During the summer of 1999, when I was in the middle of writing this book, I went on a camping trip with Eric Morgan, Lisa Rudnick and Susan Ericsson—three friends and colleagues. After we loaded up the car with camping supplies and a grocery bag full of Pop-Tarts®, Tostitos®, and Pete's Wicked Ale®, among other things, the four of us set out for the small Western Massachusetts town of Goshen, which contained a camping ground and a large lake that is jokingly referred to as “Goshen's Ocean.” For the most part, the camping trip was pretty typical—filled with a mixture of serious conversations and goofy small talk that is typical of academics who like to unwind, kick back, and have a good time. It was also a night peppered with references to media texts, something that was not unusual but that was more noticeable in light of the fact that we were about as far away as we could get from our television sets.
As with most camping excursions, it was necessary to build a campfire and, once we had nurtured a healthy flame, someone began shouting in a staccato manner, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” (a reference to Beavis and Butthead, those symbols of moronic irony MTV churned out during the 1990s). Later, as someone emerged from the tent, zipping up its entrance, Eric shouted, “Zip it! Zip it good!”—a reference to the then-current Spy Who Shagged Me Austin Powers sequel, which was itself an allusion to the 1980 Devo song, “Whip It.” Then, as we cooked dinner and Lisa stuck the fork in the sausages that lay directly in the flame, Susan said that it looked like they had blackened, prompting Eric to launch into a spirited rendition of the 1988 Metallica song “Blackened.”
“Blackened is the end!” Eric growled, “Winter it will send/throwing all you see/into obscuriteeeeeee!” Susan and Lisa stood dumbstruck at Eric's unknown-to-us Metallica fandom, their bemusement enhanced by the fact that he and I had taken them aback earlier during a spontaneous a capella