It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

1. Maile Chapman & screen. 2. Peter Conroy & A Public Space Founding Editor Brigid Hughes. 3. ZZ Packer reads.

Last night, BAMCafé hosted the final installment of Between the Lines, a collaboration between A Public Space and BAM. The night’s theme (It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time) was made immediately clear as soon as I walked in. At every table sat a red box with the words “Bad Idea Box” taped to each side. Inside were slips of paper honoring some of man’s worst ideas, which include airbag underpants, Crystal Pepsi, Prohibition, and the wonderfully awful film Troll II. But, like Troll II and its ensuing cult following, not all bad ideas lead to horrible situations. As illustrated throughout the night, bad ideas can take any shape or form, be it a horrible political crisis or a misstep toward the gothic aesthetic.

To illuminate us on the former, James Surowiecki opened the evening with a talk on groupthink in major decision-making bodies, such as in the Kennedy and Bush Administrations. Groupthink, he argued, eschews diversity. A homogenous cabinet is more likely to pull off a blunder like the Bay of Pigs or the war in Iraq. A diverse cabinet forces the decision-making body to look a little harder at its own beliefs, hence the need for an appointed Devil’s Advocate. Before leaving the stage, Surowiecki noted that we’ll hear a lot more of the night’s namesake phrase in the future.

Later in the evening, Maile Chapman gave a talk on the history and evolution of the gothic heroine. The gothic heroine is often without protection. She is sometimes sexually violated or married for the profit of others (say, a creepy uncle). But she also carries a keen, native intelligence. Her moral uprightness is exactly what gets her into trouble. It wouldn’t be a gothic novel if she weren’t punished for her good, empathetic nature.

After reading through a few descriptions (see The Brooding Mansion) Chapman noted that the modern gothic heroine is no longer driven to chaos due to her good nature — now her career draws her to trouble. Somehow, this doesn’t surprise me, and I wonder, is this turn of evolution maybe thirty years late? At any rate, the genre seems to be both conservative and twisted. If you can successfully get two opposing ideas or emotions to work in conjunction like that, then I’m game.

Next came a screening of John Lucas and Claudia Rankine’s Zidane (you can watch the film here. The five-minute film features frame-by-frame footage of the events prior to Zinedine Zidane’s ejection from the 2006 World Cup while Rankine’s poetry fills the backdrop, highlighting the Algerian experience. In the final moments, we see Zidane head butt Marco Materazzi in the chest, frame-by-frame, and the viewer is compelled to hold his own hand to his chest in solidarity.

ZZ Packer closed the season with “Pita Delicious,” which features a faked pregnancy test as a means evaluating a somewhat douchey boyfriend. You can read the entire story over at The Washington Post. And so, Between the Lines wrapped its season with the visceral image of a girl who draws in an extra line on her pregnancy test for shits and giggles.

–John Zuarino is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Bookslut.

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