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Friday Afternoon Confessional: Lamps

There’s something about a lamp without its shade. With the light off — I was reminded of this phenomenon by a burnt out bulb — there’s a certain sordidness, almost a patheticness. With the light on, it’s disturbing. A previously familiar and stable room is turned into something open, unfinished. One feels as though it’s late in the evening and one’s dad is painting an empty room, at someone else’s house. The furniture is in disarray in the hallway, and various tarps are laid down, streaked with paint in a way that, though randomly applied, has become familiar enough that it seems purposeful.

We’d order pizza, perhaps, on one of those weekend days when my dad was painting and stenciling at an acquaintance’s house for extra money — after working sixty hours during the week, with a two-hour round-trip commute each day — and go over there to keep him company.

I asked him recently if he ever thought about professional painting, now that his trucking career has been interrupted and perhaps ultimately ended by his company’s bankruptcy, and he said no, because they’d probably make him use spraypaint and he doesn’t want to paint like that. He’s more of a roller man. He did our whole house like that when I was growing up, or most of it — certainly the highest and scariest parts where I couldn’t imagine climbing and still can’t.

I once conducted an interview with him for a school project while he was painting outside my second-storey bedroom window. My mom had thought that I should interview my great-grandpa, who had an interesting life story that everyone was likely to forget — he’d been a major figure in railroads — and that, as always with contrived “creative projects” at school, I was somehow being lazy and not seizing the opportunity. I was in perpetual denial about science projects, for example, and inevitably wound up doing something statistics-based, polling members of the church based on questions she came up with. One year she wanted to do a scientific experiment about whether name-brand dishwashing detergent was better than generic — turns out it is, by a long-shot. We had several of the women from the church fill out questionaires about their experiment after trying both, and the results were absolutely conclusive, even crushing.


July 24, 2009 - Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional


  1. I confess that I hope you blinded the church ladies to the identity of each detergent, and that you randomized the treatment order assigned to each lady—in case, e.g., there was an event in the town between the first detergent trial and the second detergent trial that would have resulted in everyone’s clothes being dirtier, and hence would have confounded treatment effects with the effects of uncontrolled covariates.

    Comment by transportinburma | July 24, 2009

  2. Where do I begin, paints and detergents, very jivotrepeshushii topics
    paints associate with the new beginnings, detergents with laundry in the mashine, I used to wash with the soap sitting on the banks of the river, it was the best meditation possible now I recall, so using detergents was frowned upon and the soapy water would never be allowed back into the river, we would take water, wash the clothes, and throw the water at least 10 m from the river, hope it got filtered through the soil, the new detergent is pretty good, I’m considering ceasing the manual rinsing
    I confess I almost got enlightened yesterday
    thinking about buddhahood, universal mind,
    so briefly, the main thinking was that when
    one dies and if one is sufficiently virtuous
    one hopes to join the universal mind, but
    that’s not something ephemeral plasmatical I
    was imagining, but the trace one leaves in
    this world, so anything you leave behind,
    books, paintings, music, whatever material things too, buildings for example, etc is the
    property of the universal mind-world
    the world is perishable of course
    otoh if you procreated, your DNA is left to
    propagate reincarnate, so people attain
    buddhahood not knowing themselves
    so it’s like material Buddhism, I’m not sure about inaction, nirvana and void yet

    Comment by Read | July 24, 2009

  3. Transport, You’d have to ask my mom about that.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  4. nda, a comment when i wish afterwards i was ToS, i thought lamps are always with shades, the naked light bulbs are that, a bit depressing thing, but if you think it’s like the evidence that Edison existed, it’s not depressing but like uplifting
    maa, the things have changed and stayed the same kind of thought of course, that video at the eotAw is hilarious, reminded me O/d

    Comment by read | July 24, 2009

  5. I confess that I love watching the short cartoon *Shaun the Sheep* on Disney every morning with my daughter. I confess that it makes me laugh out loud.

    I also confess that I like Pearl Jam’s *Vitalogy* album despite it’s hatred by, well, mostly everyone.

    Comment by Jon | July 24, 2009

  6. I confess that that is my favorite Pearl Jam album. I confess that I hate their first one.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  7. i confess i should comment at eotaw, but feel kinda shy around there and those lines separating the comments really confuse me
    so i read about prof. Gates arrest and think the two people involved reacted according to their perceptions, or what’s their like achilles/complex
    the prof got insulted thinking it’s like racial profiling, the officer got insulted thinking of the status of the prof, who yells at me like, so when the officer states he’s not racist i believe he truly believes so and making it such a huge public scandal is like degrading for both
    but arresting someone at one’s home is strange whatever was the excuse, if the person was not immediate danger to the others in his household and people advocating that is so like the police state adherents, allow that and there is no any freedoms left perhaps
    perhaps i’m being mysogynistic again but the woman calling police if she’s the neighbour is the most hateful, to not know her neighbour and be like so ready and alert to report whatever to the authorities, she’s like a potential informant in hitler’s germany

    Comment by read | July 24, 2009

  8. I confess that I find Weeds almost unwatchable but continue to watch it nonetheless. I confess to eating a bowl of Harissa soup for breakfast while watching West Wing. I confess that having discovered that Bravo shows these episodes sequentially from 7-9 am, I now get up before work to watch it. I confess that this ritual is 95% of my motivation for getting up at all.

    Comment by ebolden | July 24, 2009

  9. I confess that I now officially have an apartment in Kalamazoo.

    I confess that I am stressing out beyond belief about a financial writing assignment. It fills me with anger and hatred. I confess that my reaction feels disproportionate, yet cannot be controlled.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  10. I confess that I never paid much attention to my college roommate’s youthful poverty — a good thing, at some level, but also indicative of a typical middle-class ignorance of difference and distress. I confess that I was surprised and a little ashamed to only just yesterday learn, on his blog, that when he was very young, his mother surrendered the one bedroom in their apartment so he could have it, and slept on the fold-out couch in the living room. I wonder if that’s something I would have known if I’d had slightly more sensitive antennae.

    Comment by Wrongshore | July 24, 2009

  11. Ha–I confess that my mom totally did the same thing (with the one-bedroom apartment) when I was really young! And no, you probably wouldn’t have known had you paid more attention–it probably just never came up. I think it takes awhile to just be able to toss it off in casual conversation–“yeah, sure, we were -really- hard-up when I was growing up”–he might not even have thought of himself as “poor” or “impoverished” growing up for a long time. It’s very easy to change the definition in one’s head to fit your circumstances, even if it means only subsistence farmers actually qualify as “poor” by the time you’re through.

    Comment by Michael Schaefer | July 24, 2009

  12. I confess to intermittent pangs of guilt regarding my keen sense of fashion. Are communists not supposed to dress well or something?

    I confess that I threw a beer in the face of a very largely-built man after he referred to the Ornette Coleman song I played on the jukebox as “negroid jungle music”. He beat me beautifully.

    Comment by Matthew Lyons | July 24, 2009

  13. that largely-built man deserved the beating and beer, though he was just being defensive perhaps in the face of beauty, were he beautiful perceived so himself or at least content/like/respect who he is he wouldn’t have had an impulse of being mean perhaps
    but maybe racism/’meanism’is a more complex thing than that
    and being poor is not like sin to be ashamed, though not virtue to be proud of too
    it’s just karma and cyclical, you’ll be relatively poor and rich and/or in it doesn’t matter states of the finances and mind at some or other point of life
    i think the best is having/ being able to provide self and family the basics but not excesses
    what a lazy day, i should start to work to provide myself

    Comment by read | July 24, 2009

  14. I confess it’s very difficult to read read’s comments.

    To say that the neighbor was “hateful” to call the police when she thought the house was being robbed is ridiculous. It’s the opposite of hateful.

    Comment by Chad | July 24, 2009

  15. I confess it’s very difficult to read read’s comments

    But it’s also often rewarding.

    Comment by jms | July 24, 2009

  16. When did 12.2 happen, century-wise?

    Comment by Wrongshore | July 24, 2009

  17. Maybe I watch too many old movies.

    Comment by Matthew Lyons | July 24, 2009

  18. thanks, Jms
    is it difficult, it’s not intentional though
    robbed by the neighbour himself? i don’t know maybe the distance from the house and one’s eyesight would play a role in recognizing the neighbour, wasn’t it in the daylight, one should keep the binoculars perhaps if one is naturally concerned about safety of the neighbourhood
    but i can’t like any informants, come outside, try to scare the supposed burglar, antagonize openly maybe
    burglars, they would flee pretty easily perhaps once detected, coz that would be their first natural reaction to their discovery
    the downside is one can get shot, but at least you are not racist

    Comment by read | July 24, 2009

  19. You’re a racist for calling the cops when your neighbor’s house is getting broken into?

    Comment by Chad | July 24, 2009

  20. It’s one of the less obvious symptoms of racism, but yes, it absolutely does mean you’re racist.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  21. I wager that the neighbor would’ve called the cops regardless of the skin color of the apparent criminal.

    Comment by Chad | July 24, 2009

  22. I agree — he would’ve called whether the robbers had been black, Latino, or one of each.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  23. Well obviously…whites don’t ever break in to houses.

    Comment by Chad | July 24, 2009

  24. Exactly — why do you think they call it “white” collar crime?

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  25. I confess that the Obama administration has been doing very little to disabuse me of the suspicion that they were complicit in the coup in Honduras.

    Comment by stras | July 24, 2009

  26. Huh. Well they sent me a postcard claiming they weren’t involved. Perhaps yours got lost in the mail?

    Comment by transportinburma | July 24, 2009

  27. I’m just glad Obama’s getting his requisite “complicity in a Latin American coup” out of the way so early in his term.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 24, 2009

  28. I confess that on my balcony one will find a hideous red Budweiser football helmet grill. We won it, along with a bike and a digital camera, years ago by putting our names in a drop box at the little Wild Oats on Broadway in Kansas City. It’s been introduced to burgers here and there over the years, but now it merely serves as a receptacle for Gauloises, rollies, and other, more actively relaxing cigarettes. It saps my strength even to give it a passing glance. I confess that I have a plan to stealthily lug it down to the trash in the middle of the night so as not to be spotted with such a visual atrocity.

    Comment by Matthew Lyons | July 25, 2009

  29. I confess I deposed 3 plastic shopping bags of trash today, regular trash, cartons, plastics
    i’m not sure how to throw 2 boxes with the bills and other recycle paper, should I deface them until unrecognizable or just throw them as they are, coz cutting them all seems so much work
    I tried to switch to all the paperless, I won’t get them in mail anymore if I
    throw the old bills

    Comment by Read | July 25, 2009

  30. the solution was a black marker, though should have done defacing upon getting mail at once, though maybe it’s unnecessary, redundant work, nobody would try to read the recycle paper trash and decode my identity

    Comment by Read | July 25, 2009

  31. i was thinking how social creatures humans are, my coworker was absent for two weeks and i have trouble to work alone by myself, yesterday i spent a day browsing funny cats pictures
    or for example i talk with my niece on skype and start to dust things like spontaneously, though won’t do it for my life when alone
    so people who work in the cafes are smart people now i get it, i thought how one can concentrate in such environment people constantly would distract one’s attention

    Comment by read | July 25, 2009

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