This post is mainly a response to the really oddly high amount of traffic that one of my early posts “‘Rape Fantasies’ — Margaret Atwood” gets. It’s been almost 4 years since I wrote the original post — it’s so rambly now and badly written that I feel a little embarrassed that it gets such high traffic. I figure now is a good time to write about it again with a newer perspective.
“Do you just… apply theory to everything?” – Eurah
In April 2017, I was invited to give a brief talk at the Georgia FIRST Robotics Super-Regional thanks to Jeopardy fame. Of course, I went, because free trip home and I was also very curious how my team was doing 4 years after I had left. The Super-Regional was at UGA, which I had been to before over the summer, but not during the school year, so that was an interesting experience as well.
In August 2017, I went and saw Monday Night Raw at TD Garden with my meme friends on Destiny purely for the meme. The tickets were a lot more expensive than what I expected and the stadium was also way more packed than I would have guessed as well! Although I went mainly for the joke, it turned out to be a lot more informative than I imagined.
Although most of my friends here just for irony (you can see trueluis holding up a John Cena cardboard sign right above the BRAAAAUN sign – notably John Cena does not fight in Monday Night Raw), I was lucky that my friend Erons was actually a HUGE WWE fan and watched it growing up as a kid. He was very hyped about the whole thing and nearly shouted himself hoarse. He also explained a lot more of the rules and lore to me, and by the end of the night, I was actually really excited to see how Summer Slam 2017 was going to end.
Perhaps the most important thing that came out of the night was the realization that having finite time means that you can’t take on every project. After talking to Erons, when I got home, I was very excitedly researching professional wrestling, finding the CMS class that had been done about it. Somewhere between finding Jenkins citing Roland Barthes and TV Tropes arguing whether Professional Wrestling Fanfic is Real-Person fanfic or not, I realized that I didn’t actually need to do a deep dive on pro wrestling, even if I could. It sounds sort of obvious, but it was actually a really powerful realization to me that I could just leave the pro-wrestling rock unturned and keep it as a blog post – acknowledge that several of the themes it brought up were definitely related to my primary interests and move on. It’s definitely been a hard thing to manage, but as called out in my meta post, it’s been an important refinement for me.
Below are my raw (Monday Night Raw?) screening notes — because I am incapable of experiencing any media anymore without pen and pencil in my hand
Like all ceremonies, I was really bored during my commencement so I really heavily marked up my booklet. This ranges from observation notes to recognizing who I did and did not know out of my entire graduating class. Below is a summarized version of these notes with some added analysis.
Slightly cleaned up “published” spreadsheet can be found here. Raw spreadsheet of data analysis can be found here. Graphs can be found within the spreadsheet, but I want to call out the most interesting graph which is here.
People are recorded based on their primary major (double majors are ignored), i.e. how they are listed in the graduation exercises booklet, so these statistics don’t capture how I actually know all of the 21L major graduates. Totals are also slightly off because I’m filling it out in March 2018 so I’ve met some more people than I originally marked down.
I also include graduate student tallies but they are significantly briefer because I don’t know very many graduate students and I am not interested in combing through everyone, so I do not promise a complete overview. The bar for recognition is also considerably lower.
- “Age Appropriate” by Philip Schultz
- “Dear Reader” by Rita Mae Reese
- “Democracy” by Dorianne Laux
- “A Perfect Mess” by Mary Karr
- “Reading Primo Levi Off Columbus Circle” by J.T. Barbarese
- “Ode to the Happy Negro Hugging the Flag in Robert Colescott’s ‘George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware'” by Anaïs Duplan
- “Circe” – H.D.
- “The Honey Bear” – Eileen Myles
- “Time Problem” – Brenda Hillman
- “Transubstantiation” – Matthew Dickman
- “Facing US” – Amanda Johnston
- “The Blessed Mother Complains to the Lord Her God on the Abundance of Brokenness She Receives” – Mary Karr
- “War Catalogues” – Nomi Stone
tl;dr – I scanned a weird QR code of a football / eye hovering over a book, had a pretty good discussion of Bartleby the Scrivener, and found an even bigger mystery than the one I thought I solved.
So, there I was, walking home from Stata when I see this cool sticker with a QR code. I scan it and I find that it links to isthisabook.club . It was pretty nifty but was advertising an event in SF, so I email out to all of my friends to ask if someone can make it. I also do some further digging into the world, find out one of the organizer’s emails, and break the 4th wall by asking “yo what’s up”. My friend, Danny Ben-David, makes it out to the SF bunker, and indeed, they have a book club discussion. “Ok”, I say to myself, “I think I’ve generally figured it out. Some Media Lab kids who enjoy multimedia weird internet art and they are legit having a book club. That’s cool”.
Today, I went to the advertised event in Cambridge. Sure enough, most of the stuff was a book club and I was thinking “Ok cool. I like books and this discussion is pretty good”. Then, at the end of the meeting, the “organizers” start talking about how they are not actually in control of this and they are getting notes from random higher ups and also RISD kids and I’m just “YO WHAT?”. I thought I had solved one mystery, but it actually seems like it’s much deeper than that (or they’re just pulling my leg really hard)
I’m honestly fascinated by the whole thing, but part of me is really nervous about digging in too deep. I forget which book I read this from, but a character in there says that “you should cherish mysteries, because there’s honestly not that many left in the world”. Part of me feels like that – that if I figure out all of the answers, I”ll be left despondent and disappointed, but most of me just really feels intrigued and fascinated by solving the mystery of this book club. (Perhaps the incessant dynamicism of being a capitalist engineer at MIT? heh).
Regardless, I haven’t had a weird multimedia mystery so enthralling since I successfully internet-stalked someone (with their consent) to find as much personal information about them as I could before I had even met them in person. The sense of discovery and “what happens if I flip over this rock” is very enrapturing.
Below are some (very) raw notes of what I remember from the book club + original email that I sent out + Danny Ben-David’s writeup
Idea on 3/5/2016. Written on 11/2016 and 3/2018.
I was just reading an article about “good children’s lit books with diversity” and they included an image from one – Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. I looked at the picture and suddenly started tripping really far back.
I loved going to the library as a child and even volunteered helping shelve books in elementary school (which fast forward 11 years later, helped me get my current job at the MIT Libraries haha). Part of doing this caused me to become intimately familiar with Caldecott and Newberry Award winning books.
I continued working for the Annex Manics into graduation and graduate school. (Hayden’s hours were a bit too restrictive for me for graduate school). I wanted to work over the summer, but unexpectedly got a job at the Toyota Research Institute so that put a kibosh on it.
Cool Call Numbers (Library of Congress system):
- CC165 – Archaeology
- PN212 – Narrative theory
- PN1997.O – Screenplays
- PN1997.77 – Analysis of popular TV shows
Interesting Print Magazines:
- In Theory Only – a surprisingly very cool music journal. There are music crossword puzzles, music trivia games and a shout-out to the first ever electronic music conference (naturally, happening at MIT). The internet tells me that this journal is noteworthy as one of the first grad-student-produced journals in the US.
- Japan Quarterly – See 5/18
- Journal of Popular Film and Television – ayyyyyyy
- Lakota Country Times, Navajo Times – I’m really surprised that MIT gets these because they are very reservation-specific, local newspapers. I guess I’m pretty glad though if this helps the newspaper stay in business. The Lakota one unsurprisingly has a lot of articles about DAPL
- Meanjin – writing on a variety of topics, but the print version is super interesting and strange
- Otaku USA – I have no idea why we get this, but yet, here we are.
- Sing Out – folk song magazine. Booklet / handout style with a lot of songs within it
Be advised: I pull direct quotes from the Daily Stormer and Encyclopedia Dramatica in this. A lot of people told me about rel = “nofollow” which I did for those inflammatory links.
I was trying to find a “citation” for the fact that Tony Stark had a 4.0 GPA from MIT (obviously from some comic book writer who doesn’t realize we’re on a 5.0 scale), but was having difficulty finding it. The search terms of “tony stark gpa mit” led me to the Encylopedia Dramatica article for MIT.
I was pretty surprised to find out this existed because like, I wasn’t really sure what there was really to even say. Sure enough, the article was basically (1) people who go here are nerds, (2) only Asians go here, (3) you can’t get in, and (4) your typical shock Encyclopedia Dramatica writing.
I found myself wondering more about the author though because the guy has a weirdly specific hatred of Anant Agarwal for no apparent reason and extrapolates from an OCW video to just make “hurr durr Indians can’t speak good English” jokes throughout the article. The guy also brings up Star Simpson which meant that he must be either from Boston or was in enough circles to know about the hacking (in the making sense) community at large. She’s not super well known outside of that.
Related articles linked me to MIT OCW, and it was a similar terribly written article with slightly different repeat gags of (1) people keep pretending that they’re taking MIT courses from OCW and (2) humanities are dumb amirite. It again seemed very weird to pick on OCW, which is a very innocuous thing. Sure enough, checking the histories of both pages, the same user “weev” had (within seconds!) been the primary writer of both articles on April 2011.
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