March 16th, 2012 / 5:04 pm

Two Points

1) On August 17, 1991, in CMT studios in Culver City, California, Kurt Cobain was, or at least affectedly, seen deep in the throes of executing a dissonant power chord. The video was lit as a Caravaggio painting, the dirty yellow umbers of indoor light shutting off the blue sky. A spotlight reflecting off the drum kit acts as fire, the incipient spark of a generation. The casting call summoned extras aged 18 – 25 years old dressed in “high-school persona i.e., preppy, punk, nerd, jock…,” the abbreviated, yet sadly accurate, ethos of our youth. The basketball hoop, perennial throughout the entire video, seemed both detached and stately as a crucifix. It represented the high school stadium, that place of mutual assembly, of cheerleaders and meanness, the constellation of gum hidden under bleachers. If the reader will bear with me, he and she will accept that everyone who entered CMT studios that day a little before 11:30 am was — besides one-or-two effectively null Asians (in our forthcoming yet apparent context) — white, which is less of a problem than a benign concession to the binary of race. It was simply time for white kids to freak out, and that’s okay. I’m glad I was there. 2) In 1994, following the controversial publication of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, which linked race to inherent qualities or even dispositions, a tenured anthropologist at U.C. Berkeley offered Michael Jordan as an example of a black person’s inherent talent, perhaps even genius, in physical ability — in this case jumping with inhuman ability — whose allusions to intellectual deficiency were sad yet subliminal. The book was quickly both dismissed and heralded by the suspecting parties. What concerns me here, though, is not race and a fractured America, of white and black boys and their respective thwarted fates proposed by dreams, but the delusional colorless hope shared by both: to see a pedestrian God so close yet so far from the net, frozen in the grace of their flourish, arms doing perfectly what needed to be done for their followers. The heavy wane of disappearing youth as a chord which drones for a long time afterwards, decades even. Two points stuffed by a weightless man, a marbled pose chiseled by spectacle, a stadium of held breath, high past a line from which others could only dare throw.


  1. Ethan

      The 90s #neverforget

  2. Anonymous

  3. Michael J. Martin

      I was really hoping for something with a bit more meat on it. I’ve ducked in and out of the Bell Curve. It is interesting how “science/charts/and belief in what you speak” seems to almost force a reader into believing that what is there is truth. Which it isn’t. But I was hoping for you to do something big here. Like delve into the real scientific antithesis of The Bell Curve, with what many are saying in the field — that we are all shades of brown, save for albino individuals, etc. Which within the cover of the 90s, you had a real good opportunity here to present a good argument against/for class/stereotypical/racial discrepancies. Because I don’t think you trying to argue for or against anything here more than you’re simply presenting a view, however much they might fight against one another.

      What a waste Chen.

  4. Jimmy Chen

      [reply to mjm] yes, that would have made for a longer and maybe better article, though i was less interested in challenging stereotypes than, oddly, using — even embracing — them as binaries as a way to compare the two images, as my aim in these posts are less didactic in social content than merely curious in the form which induces its, however truncated, discourse. but thanks for the note

  5. Erik Stinson

      getting lost in this block of text jimmy – the places you didn’t quite go with it

      it reminds me of the blue chip private high school

      and the vaulted and navigable systems at public ivy

      and later – much later – drinking on the terrace of the nameless ultralux rooftop bar with the co-worker who seemed far far beyond any curves. her own, sloping downward past park avenue, into my deepest and most academic desires.

  6. Anonymous