The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

December 8, 2010

White People on Display in a Venerable Institution–A Call for Papers on Whiteness

These people are white, in case you are untutored in such analyses

I’ve applied to this conference to present my paper on The Mikado — where I argue that white people bizarrely decided they wanted in the late 1800s to inhabit their Japanese knick-knacks.  I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t like to do that right now.

Anyway, if I go, I get to stay a couple of nights on that OTHER Oxford’s campus, and perhaps I will acquire a vaguely British accent by the time I get back — what Carrie Bradshaw referred to as a touch of “The Madonnas.”

I imagine that being asked to even stand near the janitor’s closet at Oxford gives one a certain credibility in academia.  I imagine finding that slip of paper that fell out of  Chaucer’s pocket after an unusually rowdy drinking game on Michaelmas.  In it I find the answer to all things.  I am then hailed, after my critical work appears, as the greatest scholar of my generation — all because somebody invited me to stand near the Janitor’s closet in July in Oxford in the context of an academic conference.

They are going to study white people.  I am not sure I like that idea.  I mean, I’ve heard that they like to take over countries.

It sounds interesting — a study of white people?  In their natural environments?  I imagine the following titles to accepted conference papers:

  • Crushing the Beer Can: Angry White Male Sublimation in a Globalized Context
  • Twinkies From Scratch: Filling the Void of Suburbia with Whipped Cream Werldschmerz
  • Andy Griffith for President: Mayberry and the Tea Party
  • Baby Got Back? Lamentation and Skinny Buttock Syndrome
  • The New Global South and The New Global Trailer Trash
  • Double-Knit Dichotomies: Fashion Victimization in the American Heartland
  • Corgis and The British Monarchy
  • The Shopping Mall Speaker Putsch: Kenny G.‘s Insidious Rise to Power
  • Fear of Garlic and Nordic Superstitions — an Ancient-World Understanding of Flavorlessnes
  • The Pearl and the Clitoris: A Queer Critical View of The Junior League

Anyway, I’m sure the conference organizers are much more enlightened than I am and will put together an even better grouping of critical works than I have presented here.

Further details and information for the 2011 meeting of the Whiteness: Exploring Critical Issues interdisciplinary research and publications project

via A Global Network for Dynamic Research and Publishing.

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November 26, 2010

Talk to me, Harry Winston — My Golem-like, and Completely UnSouthern, Obsession with Certain Bling

My precious....

I know that in Vicksburg, Mississippi, a Lorelei-Lee-like obsession with ice, square-cut and pear-shaped, is not all that useful.  I mean, if a gal wants to bake biscuits, she might just get dough stuck between the platinum claws that hold the stone in place.  When I’m sweeping leaves off the table outside, nobody is going to care what’s glistening on my finger.

That said, when William gave his momma’s ring to that girl he’s been seeing, I got covetous.  Pray for me.

Understand, I have no desire to marry into that Windsor clan.  They keep marrying their cousins so often they are starting to get goofy-looking, and they are none too bright, for the most part.  I like a smart man who is burly enough to tackle the quarterback, and I’m married to one of those — no desire to change dance partners.

But just look at that thing, glowing, beckoning — I’m the Golem of that ring!  What’s a gal to do?

As a New Yorker, I admit, if I saw that skinny British bee-hatch walking into an uncrowded street, I would think about ways to yank it off her finger and run as fast as I can.  In this photo, the ring looks loose enough on her that if I were determined and completely willing to get kick-boxed in the process, I could probably, even at my age, manage to elbow her in the guts and whang it off of her.  Pray for me!  I’m a sinner.  I’m weakened by the blue glow of that exquisite sapphire.  I think about this ring, just billions of finger-widths away from me in the UK, way, way too much

My friend Maegan took pity on me yesterday — I guess it was her Thanksgiving good deed — and sent me a URL where I could get information about replicas of this thing.  A place called The Natural Sapphire company is offering similarly cut and diamond-encircled jewelry.  I looked, and I’m sorry — it is just not the same.  That blue, the color of the anorexic sorrows of Lady Diana, cut with the princely precision of her posing on a bench alone with the Taj Mahal in the background while her cheating man back home sleeps with that other woman she called “The Rottweiler” — the pain that the ring contained is not in the knock-offs.  The pain makes it luminous.  The blue of the sapphire howls, “Help me!  I’m beautiful and destined to die young!  I’m loveless, but I have this ring to mark me, like a multi-millionaire Cain, destined to roam East of the Eden where I wanted to remain.”

Okay — I’m reading a little too much Yeats lately, and the falcon cannot hear the falconer right about now.  Pray for me!  I’m obsessed — with rings, with royal pains, with Irish quatrains.

I should go finish cleaning the Thanksgiving messes in my house, but it just seems so much nicer to imagine my finger refracting blue light in the kitchen sink.

I have an absolutely gorgeous young friend named Lylah, who is Egyptian, and I took her about two years ago to Harry Winston‘s boutique on Fifth Avenue, the one where they display rocks that make Tiffany & Co. look like they are the Walmart jewelry counter.  They had necklaces with egg-sized emeralds, rubies the contours of a cat’s brain, and sapphires that would make a smuggler choke if he tried to swallow them to hide them at the border crossing.

I pointed to a very nice emerald necklace and earring set and asked Lylah, when she married an oil sheik, to send these to me.

These days, I cannot even imagine where I could wear such things.  In Mississippi, there is no cotillion where one could wear a stone worth more than the historic antebellum mansion in which it was hosted.  Anyway, I’m a Yankee, and we don’t get invited to such things, besiege them as we might.  Why hasn’t the native lack of pretensions — I mean, my new community is all about hound dogs, shot guns, grits, and carefully worded laments against mendacity — oh, and many people around here like to drink — why hasn’t the red-neckiness of this locality gotten my neck out of the mindset of the noose of a Harry Winston necklace?

The truth is that nobody gets big rocks like that without somebody suffering a great deal.  In Tolkein’s work, all of Middle Earth gets in a war over a frigging ring.

Pray for me!  Remind me of the atrocities committed to collect conflict diamonds, of the hegemony of the DeBeers family!  Pray for me!

Why isn’t it working?  I read in the red letters of my bible, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

I mean — those are the RED letters, people!  Why am I not putting my treasures in better places?

That ring I’m obsessing over sealed a curse over the life of the woman who wore it.  Am I not better off with my perfectly lovely wedding and engagement rings that are not ostentatious and do not invite the paparazzi to my window?  Am I not much better off now?  I might be less sparkly, but why can’t I take comfort in the Shaker hymn’s idea –’tis a gift to be simple, a gift to be free, a gift to live in a land where pick-up trucks have rattlesnake flags saying “Don’t Tread On Me?”

Seriously, pray for me.  Either send me a gift certificate for serious Harry Winston bling or pray for me to find a healthier obsession.  Amen.

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