Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memories of GenX Childhood

Song from GenX childhood in the USA:

Why do we always come here
I guess we'll never know
It's like some kind of torture
To have to watch the show

-from the Muppet Show, (1976-1981) sung by the two critics sitting in their box in the opening of the show (as shown in this photo).

My sister was born 5 years before I was. We watched this show together when I was little. I have an image of us sitting on the floor, in front of the TV, in the living room. We aren't sitting Indian style, but on our heels. My Yoga video calls it "Child's Pose."

The opening part of the show, specifically the lines by the critics, always made us laugh. The voices and notes of this verse of the song were off compared to the rest.

Did you realize as you were watching that the show is a parody? It makes sense now.

By the way, GenX means people born between about 1965 and about 1982.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Romantic Comedies, How Love Starts

I watched this movie over the weekend: Stranger than Fiction with Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, and Dustin Hofman dir. Marc Forster (2006). I really enjoyed it.

Last week, I watched Jet Lag Décalage horaire- very nice (2002). It is with Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno, dir. Daniele Thompson. French with English subtitles.

Both movies/films are romantic comedies.

There are scenes in Stranger than Fiction in which I felt tense, and in other scenes like crying, others laughing, others just thinking about all of the elements that are coming together to make a great scene.

Both movies/films make the argument that lovers often start out despising each other. They meet repeatedly by chance, and something brings them together. Perhaps this is true. I think of someone I despise but also find attractive, and meet often by chance. I am certain he also despises me. Nothing has brought us together so far, however. This story has been going on for some time. I am quite sure no change will come. That is OK with me.

In "Stranger than Fiction", Karen Eiffel, a writer (Emma Thompson), narrates Harold Crick's life (Will Ferrell). I won't go into that except to say, we narrate our own lives, but what if an omnipotent third person narrated instead? It poses the question, "Little did he know" and if he knew, would he do it anyway? A bit of the philosophical questions of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." He learns of a great unhappiness and he has a choice about it, he does not learn of a great happiness, he has no choice about it, it happens.

In "Jet Lag," great unhappiness or bad luck is washed away through meeting someone new. We stay with someone because of our fears, we stay with others because of our courage and faith.

I received these movies from Netflix - a service I recommend.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sophie Dahl: model, writer

Sophie Dahl is a writer and model. She is also British and the granddaughter of Ronald Dahl. Who didn't love "James and the Giant Peach"? I started reading it this fall, it works for adults, too.

Sophie Dahl just wrote her first book, Playing with the Grown-ups, and in an interview, she is talking about how it is a good first book, and she's glad she got it out of the way. That is how it feels right now, as I write my dissertation.

Sophie Dahl is a model. She was discovered walking down a London street at age 18. Her large, wide-set eyes, height (6"), and curves (a 38DD breast size) set her apart. She borders on the plus size for models, although she has lost weight since then (her age is now 30). I am tall, not as tall as she is, I have nice eyes, not as large as hers, I have some curves, but not her proportions. In the moment, I am working off 8 pounds I gained this winter (about 3kilos, about two inches on my waist-yikes). I live in a backwoods place, not London, and my grandfather wasn't an author.

Sophie Dahl also modeled for Opium perfume by YSL. I read that this ad, pictured here, was on billboards in France and the UK. It was banned shortly after first display. Reports don't exactly say what it is that is bad about it. I think it is fantastic. It is very erotic, but not vulgar or degrading to women or good taste. I wouldn't mind having an experience similar to the one she suggests in the billboard photos.

Here is the billboard:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Museum of Broken Relationships, Pride, Tableware

Hello, and thank you to my friends who have emailed me off the blog to let me know they liked hearing about the Museum of Broken Relationships and are awaiting the interview on NPR with the artists, Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić.

Here is the NPR* story on the Museum of Broken Relationships, with an interview with the artists. It is very charming. I found it took a bit of navigating the NPR web site to find the story, so I have posted the link here or here:

I really liked the interview because I like the idea of a Museum of Broken Relationships and because the dynamic of the interview, especially the way the artists talked about their work, reminded me of the artistic culture in Zagreb. Well, and what broken relationships feel like in general, but in Zagreb specifically.

I lived in Zagreb recently. Also, my parents are from there. I conducted my PhD research there. I study consumer emotions, specifically pride, as they are felt during the ritual of the family meal, using tableware. I focus on pride as it relates to feelings of the self and status.

I especially focus on women's feelings of pride as they relate to tableware. That is one more reason I like this museum. Women who have been in a marriage for twenty years are proud to have a set of plates that serves twelve, expensive or not, and to have had it since the start of their marriage. They are proud when the set is in tact. Nothing in that precious set was thrown against the wall or on the floor in a fit of anger. Maybe other things were thrown, but not that. The set was kept together, the marriage was kept together.

NPR* is, in short, a radio programming organization. They provide news and other content. They are a public organization.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Museum of Broken Relationships

Have you heard about the Museum Of Broken Relationships? I heard about it this morning on NPR's weekend edition. Actually, someone dear to me told me about it a while ago.

More later about my experience listening to the interview, how nice it is to hear Croatian artists on the radio in the US, how it reminds me of something I know from Zagreb. For now, I have an appointment with a masseur in 15 minutes and I have to go (yes, a change from my usual Saturday schedule, more later about that). For now...

Here is the text from the Museum web site (

A museum dedicated to broken hearts has recently been founded in Croatia. Author's of the concept Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić decided to set up the museum after consoling friends over their failed romances.
The museum has everything from romantic and touching letters to different gifts given to lovers like teddy bears and photos, but also such unusual examples as leg prothesis donated by a war veteran who fell in love with his physiotherapist or a gall stone. Every single object on display is anonymous, and has a short description of the item related to the relationship that was behind. That's why it could be therapeutic for those with newly broken hearts."

The Museum of Broken Relationships is an art concept which proceeds from the assumption that objects possess integrated fields - holograms of memories and emotions - and intends with its layout to create a space of secure memory or protected remembrance in order to preserve the material and nonmaterial heritage of broken relationships.

Unlike the destructive self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers every individual the chance to overcome the emotional collapse through creation, i.e., by contributing to the holdings of the Museum. The individual gets rid of controversial objects , triggers of momentarily undesirable emotions, by turning them into museum exhibits, i.e., artefacts and thereby participating in the creation of a preserved collective emotional history.

After the success of the first display in Zagreb this unique museum is going on world tour.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tremors II

Just felt another earthquake, right here, at my desk, as I am working on my dissertation ... even some aftershocks.


Yes, I was already awake for the earthquake at 4.21am today. Writing a dissertation will make you sleepless.

I was on the phone with a friend in Europe. I thought what he was telling me was making my house shake. But it wasn't, it was the earthquake.

I 5.2 earthquake will make you think your house is falling down on you and make your heart jump. It will make you turn on the radio to the weather station for information. It will make you turn on the light to make sure you still have power. It is really, really, exciting.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Anger, Angry, Fight

We feel anger and we want to fight. Afterwards, we ask, was it worth it, what was it about? Usually, it is about nothing related to the topic of the fight. Is it worth it? Are you trying to achieve something with your emotions?What is the it? It is usually energy spent.

You ask yourself, I am angry, so what do I do with it? Does it make sense to be angry at someone and be all alone. Is it worth the energy it takes to confront them, to go to the next level? Are they worth it? Maybe you confront them for yourself. As in my case today, showing anger is a way to communicate. To say, this is my limit, and do not go past it.

The other party will always say in reply, "But I didn't mean it." And then it makes you look as if you overreacted to nothing. However, we react to what was said, and it always refers to our own feelings about our selves and our lives at that moment. So it is stupid to say, "I didn't mean it." See all the emotional work that goes into anger?

Then, I have to reply, really, you didn't mean what you said, or its implied meaning, then why did you say anything at all? What is your real agenda here and why are you leaving me to figure it out. And I think, is that why I am angry? I am not sure what sense we can make of our emotions.

I have heard anger, like all emotions, always involve shame and keeping face. If someone says "I didn't mean it that way," is that like trying to take away the legitimacy of their anger? You might clear up your position by saying that, save your face, but is it really going to help the angry person? They, too, need to save face. They may or may not want to go to the next leave with their anger, which is violence. What is the next step from anger, one that isn't violent? How do you both save face? Can you?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I played tennis outside today. A spring afternoon, green grass, sunny, blue sky. Windy and hard to serve.
PS. I won the match.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How to move around Zagreb

I found this as I was cleaning out my purse recently. A tram card from my January 2008 trip to Zagreb. This is how I move around town, for example, from my apartment in Britanac to my cousin's in Mercusevac (tram 11 or 6 or 1 to the square, then tram 14 to the end, then the bus to Mercusevac). I can also take tram 1 (my favorite line) from Britanac to the Ekonomski Fakultet.

There are some times of day in which traffic in central Zagreb is too congested and hostile to take the tram. Just walk, or go to a cafe and wait. The trams in Zagreb, you see, run on lines that are on the street - the street and the trams share lanes - too much activity. And central Zagreb, or even its surroundings were not built to handle the traffic - the amount of people and cars - on them today. They were built in the 1970s and early 1980s when not everyone had a car. When, in the 80s, some license plate numbers were allowed to drive on some days and not on others. And now, everyone in Zagreb wants, perhaps needs, a car to get around. The city is spread out. And this traffic is not just to move through, or to and from, the suburbs, but to and from, and within the city center. It moves slowly.

It is nice to have a car, especially if that is the only big luxury you can afford. The luxury is not simply owning the car, or moving your body around the city, fast, but the experience of driving versus riding in the tram car. Even if the traffic in Zagreb is congested, and grates on the nerves, at least, in your car, you do not have to ride with the hoi poi. Sometimes, what I see and experience on the tram is disturbing.

I saw a married pair with a child, who must have been about age 3. I was with my Aunt, aged about 70, from a Zagreb of another time and place. The summer, sunny and hot, at least tram 11 now has the modern cars with air conditioning. We smelled this pair more than we saw them or shared space with them. The mother nursed her three year old on the tram. They were talking a language I could not understand, loudly. My Aunt was shocked and gave me such a look. Not fear of personal safety as you might have as a typical emotion in the USA from seeing something so unusual in public. But, what is this world, this place, this society, coming to, and where is it going? Not confusion, but shame and frustration.

I see many old women fight to get on and off the tram, fight for seats, I think I learned some of this from them, to use in other situations. But still, why do they fight, why are people not acceding to them? Wouldn't that be nice? And the general anxiety of that. The younger generation, I see them when I am traveling to and from the University, seems less anxious this way, they are socializing, gossiping through text messages or on the phone.

Then, there is the phenomenon of the ticket controllers. Very embarrassing to be caught, not worth it. Anyway, people who are there and not paying into the system should at least may their tram ticket. I once told an American who was a diplomat posted there and riding the tram with me and not paying a ticket.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


The problem with self-improvement is knowing when to quit. - David Lee Roth

What I do on Saturdays

Here is what I do on Saturdays.
Well, I should start with Friday nights because that influences when and in what condition I wake up on Saturday.

On Fridays, I usually have a dissertation writing deadline - a chapter or an outline of a chapter. I am exhausted.

Friday nights, my neighbors, a married couple with a four month old son, come over and we watch a movie that I have received from Netflix. The man, we will call him A., and I usually drink some wine, he more wine than I, and the woman, K., doesn't drink because she is breastfeeding. We talk for a while and then start the movie.

I usually hold the baby, C., and he falls asleep and then I fall asleep in the middle of the movie. I wake up towards the end of the movie. Neighbors return to their home, I go to bed. It is around 12 or 1am. Most weeknights, I am asleep by 11pm. I would make it earlier, but watching Colbert Report often keeps me up.

I may or may not be tired in the morning from this (wine).

I wake up between 8.30 and 9, put on some sweats, brush the teeth, and walk to the end of the driveway to pick up the weekend edition of the Financial Times. My favorite paper.

I read about half of the paper over four cups of coffee and a croissant. I have a system for reading the paper, but that will have to wait for another time, since it is a tangent, although quite interesting, I have already set the theme for this post...

The, I drive to Meijer, the grocery store, buy a coffee or tea from the Starbucks stand, and buy my groceries. This is where I buy fruits and vegetables and dry foods - oatmeal, etc. I like to be there by around 10.30, before the crowds have picked over the good green beans, and before the line at the cashier is too long and time consuming. Then, I may drive to Schnucks and buy some fish or meat, and go home and prepare it.

After lunch, I like to listen to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue on my record player and then finish off the paper and have a nap. Not today because of the dissertation. Chapter Three, Methods, outline is due Friday 18 April.

I bought REM Accelerate this morning on the way home from Schnuck's at Exile on Main Street in Champaign. It is good, but not the overwhelming experience I anticipated at first listening. Their sounds still resonates with me.

I like to swim on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

It is also usually the time I vacuum, clean the bathroom, or pick up my room, straighten up, etc. Sometimes, that is delayed for Sunday.

If I go out Friday, then usually not on Saturday, but maybe Sunday night, as it is a good time to let off steam.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hillary and Bosnia

I guess you all know about the Democrat Party primary here in the USA. Obama and Clinton. Hillary Clinton. Not much difference between the two except for gender and race. Plus, Clinton says she will return to the good old days of her husband's presidency, while Obama says he will bring in change. He does not say what kind of change, exactly, or at least I can not tell, but it is about hope and peace at home and abroad. Clinton means the good old days of economic prosperity and non lying presidents (hmm). Because their differences are largely symbolic, they need to say what it means, to remove ambiguity, to give people reasons to vote (or not). This is easier done by attacking the symbols and meanings the other candidate gives, by re-framing their opposition's interpretations, in ways that hurt the opposition, and thereby help their own campaigns.

Clinton says she is more qualified because of her experience in the White House. What experience? She was the First Lady. That usually is not a position that relates to policy, politics, and decision making. It sounds like experience by osmosis, like using a textbook as a pillow as a way to learn algebra. Clinton says hers was an executive post, and she give examples of experience she gained there. This will eventually catch up with her and President Clinton's legacy because it will require unraveling what happened in that White House and who and how power was managed there. Was Hillary Clinton as First Lady in a position to make decisions, even if she was not elected? Is that an abuse of power, and by whom? How did President Clinton use this to his advantage? What was the role of Gore as Vice President?

Clinton claimed she arrived in Bosnia under sniper fire. Sinbad, a comedian who was with her on the plane that landed, said, no, there was no danger. The press investigated. Revealed Clinton was not under danger. Clinton seems to have taken the suffering of the people of Bosnia and used it to her advantage. To have taken their side and used that to her advantage, she knows what it is like to be out of power, a victim, and is now fighting for all of those people, all over the world.

Actually, President Clinton did something to help people in Bosnia who were attacked, but it was rather late. Actually, Senator Clinton, who was then First Lady Clinton, pushed for health care reform in the US, rather than engaging internationally. That happens in many presidencies, when a president decides that, but I am not sure it usually happens with the First Lady, and I am not sure that a First Lady has influence matters at all. However, it usually does not happen that what went on in a White House is later opened up in such a way as to create convenient symbolic alliances that never existed and at the same time ask new questions about a former presidency. And finally, Bosnia is not something to play with, their suffering is not something to use to your advantage, especially when you did not, in fact, really do much to help people there. And frankly, not many in the US policy world are so interested in Bosnia, and it is a complicated situation to begin with, so it was not worth it for her to bring it up to advance her position.

Then, Clinton said the media was waiting for her to misspeak because they are against her. She is often a clever campaign politician, using whatever lines are necessary to advance her cause. Clinton does best when perceived in a position of the victim of attacks.

So, either McCain or Obama is fine with me. Which is too bad, because I started out excited to vote for a woman candidate.

Country Club Pool

I have been reading stuffwhitepeoplelike, which is a great introduction to upper middle class Anglo culture in America. Its voice is ironic and humorous. Someone had written in to the posts, suggesting an article on Country Clubs. That gave me an idea and a chance to reflect on life in Paducah, KY, where I spend my youth. As my neighbor Andrew said, life is great from birth to age 8, then it gets really complicated. Here is a story about Country Clubs as an adult who sometimes returns home for visits and swims at the pool at the Club.

When you go to the club as an adult, you will be there to cool off in the summer, to leave your parents and there house for a few hours of peace, and to socialize in an informal way. You can call one of your friends to meet you there, or, you can go in the late afternoon, and probably find someone you know there. It can be a friend from your youth, who is there with her children, for example.

There are quite a few subtexts going on at the club pool for you. First of all, if you are not married, people will be looking for signs that explain that: are you too fat, do you know how to behave? No, yes. Do you hate children (ie do you pay attention to other people's children). No, I don't hate or love them, and all I need to say is how lovely their children are etc and leave it at that. And I don't really want to be around them and their whining.

Then, whom do you talk to? Just your friends from childhood (well, yes)? What do you talk about? You gossip, but be very careful about what you reveal about your personal life, as people are listening for valuable information about your life and its problems. The best thing to do is simply listen as people tell you about their cousin's divorce, their marital tensions (this is a boring topic), their pregnancy, your other friends' face lift, your other friends' affair, how still another friend is just as arrogant as in high school, and so on. You might like to bring a book or magazine to escape this conversation if it is too boring or your conversation partner is asking you too many questions you do not want to answer.

What to read? Don't bring something like "The Great Gatsby" because you will get ... weird ...looks. Bring the local paper or, if you want to look smart and ambitious, The Wall Street Journal.

There are a few types of women at the pool. Usually, men do not go to the pool alone, unless they go to swim laps, in which case, they will come early in the morning, or just as the pool is closing. Men play golf or drink in the clubhouse. They do not swim. It could be the region for women and children in the summer, so they do not see their place there. Perhaps they do not want to be caught looking at teenage girls in bikinis. Perhaps they do not want to have women hitting on them. Perhaps they just don't know what to do with their bodies in water or their bodies in shorts and no shirt and shoes, they don't know what to do with their sexuality there.

So, women at the pool are swimmers or gossips. There is some crossover. I am a swimmer. Gossips do not get wet at the pool. They sit in lounge chairs by the pool and gossip with other gossips about their children and other women. They do not get wet. Their hair is styled and they may be wearing make up. It is hot outside, about 90f, mind you. The life guard watches their children, makes sure they do not drown. These women might not be able to swim, in fact.

Women who swim also gossip, I can not exaggerate. But they do get in the water, to play with their children or to swim with other women. I think these women are cool.

There is another story about men and women and the country club and maybe I will leave that for another time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My favorite film from Croatia

My favorite film from Croatia is "Blagajnica hoće ići na more". (2000)
It has a very dark humor, a great soundtrack, many cameo appearances, and many references to local pop culture. It is also a critique of class divisions in Zagreb at that time. It points out the well known fact that most of the work in Croatia is done by women. You know all this as you watch and you continue to laugh.
Many people would say "Tko pjeva zlo ne misli" (1970) is their favorite film, and I have been to the location in Gorni Grad where it was filmed way back when, hasn't changed at all. It is a good film, of another way of life. Families and Saturdays spent on outings (izlet). Well, some of that continues. But I like Blagajnica better for the humor. It is just interesting to watch the two together and see how audience perceptions of how people live and what can be seen.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

French Toast

Happy Birthday to Desmond, a reader of this blog, of whom I am very fond. This French Toast is for you.

East European Homosocial Relationships

Analysis of the Bush-Sanader/Mesic and Bush-Putin meetings should be conducted from a perspective of male love, homosociality, in Eastern Europe.
Please see more at my blog, Knjiga za Svakog Pedera.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Colbert, REM, and GenX

My favorite band is REM. Here is the interview on Colbert Report:
I think Colbert has a crush on REM. Can't blame him, they are the best. Check out what he says around 2.20 minutes about this as a "comeback" album. I will buy this album at the end of this week, when I have chapter 2 of my dissertation written and receive the feedback.

I listened to REM when I was in high school, college, after, and now. I like the combination of blues, etc. Wow. And they toured with RATT in the 80s and are influenced by Patti Smith.

And I, like most GenX people, am nostalgic. REM is a GenX band for sure. It is a sound and an attitude, a position. It was of a time. It can communicate something valuable from that time to the present.

There is the MasterCard, "priceless" campaign. I heard the idea came as focus groups were talking about relationships and having a life with at least some meaning. Probably these were GenX people. The advertising agency involved talked about how this is a new emphasis in people's lives, but I think it resonates with GenX. And it is a commentary on society that once saw us as slackers and now embraces our views. Is this because we are older now, with more money, and are taken seriously?

I think Colbert is GenX, by his age and attitude.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Please tell me who is in this photo. Post your replies, please. The winner will receive attention on this blog.
Choices are:
1. Cat Power and Karl Lagerfeld
2. Patti Smith and Karl Lagerfeld
3. Shania Twain and Karl Lagerfeld
4. Hillary Swank and Karl Lagerfeld

Ordering Beer

Last night, I at pizza at Manolo's, my favorite in Urbana, then I attended a Kronos Quartet concert at Krannert Center (this was also my routine for the night I saw the luanr eclipse). This time, I drank a beer before the concert at the cafe at Krannert Center. I ordered a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I like that beer. I usually drink wine, but with pizza, beer is required. With this beer, I finally have a beer I can order. Budweiser was too bland. I am a little shy to order Sierra Nevada Pale Ale because it seems so fussy, but it is really good.

I have a chapter of my dissertation due today - chapter 2, theory. The dissertation will have five chapters...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ordering Tea at Starbucks

I usually order Earl Grey Tea at Starbucks. It feels really ... weird to order tea at Starbucks.