Tag Archives: Speeding

The 24-Hour Book

Amid a panoply of other academic tasks this week, I’m planning to write a response essay (300 words or less!) as part of the 24-Hour Book Project.

Brian Dillon hard at work on his 24-hour book

In short, a man named Brian Dillon has been closeted away at the Brooklyn offices of Cabinet magazine for the last 24-hours, producing a novelette he has titled “I Am Sitting in a Room.”  He started at 10AM yesterday and finished just a few minutes ago.  The manuscript zipped off to the printers and also to a few enterprising volunteer grad students from various disciplines here at Princeton.  We have 24 hours of our own to read, digest and respond — artistically, critically, banaly — to the work.

I’m interested to see if Dillon’s writing exhibits coherence in this short time-frame.  I’m interested to see what reaction it provokes in me, tossed and turned and sullied by the articles on Jewish mysticism, Islamic exegesis, and Christian gnosis I’m currently reading for my coursework.

Whether I produce something worthy of this cultural pearl or something more fit to toss to swine, it is an interesting and fun experiment in the narrowing of time and history, the mechanisms at our disposal for communication, and the speed of production and consumption in our present-day half-mad world.

It’s a project filled to the brim with Not Quite Right.

UPDATE #1 (1433hours, Sunday 11DEC2011):  After finishing three articles on the Merkavah and the approach to God in Jewish mysticism, I tore through a first reading of “I Am Sitting in a Room.”  Enjoyed it.  Found it more relevant to academia and less a ‘fiction’ than expected.  Will now let it take the air for a few hours while attending a Sunday evening lecture and dinner.

UPDATE #2:  (2302hours, Sunday 11DEC2011):  Returned from excellent dinner and lecture.  Reviewed materials for courses tomorrow.  Starting 60-minute essay on 24-hour book.

UPDATE #3:  (0043hours, Monday 12DEC2011):  Finished essay, submitted to IHUM, the Princeton program coordinating the book ‘release’ event.

UPDATE #4:  (1425hours, Monday 12DEC2011):  Editors of 24-hour book project notify me of my essay’s inclusion in the commentary volume that will be associated with the project.  Invited to speak as panelist at book event circa 1630hours but unfortunately — due to car maintenance issues — decline.

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Rednecks (in the Arabian Gulf?)

Typical Bedu transportation -- no longer the camel.

Rednecks can happen anywhere.  Or, maybe a better shorthand:  Rednecks happen.

I’ve seen them in some ritzy places like Carmel Valley in California where they drive big diesel-guzzling souped up Ford trucks probably with the specific intent of pissing off their conservation-minded, Audi-driving neighbors. And I’ve been to the heart of Redneck country, Arkansas and southwest Alabama and southern Georgia and Lousiana, where to be called a Redneck is something of a badge of honor, of status finally achieved after the labor-intensive application of many reems of peel-on Confederate stickers.

Here in the Middle East the locals have a specific name for their Rednecks:  Bedu.

This is the word from which we, in the English language, receive our highly romanticized notion of Bedouin, hard men eeking out a living in the desert, carrying all their worldly possessions with them on camel-back, and mysterious women with scorching-hot kohl-lined eyes glancing surreptitiously from beneath their veils.

But, such is not the case.  Bedu are Rednecks wearing dirty white dishdashas, nothing more.  And a good part of the youth population (who can blame them?) shun the richer life-style of Ferraris and smooth-riding Toyota Prados for desert-worthy little hooptie trucks, upon the tailgates of which it is not uncommon to see four, five, six, maybe even twelve young men riding.  The trucks blast down the highways (notice how remarkably nice this highway is!) at 140 kmph, 90mph, swerving in and out of traffic, and they bump along the gravel wadi beds at similarly frightful speeds.

In a way, this is survival of the fittest.  Hold on tight or you’ll be thrown off.  And the only thing that really differentiates the Bedu and the American styles of Rednecking is the absence, here, of beer, NASCAR and chewing tobacco.  The similarity makes a person want to dig up all of Jeff Foxworthy’s old jokes:

You might be a redneck if . . . you can name more than three ways that this picture is Not Quite Right.


Camel Crossing

Roadsign near Ras al-Had, Sur, Oman.

I come from a part of America where hitting deer is a real problem.  I’ve struck several myself, including two at once.  The Wisconsin roads are littered with dead bambis.

Other places, like Alaska and Minnesota, have a bigger problem on their hands when moose wander out from the forests.

But nothing back home tops a camel for sheer bulk and destructive power.  The camel is doubly dangerous compared to normal roadkill because a car (unless its a Fiat or an MG and slips clean beneath the swaying belly) will make contact with the animal right square on the front windshield, sheering it off.

And, be careful, they spit.