 - #58 of 65
I haven't read the American Girl books, but I'm a bit skeptical. On the one hand, I'm happy about anything that gets kids interested in the past. On the other hand, I worry that this sort of very safe, very commercial version of the past fosters a kind of romantic nostalgia for the good old days. And that's not always a good thing. The American Girls franchise has a stake in emphasizing the parts of the past that girls are going to find cool: pretty clothes, tea sets, etc., because those can be easily converted into stuff and marketed. There's no easy commercial tie-in for the fact that early-to-mid-19th century women didn't have property rights or that 18th century girls grew up hearing constant references to women's physical, moral and intellectual inferiority. Moreover, girls are less likely to identify with a past in which all those bad things happened, and they need to identify if they're going to buy the dolls and tea sets. And I think the bad stuff is important not just because it's true, but because also because ignoring it serves a particular kind of conservative agenda. If the good old days were so good, maybe it's feminists' (and insert-your-favorite-equality-seeking-group's) fault that everything is less than perfect now.
I'd like to think there's an easy way to deal with this, but I'm not sure there is. When the Pleasant Company introduced a mid-nineteenth-century African-American doll (a fugitive slave, if I remember correctly), they were assailed for trivializing the really horrific experiences such a girl would have had. It wasn't that they pretended that slavery and racism didn't exist, but they sanitized them. They sort of had to do that, though, because grim books do not sell dolls and because there would be something a bit disturbing about depicting really horrible things in order to move merchandise. All children's authors have to wrestle with questions about how detailed to get about the uglier parts of human existence, but the marketing angle makes it more complicated and difficult, I think.
Sorry to be so long-winded!
The poetics of objects and space
Ken Wilson - 01:45 pm PST - Jan 26, 2000 - #2084 of 2094
Here's my dumb story:
Back when we were coming home from India, we traveled in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan...
When we were in Hong Kong, we decided to go to a Japanese restaurant before we headed for Japan, to prepare, I guess. The restaurant's customers all seemed to be Japanese business people. We were the only Europeans there and we struck the clientele and the staff as curiosities. Remember, this was in 1970. Everything we did, tried to say... every move we made with our chopsticks and food was met with stiffled laughter all over the restaurant. We couldn't do anything right, so we just gave in and played to the crowd, did things we knew were wrong - and became the night's floor show.
Finally, after we paid our bill - It was my wife and I and two other returning Peace Corps volunteers - I decided to leave with style. I knew everyone was watching. I grabbed the door and whipped it open with a wild flourish and took a deep bow, holding the door for Carolyn and our friends. The whole restaurant burst out laughing. I didn't think it was that funny. I looked around, out the door I had opened.
It was the broom closet.