Monday, May 31, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment - Statement of Purpose

Okay, I have to present on this project in class tomorrow, so I have decided to come up with a nice bullet-pointed list of why I thought this project was important, and what I've learned.

My Intentions
  • blogs have an interesting relationship to photography in that they are both stamped with a specific date and time, and it's difficult to make them go away.
  • Similarly, I wanted to show that every object in my home is stamped with a memory. I can tell a story about myself and how I've been living in the course of a month through just about anything in my home.
  • the chosen format of the blog changes the nature of a person's interaction with the stories. As one example of this, blogs like mine are formatted newest to oldest. A reader coming in now would have to put out effort to get to the beginning. Or click this link.
Pleasant Discoveries
Unpleasant Discoveries
  • the posts come out like a roll of film. Not all of them are keepers. Like a thumb on the lens, something just got in the way.
  • This mistake says it all.

I guess the moral of the story here is that I helped define for myself the difference between blogging and more traditional methods of print. Here, the process of discovery is somewhat transparent. You can see through these posts that I'm trying to figure out what works best. This either makes me the Jackson Pollack of blogging or it makes me seems less professional and more like a hobbyist. I'll go with the latter.

The "why should anyone care" question is an important one, too. Honestly, who gives a rip about minutiae? I have a hunch that the informal nature of the voice, combined with the fact that no one post is especially long, suits the subject matter. Further, if you look at this series as part of a larger blog-document (it has transformed many times in its year-and-a-half lifespan), a more detailed picture of me begins to emerge.

Considered in that way, it's like a new thread. I can return to the "My Apartment" series any time I want, or never again, but at least now I can add storytelling and photography to this blog's arsenal.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment - Casually Lethal, Apparently

Here is a bookshelf. It is full of books, as well as postcards, birthday cards, receipts, a couple dragons, some boxes, candles and vases. Yellow once guessed the contents of my bookshelf, and was correct in his first three guesses, though I can only remember two of them now. To this day I'm not sure if I'm more impressed or embarrassed that she could be so accurate, but I guess something about me declares very plainly that I am the kind of person who would own The Daily Show's America: The Book and have it sitting right next to a Calvin and Hobbes collection. Those books are not far away, but they're not on this bookshelf. Actually, the Calvin collection has doubled as a writing surface for the past school year, so it's on no shelf at all.

Here on the top of the bookcase I keep all the books that I need to read. My favorite mainstay in this group is Infinite Jest, a 1000+ page test of patience that is really fun to read, but also really hard. I've been working on this for over a year, and I know the title is just there to mock me, but dammit I will finish it. I've already put too much time into the damn thing to just walk away. Plus, I think that dragon will probably bite my hand off if I don't ever try to put that book away unfinished.

There is nothing that remarkable about this shelf, that's what makes it so deadly lethal. It's like old episodes of the 60s Batman show, who ever would have thought that a bust of Shakespeare would actually provide the entrance to the famed Batcave? Here, a white cardboard box sits like a wallflower, calling very little attention to itself among its more colorful surroundings.

However that logo, so perfectly hidden by the two candles, looks familiar...

That's right, I have batarangs. Like ninjas, they hide in the open. Unlike ninjas, they come in a handy pouch that attaches to your belt.

In America I imagine it's fairly common for a father to give his son a lethal weapon at some point or another. I imagine in a lot of places this is considered a rite of passage, perhaps to signify the passing into late adolescence or adulthood. Also I imagine these lethal weapons are guns, big-ass rifles or something else equally manly.

But last Christmas I didn't get a gun. I got batarangs. And I was 27, a little past the prime "rite of passage" years. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it was right on time.

Anyway, these 'rangs are effing sharp.

And they're new to the apartment. Home, but homeless. Were they guns perhaps I'd have a nice gun rack to display them, or at least a bad-ass safe, something all blocky and heavy and radiating authority from its corner of the closet.

How do you display batarangs anyway?

A digression: Dad has already corrected me several times for calling them batarangs. "They can't be batarangs," he says, "because if you throw them they don't come back." I feel like I could develop a metaphor about father/son relationships with a statement like that, but I think I'm gonna let it sit, because the question remains: how, oh how, do you display prized batarangs?

I swear if it wasn't an apartment I would like just throw them into the wall somewhere and let them stick out, the evidence of an epic battle long past, but alas. Perhaps I could have them mounted in a frame, maybe get Dad to write some inscription for plaque. Something "presented to the honorable Charles Hoppe for not being the hero this city deserves, but the hero it needs."

Of course no one needs batarangs, but I have to say it's just what I've always wanted.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment

"You're doing it wrong." Though not a new phrase, the saying has taken on new meaning in the meme-crazy world of the internet. The phrase is almost always accompanied by a photo that demonstrates a mishap, a foible, or an accident of some kind.

Here is Mario from 1982, the year I was born, and all I can think about when I look at this image is that the artist got him wrong. This is not Mario. This looks more like Waluigi than Mario. The trappings are there--the overalls, the mustache, the cap--but what's with the eyebrows, the purple undershirt, the pointed chin, the eyebrows that create a general look of aggression?

The temptation then is to say "this is not the Mario I grew up with," but I'd be wrong. This is the standardization of my memory and not the actual experience. I didn't grow up with any one Mario at all. The Mario of Donkey Kong, and the Mario Bros. series changed with each game. In Mario 1 the undershirt was brown. In Mario 2 the colors of the trademark overalls and shirt are inverted. In Mario 3 the overalls are practically black. Of course, this doesn't even include the times Mario moonlighted as a referee and a doctor.

I have a very specific idea of what Mario should be, static like Mickey Mouse. And indeed Mario has become quite standardized, the summary of our collective story making with the character. Growing up Mario must have been more of a wild card, brash in his young age.

These stickers are as old as me, and I've only owned them for three months. They do not reflect my childhood any more than the standardized Mario does, because the Donkey Kong Mario is coaxing quarters from Dad and Uncle Bob at pizza parlors after softball games, and the Mario of the original Super Mario Bros. is the Christmas my parents felt so sorry for my sister and I that they finally broke down and bought us a Nintendo.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment - What's Missing, pt. 2

Still haven't gotten the camera thing taken care of. Went to Fred Meyer to take care of it today, but I ended up being unable to find what I needed. Pretty sure the problem was the card reader though, if these reviews are any indication.

So let's talk about something else that's missing, this time something dear to me that I lost a long time ago, and it was another long time on top of that before I realized it was missing. But I guess before I talk about this mistake I need to talk about the mistake I made when I was 15, because really it's the thing that set the table for it.

I've been playing guitar and wanting to be in a band ever since I was 12. I even still have my first guitar [not pictured] hanging out in my closet, and the case still smells the same the day I (my parents) bought it. The guitar itself is covered in stickers. Billy Joe from Green Day's guitar was also covered in stickers back in 1994.

I started my first band in the 1996/7 school year. We were MaYDaY, pointless capitalizations and all. We played a lot of covers, a lot of Silverchair, Foo Fighters and Local H, but we also had originals. I found out about some contest in a guitar magazine, something involving free studio time or some sort of bogus tour. Not a scam, but not really worth most bands' time, then or now.

We got a good deal on cheap recording from my friend Carrie who babysat for a sound engineer. We got a CD of all five of our songs, and before I could have the engineer make duplicates for me I sent off the original (read: only) CD to the damn contest. So, that's the story of the original digital copy of my earliest recordings and how much of an idiot I was to get rid of it.

Fortunately I'd dubbed a copy onto cassette, which I distributed to bandmates and friends. I took good care of my cassette copy for years, and I played it to death too. It made it with me up to Bellingham during my undergrad days. Every now and then I pulled it out to show friends, but it was getting harder and harder to find anyone who had a working tape player. It's amazing how fast that medium died out once it was obsolete.

I think, but will never be certain, that the tape was lost in the final tape deck I've ever lived with, the tape deck/record player combo that I discussed in an earlier post. I thought it had made it out of that old house in the same plastic tub that held a lot of my other electronics equipment, but alas. I didn't figure out the mistake until at least two years later when I decided to make a new digital copy off the cassette. You know, so I wouldn't lose it. I tore up my apartment that day looking for it in other places, but it was gone, and my heart was broken.

So thank god for memory; today I realized that I still knew how to play all the old MaYDaY tunes. The songs may be gone, but today one of them stopped by to visit my pad for an acoustic rendition.

So, for posterity, I donate MaYDaY's greatest hit to the silent vacuum of the internet, where it can rest in peace.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment - What's Missing

Camera is still down. The problem is either with the memory card or the card reader. Not sure which. I'll have to buy some stuff tomorrow.

So, since the images are missing, this is about missing things, about the things that never find a home in your home, relegated to the closet or shoved underneath the bed. They sit there for years, surviving round after round of decluttering. They are things you'll get around to someday, although when that someday comes all you do is get around to getting rid of them.

I think I was in 5th or 6th grade when I demanded a chin-up bar for Christmas, the kind that get mounted in door frames. I'd seen one at a friend's house sometime that fall, and decided it was a very important thing to have. Sure enough I got, but we were missing some mundane part that prevented us from mounting it, so it sat in my parents' closet for at least a year, maybe two, before we got around trying to put it up.

It took us about two seconds to realize that my door frame was too narrow to support the mounts, and in fact there wasn't a suitable door frame in the entire house that worked. The chin-up bar had no place in this home, and yet it went back to my parents' closet after that, or maybe it ended up in the garage, I seem to remember it both ways.

I'm not sure how long it lingered, but it certainly gained seniority among our many ignominious possessions.

Also I don't know how or when we got rid of it, just that I got used to seeing it not being used, and then one day it was gone.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment - Grrr

I have two posts ready to go up, but my camera is in an argument with my laptop, and I can't seem to make them get along.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment

I got my first sunburn of the year two days ago. Five days from now my band is playing our third show at the Cabin Tavern. Today I saw Iron Man 2. Nineteen years ago I moved to Washington. In 1968 Night of the Living Dead was released. I watched that movie a week ago. I defended my thesis the day before that.

The same night I watched the movie Amanda was out of town. I was staring at the various piles of documents on the living room table, the paper trail of my academic life separated into piles of various ages.

What is it about kitchen tables that resist having dinner eaten on them?

Here is a part of myself I'd forgotten. It's from December of 2003, when I was but a lowly junior at WWU. That quarter I completed my first 300-level English class. Until that moment, a B+ had meant that I hadn't cared enough to try. In English 311, however, that B+ was the best I had. That was the first class to ever truly kick my ass.

Jake, a grad-friend and occasional collaborator is TA-ing for that very same class this year. We were hanging out a few weeks ago, and he mentioned that my professor had been using my final from seven years ago as an example of what the projects could look like. Until this moment, I had completely forgotten its existence, and in fact it took a little bit of description on Jake's part for the project to even ring a bell. I had no record of it on my computer either.

Suffice it to say, my professor had made a photocopy and was happy to return the original to me. I remember that the idea was inspired by Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, which prominently features a spiral staircase. The text is printed onto tracing paper in a boxy spiral. The effect, then, is that as the pages stack up you can see traces of other pages underneath. Trust me when I say the text itself is garbage, but I have to admit that seven years later I'm pretty impressed with my 21-year-old self's idea.

That same professor served on my thesis committee this year. Thinking about it now, I'm not surprised that the same person who handed in "The Spiral Staircase" seven years ago thought it would be a good idea to write a sequence of poems based on a zombie dream I'd had a year ago.

Here's what my first attempt at ordering the project looked like. This was late February, according to the photo. I remember it took several hours and a lot of anger before I was happy with an order. Two months after, I'd say a very substantial amount of the pages you see on the floor here got cut anyway, but it was the first time I actually saw a story starting to take shape.

During my defense I was asked why there was such a preponderance of media in my thesis. At the time I answered something along the lines of this being code between myself and my family, and that I'm fascinated with being from a generation that only knows living in a time of heavy mediation.

The day after my defense I was watching Night of the Living Dead by myself with the lights out, and kicking myself in the ass for somehow failing to watch this while working on a zombie text. Now I have a much better answer to the media question: because in zombie texts the media always represents the protagonist's only contact with the outside world. What a fool I was not to see it earlier.

What is it about revelations existing just outside of time?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment: Happy 20th Birthday Katherine!

So, as you can probably tell from the subject heading of this post, today is in fact my sister Katherine's 20th birthday. I will not dwell on how old that makes me feel. Katherine has, on several occasions, given her drawings to the family as birthday/X-mas presents. And while the visual is her trade the verbal is mine. Katherine, this post is (one of) my present(s) to you.

Katherine drew me this Yoshi for my birthday either last year or the year before. I can't remember because, like a true Hoppe, I didn't get the present right away. Also, the drawing really served two purposes. Besides being a gift, it was also a school project. Funny, so is this post. Forgetful and procrastinatey as we are, at least the Hoppes are pragmatic.

Yoshi greets me every morning when I am getting dressed. As a result, he (she? What gender is Yoshi?) reminds me every morning that I still haven't gotten a frame for the picture. There's that procrastinatey gene again. Somewhere among all the t-shirts hanging in my closet is this shirt that she (my sister, not Yoshi) gave me for Christmas.

Clearly she gets me. And this is not to say that the rest of my family doesn't--we're all pretty much variations on the same chord progression--but with Katherine I see the echoes of my formative years.

In junior high my mom owned a gift shop and my dad worked at the Woodinville Weekly, so no one was home in the afternoons. As a result, I became default babysitter for Katherine. It was actually a pretty sweet deal. I'd get off the bus, walk over to her elementary school and pick her up, and then we'd spend the rest of the afternoon watching movies.

Movies of my choosing, that is. Being in the 12-14 age range, I had the conviction and zeal to go with it that my opinions and tastes were damn near unimpeachable. It was my solemn duty to make sure she was inculcated in pop cinema properly, and I relished the opportunity. Sure, as she got older our tastes split along the lines of Pokemon (I was just too old for that trend), but I can still see the impression that those years had, and I still buy her a ton of movies on holidays.

My favorite memory of these times, though, is how she would let herself in my room while I was practicing guitar and fall asleep on my bottom bunk. I had only been playing guitar for a year or so at that point, and was just starting to understand how songs work. One of the first songs I ever learned how to play, besides "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Smoke on the Water" (thanks, Dad!), was Weezer's "Say it Ain't So".

This was Katherine's favorite song to hear me play, and it was usually the first thing she would demand upon entering my room. "Play 'Stepfather!" she would say (the song's lyrics say "like father, stepfather..." during the song's emotional climax), and I would be happy to oblige.

In honor of this memory, I sat down yesterday to record myself playing "Say it Ain't So" on guitar. But you know what? Katherine's heard me do that before. So, riffing on the video game-themed nature of her Yoshi drawing, I decided to reciprocate by playing this Weezer classic on Rock Band instead.

The twist? I went for vocals and drums at the same time, both on hard. I got five stars. Yes, this is an incredibly dorky thing to do, but if you're from my family it makes sense. Happy Birthday, Katherine. I love you with all my heart, and I can't wait to see how you get me back for this!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment

What I didn't tell you about yesterday was the bigfoot sighting. I had been sitting in my apartment, minding my own business when I heard something stirring in the bushes. I set my laptop down and instinctively grabbed my camera. One never knows what one might find lurking in the bushes.

I nudged open my patio door and heard something to my right. I reeled around and snapped off a shot. There was a loud Grrrrraaauuggh! I fell back, and that's the last thing I remember.

I came to, and fortunately my camera was still intact. I looked around. Footprints trailed off into the bushes. Eager to discover what exactly I had taken a photo of, I quickly imported the photo onto my camera. The results will shock you:

Yup, it was my old pal Chewbacca. Chewie and I go way back. I first met him when I was living in Seattle, must have been about 2006. I was walking from my shoebox apartment in Belltown up to Capitol Hill to see a chap who I'd been recording at the time play a show. On the sidewalk was a plastic grocery bag full of Star Wars and Star Trek toys (that's right, they intermingle).

I resisted the urge to just grab the whole bag, which, if you know me, was not easy to do. But there was a certain Wookie whose work I was familiar with that I wanted to track down. Sure enough, he was there, and we became fast friends. He always has a position of prominence in my living room.

Speaking of intermingling, it wasn't uncommon for my Star Trek toys to hook up with my big sister's Barbies. One time I threw my Lt. Commander Worf toy down the hallway, breaking him to several pieces. We put the parts on the bed in Barbie's Beach House and said he had "Worfitis". If there were coroner's reports for my toys, Worfitis was certainly the most common cause of death.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment

Today was a mercifully unbusy day. After a couple hours in the office, I realized I could do the rest of my work from home. I'm not used to being home on the afternoons, especially on weekdays. It's pleasant.

I've waited all year to find out what shapes the sunlight makes on the floor of our living room. My last apartment had two windows, both facing north/south. It was dark all the time, and I didn't realize until I moved here how claustrophobic I'd been for the previous year at my old place. Oh well, at least it yielded this.

My old place smelled really bad, and the fire alarm went off every time I used the oven. Actually the fire alarm goes off all the time here too, but at least it smells good. I didn't even know what it was like to have an air freshener budget before I lived there.

The light lines are gone now, and to suggest that they'll be back tomorrow is to suggest that light is recycled. That's just strange. On Sunday night I was watching the Discovery Channel, something about black holes and the universe. I didn't know that at the center of our galaxy is a supermassive black hole. I also didn't know that the "singularity" at the very center of a black hole is actually just a euphemism for "fuck if I know," but there you go. Apparently our universe may just be the other side of a black hole.

Muse had a song called "Supermassive Black Hole" on their album Black Holes and Revelations. The album after that, The Resistance, I didn't really like that much, so now it just sits on the strange shelving unit that houses our cds, dvds, records, and books. You can see it right there by the record player, which is currently playing Sunny Day Real Estate's debut album Diary. This album had a huge influence on me growing up. Apparently it had a huge influence on a lot of people.

The album art alone is worth your time. It's got several paintings of those old Fisher Price toys, but in real awful situations. I bought this at Avalon on Sunday before going home to watch the Discovery Channel. Outside of their doors they had a free records bin, where I picked up an old swing record, a "Movie Themes of the 30's, 40's and 50's" record, and a classical record. As much fun as I have buying music by my favorite bands on a medium that by all rights shouldn't still exist (though I'm so glad it does), picking up these strange castaways is always one of the most exciting things.

Of course, my record collection began by rescuing castaways. About half of my current collection first showed up sometime in 2002. A friend of a roommate was going overseas, and he gave them to the roommate as sort of a permanent loan. The record player we had at the time was ancient and nothing sounded particularly good, but we felt pretty cool to have a record player.

You can kind of see it in this picture, taken after an epic cleaning session in 2003. The records are mostly obscured by the green plastic picnic table, which my roommates had fished out of one of the local lakes sometime in the year prior. We left it out on our front lawn for a while, but then decided it was a perfect bench for drinking games and moved it inside.

That was a great place to live. My roommates were messy, left dishes everywhere, and they took naps in the living room in the middle of the day, but at least that place didn't smell bad.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Welcome to My Apartment

Alright, so National Poetry Month is done, and with it the poem-a-day project. That was exhausting, but also a nice way to take my mind off of my thesis. I like projects like this. Don't know if any of the poems are keepers, but they definitely gave me some ideas for the future.

There is a new project his month. I am in my last class as a grad student at Western. It combines nonfiction/autiobiography with photography. I thought it would be fun, especially since I already have the machinery of a blog up and running, to do my final project here. I think blogs are similar to photographs in that they are both tied to a specific moment in time, but kind of drift along into the future, bouncing off whoever might stumble into them.

For autobiography? I'm going to take you on a tour of my apartment. We spend a lot of our time at home, but I think we forget that we're surrounded by totems to our personal histories. How you decorate changes every time you move. Some things get donated, or given away. Some things just don't fit the vibe of a new place. And some things, the most Darwinian of all your belongings, find a place in every subsequent place you live.

The first thing you need to know about my apartment is that there's a cow on the couch. His name is Big Mac. He's always there. I don't pay any attention to him. He's not mine. He's Amanda's. She's had him for a long time.

A couple of weeks ago I got really bad food poisoning from eating at McDonald's. Big Mac was by my side the entire time, always eager to put me in a better, ahem, moo'd. I am going to hell for that pun.

I really should know better when it comes to eating at McDonald's. I worked there for three years, ate more Big Mac's than I would like to think of. The last time I was in my current professor's class, I also wrote about McDonald's. My Grandma gives me $5 in gift cards to McDonald's every year for my birthday.

I like gifts that you can count on. Last week I was checking my mail at school and I found two sheets of Pac-Man stickers, circa 1982, the year I was born. I can't say I was expecting these specific items, but it was only a matter of time before Yellow struck again with something awesome. Not long ago, it was haikus written on Post-Its. Before that it was Nintendo trading cards, about as old as the Pac-stickers.

What's great about the stickers, besides reminding me of the Atari that was my only gaming system until 1989, is that Pac-Man kind of bookends my grad school experience. In one of my first classes, I wrote a poem that compares a pie chart to a Pac-mouth. Not the most original thing, of course, but I remember Yellow commenting that my choice to use that particular metaphor was how she knew we would get along. The poem just got published a few weeks ago, my first publication outside of my own school. I got the stickers a few weeks later, and in a few weeks I graduate.

I thought at first that I might preserve the sheets. They were nearly thirty, and yet they were still in such good condition. I decided to add them to my own history, though, and stuck them to the front of my record player. It looks like Pac-Man is about to eat the start button.

As long as that record player works, Pac-Man will always be about to eat that start button, and then one day he will. And then he will turn around and make those ghosts pay.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New Musics

<a href="">We Are the Ones We Believe In by Anyway, Soon</a>