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Postmodern Village
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Breaching the Berth: Selfing and Stability in Other and Text

A Report on the 8th Annual EastWesterly Review/Postmodern Village Conference
by Lael Ewy with Charles V. Gustavsen and Mittens Dubois contributing

Gentle Overnight Results

Here are some samples of new movements from the body postmoderne:

Mary-Lou LungkuchenHit on the Head By Fruit: My Entry Into the World of Great Minds
By Mary-Lou Lungkuchen

An example of the inflexibility of modus ponens, Lungkuchen’s thoughtful look at what it takes to be great as presented included an interactive PowerPoint slideshow and actual “fruitheading” demonstrations. The paper (and upcoming book) may just represent the final plank bridging the gap between the humanities and science. Sadly, with its reliance on Newtonian physics, it is about 150 years too late.

 

Alista ClockheartWill the Real Slim Shelley Please Stand Up?: Body Image and Self-Loathing in Frankenstein
By Alista Clockheart

Leaping deftly from text to text, Clockheart demonstrates the link between reported body image of contemporary sufferers of anorexia nervosa and the self-image of Shelley’s wretch from the Gothic masterpiece. Her next leap to the re-visioning of Shelley’s work as self-reported case-study is pure genius. The accompanying weight-management seminar at the presentation was an ironic postmortem touch.

 

Nell Bianca[Silly]-String Theory: Culture, Literature, and the Physics of Bugs Bunny
By Nell Bianca

With a 3-D immersion presentation, Bianca questions the very notions of what the universe is and the relationships cartoons have to it. Is Bugs Bunny a treatise on quantum physics, a grand unified theory (con)textualized in the visual language of animation? The question lingers, making the viewer want to play with anvils. One problem, though: during the presentation of this instant classic at this particular conference, all the VR helmets smelled inexplicably of beef.

 

M. Addison AvignueCarlos YoungThey Really Are Out to Get You: Contemporary Demographics and Scorched-Earth Marketing in the Psychometrics of Paranoia
By M. Addison Avignue and Carlos Young

Avignue and Young’s presentation was highly traditional, but the impact of their theory will follow one everywhere. The ATMs were empty after their paper, with conferees paying for everything in less traceable cash. But there’s a plus side: as long as you keep paying, Big Brother will always love you.

 

Hurt n’ Learn: The John Rosemond Solution: Corporal Punishment in the Popular Media Since Blake
By S. Mack Bottum

Bottum’s presentation was easily the most talked about, but it was the least likely one conferees admitted to attending. Along with a deep look at corporal punishment as pop culture, there were live demonstrations of techniques involving paddles, spoons, switches, rulers, and, for traditionalists, the open hand. Interestingly almost all who showed up participated in the demonstrations, many pairing off to hotel rooms immediately afterward.

 

Garvus 'Biz' MarkeyWhatchoo Soutin’ At?: The Semiotics of Commercial Volume
By Garvus “Biz” Markey

Arguably the loudest presentation at this year’s conference, Markey’s paper explores “yelling” ads as a form of media-driven sadomasochism. In an attempt to explain why being yelled at endears consumers to local car dealerships and furniture stores, Markey suggests that generations raised on loud stereos and even louder concerts crave the pain these commercials provide. Shout at me baby, shout.

 

Joycelyn 'Jimbo' JoycePostmodern Leprechaun: The Socio-Cultural Significance of Ed McMahon in Lotto Land
By Joycelyn “Jimbo” Joyce

Joyce’s paper spans quasi-Irish marketing motifs from Yeats to Lucky Charms cereal and finds that the Irish mascot points to an emerging commercial semiotics in which wealth (as the pot o’ gold) is tragically linked to an entire race, depicting middle-class blacks on McDonald’s commercials stands for diversity, and gorillas mean luggage. McMahon himself has morphed into a leprechaun in the public mind, Joyce argues, and the special computer animation she presented with the paper showed why. Implicit here is the marketer’s worst nightmare: that consumers should think before they buy.

 

Stan WankeyThe Transcendentalism of Testosterone From Transformer to the Trans Am
By Stan Wankey

Wankey, as usual, presents us with a difficult take on the Oversoul--that it could be linked to the mullet, NASCAR, and Brooks and Dunn tapes. How else, Wankey asks, can masses scattered over miles and miles of rural America find themselves so uniformly identifying with a specific subculture? Cosmic redneck culture is proven by its counter-example, the gay-blade culture of the 1970s that developed in very tight-knit, mutually supportive urban environments. Frightening, but the monster-truck demonstration may have taken things a bit far.

 

Bud W. BushEcholalia-aholia: It’s Just the Beer Talking: Addiction and Psychosis as Postmodern Literature
By Bud W. Bush

Another great example of how interactive paper presentation can turn mediocre scholarship into pure genius, the least interesting part was the schizophrenic panel members. But the open bar representing the other half of Bush’s thesis showed the theory with giddy effectiveness. Video studies of participants’ substance-inspired speech-making will be available at Bush’s website as soon as the legal issues can be worked out.

 

Stephanie Fey InmanBlack Hole: the Cosmology of Octavia Butler
By Stephanie Fey Inman

It’s not what you’re thinking, but Inman’s work boldly goes into the relationship between science fiction and the motivations for real research by focusing on the impact of Butler on contemporary biotechnology. What really had conferees abuzz, though, were the explosions.

 

Alexis NexusInspired by the Dessication of a Moth: A Memoir on the Tragedy of Dry Skin
By Alexis Nexus

A first for the conference, Nexus’ presentation of her creative nonfiction piece itched our curiosity about all things dermal, and the time-lapse film of a decaying insect cracked the issue open to cross-species and cosmological considerations. Nexus’ Lubriderm sponsorship was also a first, peeling away the layers of academic noncommercialism and providing a postmodern problem-solution essay simultaneously.

 

P.B. WombatThe Socio-Sexual Linguistic Politics of Automotive Communication
By P.B. Wombat

Knucklescrapers unite! One in a long series of automotive-themed essays, Wombat explores the miraculous transformation of automotive professionals when technical language is used. The moral component is also dismantled as Wombat observes that otherwise unscrupulous mechanics who routinely bilk the mechanically unschooled become fair--even generous--when confronted with terms such as “valve guide seals” and “transmission bellhousing.” Our morals are determined by our linguistic environment, Wombat reasons. But does it justify the way we treat the poor unwashed who don’t know the word “reification?” I think it does.

 

Paul AnderFrom "Bootilicious" to "Lady Marmelade" and J-Lo to J-E-L-L-O: Women as Snacks and Spreads
by Paul Ander

"I don't think you're ready for this jelly," sings Destiny's Child in "Bootilicious," but Paul Ander disagrees. The semantic link between snack foods, fruits, and condiments have always existed, argues Ander, from Grimm's fairy tales to Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and beyond. Ander's presentation left much to be desired: he giggled while shouting "there's always room for J-Lo." A fifteen-minute etymology lesson on "spread" and thirty-minute tirade against Pringles' orgasmic "Pop the top" advertising campaign caused many listeners to shake their booties to the biergartens instead.

 

Louisa June CaldecottDown in the Buñuel Docks: Social Class and Love in L' äge d'or, Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie, and Abismos de pasión
By Louisa June Caldecott

Besides religion and martinis, it can be said that Buñuel was highly interested in social class and love. Caldecott attempted to make that point, but her methods were a bit distracting. The firing of a gun at the moderator (there was a fly on his head), odd dream sequence (she fell asleep at the podium), Air Force maneuvers, and interruption by a nun wearing only her headpiece and a rosary livened up an otherwise tedious presentation. As after many papers, cocktails were meant to be served, but prevented by various factors.

 

Cassie O. VademCan Your Palm Do This?: Masturbation Overtures in Business Motivational Literature
By Cassie O. Vadem

While the question may be “who moved my cheese” instead of “who cut the cheese,” Vadem asserts that the locker-room humor is still present in works by Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, and Stephen R. Covey. She posits the late 1990s return to "teamwork" as a backlash against former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elder's stance that masturbation is natural and normal. Several young males in the back of the room compared the length of their styluses until Vadem called attention to their behavior.

 

Martin O'MalleyFriction is Fiction: Harnessing the Power of Static Electricity through Increased Inequality
By Martin O'Malley

That tingling sensation means there's lightning a-comin', warns O'Malley. His hair-raising performance explains that it is actually inequality (the ratio of positive to negative ions) and not friction that causes static electricity. O'Malley then isolates key images of static electricity in film and literature and its relationship to the inequality between good and evil, not the conflict between the two. O'Malley turned down the humidifier and turned up the fun as we all zapped each other using his handy hints.

 

Barb E. Meadows"They're Called Boobs, Ed": Erin Brockovich, Bridget Jones' Diary, and the Modern Female Picaresque Film
By Barb E. Meadows

Those lovable roguish women, Erin Brockovich and Bridget Jones, delight while they revile, claims Barb E. Meadows. With these characters' preoccuption with their physical bodies and individual foibles, most modern women enjoy the conflicted feelings of commiseration, hope, guilt, humiliation, and despair caused. Meadows then launched into a tirade against the Lifetime channel for sappy television shows like A Baby Story when today's independent women really want to see reruns of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd all over again. Two ladies wept openly during the final minutes and split a jar of Nutella.

 

Simon GatterRevenge of the Nerds: Odyssey of the Mind Becomes TV
By Simon Gatter

With new television shows like Battlebots and Junkyard Wars popping up like blackheads on a fifteen-year-old, the intellectual gymnastics known as Odyssey of the Mind seems to have found a new home. Gatter explains how a basic cable television show can make anything cool.

 

Jean LukasPostcolonial Architecture: Jungle Rooms From Presley's Graceland to Mandela's Graceland
by Jean Lukas

Lukas examines the popularity of animal prints in home trends and other forms of cultural consumption in this postcolonial age. Reproductions of British Empire-era furniture available through the Bombay Company and the Ernest Hemingway collection of Ethan Allen serve to continually marginalize developing countries not only through their aesthetics, but also their production practices. While overall a fine presentation, one attendee commented, "Polka dots are coming back anyway, so no one need worry about leopard. That's so 1999."

 

Conclusions

It would be nice to believe that the 9th and 10th EastWesterly Review/Postmodern Village conferences will combine both the international flair of the 8th and the wanton destruction of earlier gatherings. The implications would be no less than enormous: if these two forces could be brought together in, say, a politically sensitive region of Afghanistan or Iraq, they may foment enough unrest to topple existing regimes. Likewise, the practice conferees could get in those places could lead us to tackle more powerful phallocentric, totalitarian regimes such as China, the U.S. or, the ultimate power, Microsoft. We can only hope that academe will by these means regain its rightful place as being in some way important to society at large.

 

Back to page 1: Conference Underview