Monday, May 17, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 7 (Eric Havelock)

Havelock, Eric A.
The Muse Learns to Write:
Reflections on Orality
And Literacy from
Antiquity to the Present

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books in 1997 for a course with Charles Bernstein called, "Textual Conditions." It apparently cost eleven dollars.

On another subject, I was thinking this morning about t-shirts. Why, you might ask? Well, I remembered yesterday that I still had a leftover $50 christmas gift certificate for Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic and, being somewhat bored, as I often am on Sundays, I decided to take a trip to the mall. I ended up buying five new tees from the Gap -- three with stitched pocket, two without, colors: purple, bright blue, slate blue, slate grey/brown, slate purple. I put one on (slate blue) this morning and went downstairs. I paused on the landing to check the weather on my iPhone, wondering if I should wear a sweatshirt over it or a jacket I could take off when I got to work. Weather dot com said the mercury would rise to a high of 62 today in Buffalo, leading me to conclude I would need a sweatshirt.

I went back upstairs to my bedroom, put on a sweatshirt, then went downstairs again. I stood before the mirror trying to decide if I should wear it zipped (with t-shirt tucked in) or unzipped (with t-shirt untucked). I chose the former. I set myself down at the foot of the stair and proceeded to put on my shoes, all the while thinking about my various t-shirts. I mostly wear monochromatic tees, but my favorite one is a brown tee with the logo of the Memphis Recording Service (i.e., Sun Studios) emblazoned across the front. I thought to myself that I wished I had more tees like that, but that it was rare I saw a logo I wanted to flaunt.

I started thinking about all the ads I see on the internet for clever, ironic tees and how I always feel a kind of disdain when I see them. I thought about how fashion cycles around and I remembered how t-shirts with logos and decals and so forth were all the rage when I was a kid back in the seventies. I had a "Stars Wars" tee and a "Farrah Fawcett" tee and "Six-Million Dollar Man" tee and later even a "Death Before Disco" tee.

Then I got to thinking about how those tees were made and how that means of making tees has more or less disappeared. There was a grocery plaza about a mile from my home, in Oakton, Virginia. We shopped at "Giant" grocers and also at "People's" drug stores. Next to Peoples, tucked in a little corner, was the t-shirt ship. T-shirt decals, of logos, icons, films stars, catchphrases, etc., adorned the walls from floor to ceiling. You could buy a t-shirt there or bring your own and have them put the decal on it.

Once you chose your image, they laid the t-shirt on a large steam press and made sure all the wrinkles were gone. The they set the decal on the shirt, centered it, and pressed the top half of the press down and held it there for a minute or two while the steam removed the paper from the decal and the weight pressed the decal to the shirt, and then, voila, you had your own custom t-shirt to in which to go forth into the world, letting them know instantly who you were and what you thought.

Anyhow, I then felt sort of sad because that is an experience which has more or less left the world. There are still t-shirt shops and so forth, but probably few that are run in just that way, where you get to watch your shirt be custom-made before your eyes. Eventually, the t-shirt store closed. In the early eighties it was replaced by a VHS-tape movie rental store. That, too, was replaced, I am sure, or displaced by Blockbuster. Now that kind of store–where you wander in and discover new movies to watch at random, without a computer helping you make choices–is also gone, as is the VHS Tape.


from The Muse Learns to Write

The language we speak as we go about our daily business is such a universal feature of our lives that we commonly do not think about it. If we do, our first idea of it focuses on the words we exchange with each other as we talk. We extend our view to include a verbal exchange between on individual and a group, an audience, and then go on still further to think of it as something spoken silently, by a writer who writes down what he is saying so that another person can read what he says instead of just hearing it. Extended still further, it can be come an electronic medium that speaks to me as I watch television or listen to radio. It is still the voice of an individual at any one moment (unless of course, a choir is singing), magnified and speaking to me, another individual.

Employed in these ways, language is a phenomenon which operates as a means of interpersonal communications. Even at the electronic level, it is still a "talk show." From the beginning s of the human race, interpersonal communication was an occurrence between members of a family in the same dwelling, or as two or more people met each other in some public area–or, as society evolved, in town meetings or in a committee or in parliament or whatever. Its fairly recent technological extension across barriers of distance is now rightly viewed as a revolution in our lives and has given rise to a whole body of theorizing centered on the concept of communication, with its own research centers. There is even a "communications industry."

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