Wednesday, October 15, 2003


Yeah, that Pong.

It's duty night, and that means ego tripping in a major way, because after six years of one-night-a-week-one-weekend-a-month dorm duty in front of the green table and net, I am the master.


Nothing gets by me. I have an innate sense of defense, an interesting offshoot of the ADHD which lets me hyperfocus fluidly, the brain out of the way, when the ball comes to my side of the table. I am grace in gravity, poetry in motion, that cool faculty member with the long hair who spends all night holding down the table while the other dorm parents read at their desks in the next dorms over. Got no offense, a weak forehand, but a kind of zen backhand twist that won't let anything by, and a persistence that is plenty enough to wait while, one by one, the kids before me beat themselves, off the table, into the net.

To be fair, it's my only sport. I mean, you're talking about a guy who took Dance for gym credit in high school in a vain attempt to train the klutziness out of his system, a guy who doesn't wear wristwatches anymore due to a weird tendency to smash their faces on walls as he passes by (I like to call it "low limbic awareness"). And, as a sport, it doesn't do much for my physique: I sweat, but the potbelly grows regardless.

Still, it feels good to beat the students. Maybe it's just a secret inferiority complex, but it feels good to beat the students. Especially the varsity athletes. Especially the varsity tennis players.

In other news, used an online version of Pong to start a second day of video game study with my Media Literacy class this afternoon: last Friday we talked about the ways in which video games are a mass medium (programmed environments which reinforce limited consumer choice and televisionary body norms and behavioral tendencies) and yet an interactive medium (projected selves in environments with some choice, a kind of template for the second-self identity-play which networks bring to the cultural table); today we did primary research, watching each other play games on some kid's X-Box hooked up to the classroom projectors, charting -- through body language and verbal cues -- the evolving and personal relationship between the self-out-here and the self-in-there, the homunculus and the body, the transition from human to cyborg.

Have I mentioned I love my job? Hate some people's tendencies to give me vague mandates and no direction and then misinterpret my motives for action and change the spaces I oversee behind my back and call me into their offices to tell me I'm not doing what I should how I should, even though how could I possibly know how to do what I do the way they want if they won't tell me and won't meet with me except to say "you did this wrong." But love my job. Next week we're going to start looking at email and chat; as promised, I'll hold class in an AIM chat room just for kicks sometime soon, too.

And why aren't the kids studying tonight? Because tomorrow's Mountain Day, a school-wide holiday with mandatory mountain climbing by class. Why? Well, one fine day, a hundred years ago, our founder (this was back when the guy who founded the school was also the head of the school) walked into the dining hall (this was back when there was only one dining hall) during breakfast (this was when students were required to eat breakfast) and said something along the lines of "It's a beautiful day; lets go for a walk!" Course, this was all back in the day when the school could actually decide things at the last minute -- these days, although Mountain Day is a surprise to all of us, it's called the day before so that we can all plan ahead for our spontaneity. Ah, tradition. It's still nice to have a day in the woods when you thought you'd be having another damn meeting with your supervisors.

Bonus: Did you know that blogger's spellcheck doesn't have the word "cyborg" in it? Nor does it recognize "blogger's," the possessive form of its own NAME? Geez, guys -- get with the cyberprogram, will ya?

[UPDATE 10/16/03 1:13 A.M.: Did I mention that I'm reading David Foster Wallace's short non-fiction collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again? Just now from pages 327-338, in the midst of the title essay, there's this scene where Wallace (who writes like this, except with footnotes instead of parentheses, and who has taken a cruise much like the one I took with my family this summer, only in his case he's there ), who it turns out is also a master ping pong player (although he calls it Ping-Pong, somewhat smugly, as if he knew something you didn't), describes for us a morning trouncing the cruise's on-board ping pong pro, or 3P, both verbally and ping-pong-wise.

I can't decide if all this coincidence -- the way themes just seem to pop up in life, although I suppose it might just be me, as I can't speak for your life -- is ominous or serendipitious or what. Maybe it's symptomatic of a universe with a sense of humor. Maybe it's just life. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 10:17 PM |

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