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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dreaming My Defense

I've begun the process of writing in earnest. I am working hard on Chapter 2. I have the entire thing outlined so I am now filling in the outline, first with the points I want to make just free form off the top of my head, then filling in with quotes from my interviews. After that I will go in and add quotes and arguments from academic works to verify, pin-down, or argue with my points. Then I will add quotes and points from memoirs, films and literature. Finally I will smooth it all together to create a whole chapter and make sure that any contradictions are on purpose and not just weakening my thesis.

As I have been writing my points it's been an intense process that feels like I'm finally putting proof to a conviction that I have always had. It's a very difficult experience to describe, but it feels like I'm ripping meaning out of myself, like it has been in there as a whole object and I'm extracting it. Perhaps this is the very social complex that I am trying to describe. It exists as a psychological complex inside of me, and now I am trying to extract it out, pick it apart and describe all of its pieces. In my moments of doubt I wonder if it is even possible for me to be able to pull out and describe what are in actuality complexes within my own psyche.

As I have been writing, my dreams have become a series of me describing and defending my various points to different internal characters. Last night I was getting a particularly severe judgment as I was trying to defend my concept of "cool." The person I was defending against was clearly a symbol of coolness that I didn't know I carried around with me. He was coolly unimpressed with my thesis and put me through my paces for most of the wee hours of the morning. I woke up with a painful feeling of uncertainty, and yet he is exactly the sort of character I wish to describe in that section of the dissertation. It was as if he was trying to intimidate me, like the lobbyist for that complex. Well, I will not be routed by my own psyche. I am moving forward into the next section with insecure resolve, but resolve nonetheless. I wonder if I will have any jitters at all when I finally stand for my oral defense, or if it will feel like a familiar process that I've been doing every night for over a year?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August Updates

It is over seven months into the dissertation, a quarter of my time is spent. The interview process is winding down. I have had an incredible experience interviewing. What amazing wonderful people have allowed me to share in their stories. I am so excited to process them all.

I discovered a 20 year study done at UCLA on alternative lifestyle families. It is an incredible find and will add hugely to my work both informing it and backing up much of what I already was trying to say. The head of this study has said that he will be my External Reader and I am so thrilled. I was very nervous about the process of choosing a PhD outside of Pacifica to read my dissertation and give me helpful direction.

Now I must begin the process of writing the Proposal, the first two chapters of my dissertation, to show appropriate progress. This must be completed and approved by all three members of my committee by the end of Fall Quarter. Every phase of this project seems so daunting and huge in its own way. I'm sure once I have completed the Proposal I will look at the next steps as equally daunting. Will there be a moment of relief when this has ended or have I permanently become a stress monkey?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Marianne DeKoven's Utopia Limited

Writing about Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

"Las Vegas as visible and outward form of the inner rot of the sixties, is merely the most appropriate setting for the self-destruction of the counterculture, where the death orgy can proceed with greatest ease, rapidity, and absence of friction."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moving Right Along

I'm just going to make a laundry list of what's been happening.

I have completed 11 interviews and hope to get at least 9 more. The interviews are going very well. The experience is much more physically intense than I expected. Partially because of the intense nature of the material, but also because I spend the entire time during the interview writing and rewriting the dissertation in my head, trying to figure out where the new information fits into the old. It is an intense series of process sessions in which I am aware of the person I am talking to, working with them to unfold their story, fascinated by the complexity of them, their story, human beings in general, and also rewriting everything I've already thought, processing nuances I don't even quite know I've consciously acknowledged. I'm excited to have all of my interviews done so that I can really spread out my mind over the various patterns.

I think I am changing the name of the dissertation from Handmade Generation to The First Wave of American Deconstructed Culture: Children Born into the Counterculture of the 1960s and 70s. This comes after much feedback about how their parents were counterculture but they are not. It is clear to me that the culture exists as a culture, almost and ethnicity if you will. It has all the trappings and nuances of discreet culture, and yet it is in many ways the beginning of what appears to be the deconstruction of what was American Culture at the time of the 1950s. It is no longer "counter" as it has not only settled down and made a home for itself, it has begun to spread and leak out into all the unconscious nooks and crannies. More and more people seem to fall into the deconstruction by the week. Aspects of what was counterculture are leaking into all the parts and layers of society. This group that I am looking at seems to be the first wave, like first wave feminism, or New Wave French Cinema. Not so much a cohort, or a group, certainly not a generation, more a wave crashing into the beach of society, landing in a spray of disordered droplets and then sinking into the sand so that they are not necessarily identifiable, but they have certainly changed the state of the shore, altering it the landscape and getting everything soaked.

I still have huge truck loads of reading to do. I assume the reading will act on me a bit like the interviews do, changing my words and thoughts with each new bit of information.

I'm also still tracking down my external reader. Hopefully that will unfold soon.

I found a longitudinal study that was done at UCLA from 1974 to 1994 on counterculture families. It is all the authority of quantitative data I could hope for. I need to explore deeper to see if more on this exists than just the five published papers of data I have found.

Lots of action this month.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Process

Every few days intense waves of anxiety pass through me like a storm. I suddenly am terrified that my contacts won't email back, that my thesis won't pan out, that I won't manage to get all my reading done when I need it, that transcription will take five times longer than I think it will, that nobody will care once it's written, that I'm just being self indulgent writing about me. Then the storm passes out and away and I am calm, and an interview goes well, and a book echoes what I said, and somebody says thank you for doing this or I can't wait to read it, and I feel better.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Critique of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

I had been thinking about calling the group of radicals, counterculture and new religion kids Looking Glass People, because they look like everyone else but are inverted in all their reasons for things. That same day I went to go see Tim Burton's new film Alice in Wonderland, all the while humming Jefferson Airplanes "White Rabbit" and thinking about the connection between wonderland and the absurdity of the 60s, both good absurdity and bad, and how important upside down thinking can be in shaking loose a stagnant culture. I was physically sick from the experience of watching the movie. It was shockingly wrong. When I got home I wrote in my Facebook Status: "What does it mean for society when the anima is transformed into Saint George? I'm pretty upset right now. I feel like I just watched Tim Burton rape my childhood." Not long after this one of the comments on my status was a request for an explanation, so I wrote the following, all the while thinking of what was at stake within the context of the work I am currently doing...

Alice in Wonderland in its original form had two primary narrative functions. One was an articulation of the pre-adolescent puella anima of Lewis Carroll, a young naive little girl who wanders within the extreme surreal unconscious stumbling upon truth by accident whenever she does it wrong. This was coupled with the second an incredibly witty and ironic commentary both social and political of Victorian England that was a very conscious choice by Carroll. This story was then embraced by the larger collective because it spoke to them on an unconscious level, as our studies at Pacifica would say. Why did it speak? It was at the time the shadow side of the Victorian world, a world that was caught up in Empire building, rational categorization and romantic notions of truth. The Victorian Era created labyrinths of linear thinking that were defined as "The Natural Order", but themselves were as unnatural as fetal pigs trapped in large jars of embalming fluid with little hand written labels pasted to the side. Alice in Wonderland showed categorically the absurdity of this. It balanced the Matron Queen with this young innocent girl whose perception of the world keeps transforming along with her own size in a psychedelic esoteric fashion. At a time when Nietzsche had proclaimed god dead, Alice, soon to be accompanied by Peter Pan, returned the magic and the dark fecundity of the ancient mysteries in the form of new youthful innocence. The Puer/Puella archetype always proclaims a hermetic birth of potential and newness, along with its naive absurdity and immature tantrums. This newness grew throughout the 20th Century until it exploded in the 1960s proclaimed loudly by the Jefferson Airplane as the lesson that "when logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead/and the white knight is talking backwards/and the red queen's off with her head/remember what the dormouse said/feed your head" In other words... When the logic becomes ridiculous, turn to the mysteries of the psychedelic experience, EXPERIENCE being the critical word here. Alice and Wonderland had become a symbolic example of the mystery of hermetic nonsense. It is a knowing that comes from confusion and surreal juxtaposition that is part of all human esotericism, the opposite of the egoic rational knowing.

So now to look at what Tim Burton and company has created. Alice is transformed into a rational heroic ego symbol. She walks into wonderland not following a whim of unexplained curiosity, but intentional running from a negative trial that she must escape. She remains conscious and rational throughout her journey, in wonderland, always speaking with critical rational judgment, problem solving, setting things to right, finally transforming literally into the HERO in shiny armor fighting the dragon in the position of St. George who as we will remember from fairy tale class, is the symbol of the Christian linear sensibility conquering the ancient mother religions of pagan magic. She then returns from the underworld having won the battle. Regardless of the fact that as Hillman points out in Death and the Underworld the Hero Archetype cannot escape the underworld if he goes in fighting sword in hand. This is only one of several archetypal violations within the film. The strong now masculinized hero Alice then returns to the upper world bringing wisdom through directives to all the people in the above world that she had previously distained but coward before. She then heads to China where we can only guess from our knowledge of history that she will become embroiled in the Poppy Wars and turn into a nasty Imperialist that starts the wheels of globalism rolling. The final shot is a blue butterfly landing on her shoulder... the butterfly being the symbol of child soul. She greets it and then watches it fly away. Good-bye puella, hello rational heroic Athena, standing at the prow of a ship heading off to conquer those lesser than she.

Now let's look at Wonderland, which has been turned into a linear story of Black and White, where black is really Red... The plot has a point, the path has a direction and Alice is given an actual task with all of the instructions and directed locations. Evil is silly and perverted and gross in the form of the Red Queen who is entirely unsympathetic. Both in the book and in the Disney movie the Queen was at moments likable and Alice was almost enjoying herself in her presence. But this queen is then backed by a psychopath knave, whose sadism is completely directed and one dimensional, showing no signs of the esoteric darkness that can be transformed from lead to gold. The symbol of good the white queen is breathy and weirdly the queen of the dead. She is one dimensional to the point of almost being non-existent. I can only assume that this is in fact Tim Burton's anima, she is so underdeveloped as a character that it is hard to see her point, though she seems to be practiced at alchemy she presents no wisdom other than to help Alice shrink and put on armor. The hermetic madness of the Hatter is transformed from a profound riddle of the importance of not knowing the answer to simply a disguise for revolutionary brilliance waiting to strike. There is not supposed to be an answer to "why is a raven like a writing desk." not even "I don't know" which is far too rational. Hermes would not admit to not knowing. Add to that a slew of bizarre transformed symbols such as a helpful yet cowering rabbit. The rabbit is the symbol for sexuality. It is supposed to run ahead cryptically unattainable as Alice is the Puella who is not supposed to be a sexual being. The Jabberwocky is originally part of a nonsense poem about the silly importance of slaying the great beast, now the trophy to be conquered canonizing the heroic. Tweedle dum and tweedle dee are more like stupid friendly skin heads strangely harmless and in fact mildly useless, instead of the clownish creatures of the original who present proverbs about taking oneself seriously. The Cheshire cat becomes the relief troops showing up in the knick of time, rather than an irritating trickster who causes problems just when he should be helping.

The end result looks like a violation of an archetype. Ginette Paris states that when a violation occurs in an archetype it can look pornographic. This is at times a necessary thing, if the archetype symbol needed to be resuscitated with new life for some reason it might be acceptable to violate it in some extreme way to bring it back to itself, or to move it forward into society. But my instincts and the whimpering sounds from little girls in the audience felt to me like this was not the case. It felt like a rape of Wonderland and all that it stands for. We are at a time when the nonsense rhymes of the Victorian era and the fecund potentials of the 60s Era are being dolled up with whores paint and sent out to prostitute themselves in the hopes that their real meaning and powerful mystery will be lost to us. We are being turned away from the potential, told that it is all lost if we do not remain rational and fight it out with swords, that the little man behind the curtain really is a big scary head of fire and we should not dance away skipping, we should not randomly follow a white rabbit down a hole and if we do it had better be because there is some real battle we need to fight. Apparently there is no power in JUST A DREAM.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Interview

I just returned from LA where I did my first two interviews back to back today. It's a very intense process. I was so nervous going in, but I think I did a good job. It's interesting how much interviewing is just the first step. It really is just collecting data. I still need to process and then use the data. I still have a lot of interviews to go. I could see how people could get hooked on the collecting phase. It feels like with every bit of information I collect I want more.

In both cases the conversation after I turned off the audio recorder was really good too. But at that point it was a mutual back and forth, and I was telling them what I thought too, so it wasn't very academic.

I'm incredibly tired, but my mind is racing and surreal as I think over and over about the interviews, and about future interviews, and about what I will possibly make of all this information as it begins to unfold the bigger picture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ethics Committee Sign Off!!

My methodology and interview strategy for my study have been accepted. I am now free to begin interviews. I am so excited to roll up my sleeves and get down to work. It was very hard to get my head around how to write a consent form that wouldn't seem too legalistic or creepy. I spent an entire day just writing my consent form, agonizing over every word. Once I got past that part of it things seemed to flow better. I wrote out the entire process for the interviews and the theories behind why I wanted them that way. Then I had my wonderful husband who acts as my editor read it. He turned to me and said, great honey, but what about the analysis phase. I said... but I did write something it's that sentence right there. I went back looked through it and all of a sudden realized that this was the place I needed to put all the postmodern theory stuff I had just written about in a previous paper. I had completely forgotten to use the academic part of my description as if somehow it was a given, or maybe I was saving it for a special occasion. Once I put the Foucault in the whole thing read like a real methodology... good thing my editor made me look at it again.

I have a really great list of interview subjects thus far but am still looking for more lefties. Anyone out there with radical parents who wish to contribute to my study, please contact me!

Now to start scheduling my interviews! Yeah!

Monday, February 1, 2010

In The Beginning There Were So Many Parts

It's very intense to be at the beginning of such a large project, trying to figure out which bit to do when, since everything has yet to be done. It's like there are all these objects trying to fit through a pipe and right now they are all trying to cram into the opening at the same time.

I know that in a few weeks I will have gotten a handle on what I'm doing and will create a rhythm for how each piece fits and what to do when, but right now it is very overwhelming and I feel like I'm in suspended animation as all the pieces crowd in on me.

I am formulating my committee, structuring the questions for my study, reading books for background theory, editing the website, connecting with interviewees, gathering information about technologies for writing and recording, finding childcare for the kids, and formulating ideas for my proposal, all at the same time. It's invigorating and terrifying.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Counterculture Doesn't Just Mean Hippie

I recently became aware that I forgot to write the following, from my concept paper, in my project description. I will edit my project page with this when I can:

"This study is using an expanded description of the counterculture, different from the common use of the term. The typical practice is to conflate counterculture and hippie. In this study counterculture will mean the children of the 60s era who come from a wide range of experimental backgrounds, including the new left, and new religions. There is a precedent for this. Theodore Roszak, who coined the term “counterculture,” writes in his book The Making of a Counterculture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and Its Youthful Opposition “We grasp the underlying unity of the counter cultural variety, then, if we see beat-hip bohemianism as an effort to work out the personality structure and total life style that follow from New Left social criticism. At their best, these young bohemians are the would-be utopian pioneers of the world that lies beyond intellectual rejection of the Great Society” (66). The cultural bohemians who become known as hippies spring from a time of idealism that includes utopian views spawned by New Left thinkers.

Years later, in a 2004 postscript to the 1981 book The Survival of a Counterculture: Ideological Work and Everyday Life Among Rural Communards, Bennet M. Berger writes “Citing a distinction between ‘cultural’ and ‘political’ rebels is not entirely adequate, in part because some Hippies had New Left sympathies and participated in their protest actions, and some partisans of the New Left looked and acted like Hippies when they were not on the barricades or marching in protest”(xii). Though he later states, “their fundamental differences eventually split them apart” (xii), this study will show that the effects of the experimental lives of this larger expanded group on their children prove them to be closer together than current analysis claims.

John Rothchild and Susan Wolf also initially echo this definition of counterculture by visiting all of the children of these various subgroups, New Left, New Religions, and Hippies, in their journey to write their book The Children of the Counterculture: How the Life-style of America’s Flower Children Has Affected an Even Younger Generation. They conclude that only the hippie communes hold an authenticity that can be labeled truly counterculture. “If there can be a new child only to the degree that there is a new parent, then we wanted to meet people who were raising their unconscious, who were fighting the invisible mother and the deeper American instincts that had survived the Red Family and its revolution” (52). Their bias of authenticity could be linked to their own preoccupation with legitimacy. Throughout the book, they compare their own children to the many counterculture children they observe. They describe their children as typical whiny American kids when compared to the rural commune kids (Rothchild 7). Yet their own children are allowed to smoke marijuana at the age of four and six, are living in a van with their parents, and traveling around the country visiting communes and experimental communities.

Later writings have echoed Rothchild and Wolf in proclaiming an ideological split between hippies, left and new religions that was too broad to reconcile Roszak’s original stance that the counterculture were people creating lifestyles purposely actualizing new left values. The splitting of these groups led to analysis that limited the potential to see that all of the children in these groups, as individuals, were experiencing alternative lifestyles that later confirmed them as permanent outsiders to the “straight” world in similar ways. While in the short sighted view of 1976 only the most extreme cases of children in rural communes could be seen to have a true counterculture experience, now that the children are adults a much larger body of people can be defined as significantly different from the “norm” and connected to each other by the experiments of the 1960s."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Names Please

The issue of what to name this group that I am writing about has come up again and again, and has kept me up at night. Every time I believe that I have found a name it slips away as it doesn't quite fit the essence or the size or the nuance is wrong, or its really more a different group than this one.

I finally decided on Handmade Generation just to get something out there and already it has slipped through my fingers, not only is it not a generation, its not really handmade which implies careful detailed work that costs a lot of money rather than intentionally molded free-form eclectic and not always successful, which is where I was going with it.

Other names that have come and gone:

Children of the Revolution
children of the children of the 60s
Free People
No diaper babies
Counterculture kids
Cool kids
Dionysus' children
Freedom's children
post-culture kids

The names come and change and mutate and disappear. I'm not sure its a group that can be named. They are an eclectic bunch that seems to defy the simplistic definition that a name implies. They are postmodern even in label. Can one use a paragraph as a name?

"The strangely liminal group of people raised in the various subcultures of the late 60s and early 70s that defied the mainstream culture by stepping outside the rules, creating more value based embodied ways of being that included changes in culture, politics and religious practice. These children became other within the larger community and had to learn to stand in multiplicity that lead to a unique way of existing in the world." Not really a name and not even a complete description. I'm loosing ground tonight, I must be tired.