This Picture of Me
There are all kinds of levels to a person's identity, and this picture reflects some of the ambiguity, and some of the duplicity, which can be involved in our portraits of ourselves. Yes, this really is me, and the picture is recent enough to reflect some of the middle-aged sagging and bagging I can rightfully claim as my own. The desire to be "honest" in this way is what caused me to replace the earlier picture on my website:
I'm not as young as that any more . . .
But that doesn't mean that the new picture above does not
have its own way of being inaccurate. Can you identify the setting? I
wanted a more representative picture, one that showed me someplace I love, and
my mind turned instantly to
To make a long story short, I had a perfectly adequate picture of me with a different background, and so I cut myself out of that background and pasted myself onto the terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim. The other background? Well, one day we were coming home from the Aquincum Musem in Budapest and I saw this sign of the sort that you don't see much of any more. It said, "Marha trágya" and so of course I asked to be photographed in front of it. "What does that mean?" you ask. Well that's Hungarian for, uh, bull excrement. I always feel that my students are always right on the edge (only the edge, if I'm lucky) of accusing me of being a prime purveyor of this substance (e.g., "You want me to write about how I read the story and not what it symbolizes?" "You mean a myth isn't a false story?") , so I wanted to indicate, by way of contrast, what it really looks like if you are selling the stuff. . . And here's that original picture:
To wax pedagogical for a moment, I think that if I am doing my job, there is always that sense of challenge, that idea of "no really" "you don't mean that" and that's what the sign represented to me. All the same, I wasn't ready to say that this experience embodies all or even most of my academic life, so therefore the "surgery." So there it is, the story of the picture. As the Aesir said at the end of The Prose Edda, "Make what use you can of it."