05 November 2008

Parade On, Weather Be Damned

The point is that I got home around 1 AM, and directly picked up L. Finch. I cuddled him close, and I said, "Listen, Kitty. I'm so glad you get to grow up in a world where George Bush is not the president, and where neocons philosophy doesn't rule policy. I don't care that CNN and MSNBC and all those other crap media keep making him an 'exceptional' example of Blackness and underscoring multicultural racism and saying that racism is now over because of one individual triumph. I don't care that other people like him for different reasons than I do. Because this man truly represents a dramatic shift in American (and therefore global) approaches to governance, politics, and real health. And, as someone once told me,

Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade
Don't tell me not to fly, I simply got to
If someone takes a spill, it's me and not you
Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade
I'll march my band out, I'll beat my drum
And if I'm fanned out, your turn at bat, sir
At least I didn't fake it, hat, sir
I guess I didn't make it
But whether I'm the rose of sheer perfection
A freckle on the nose of life's complexion
The Cinderella or the shine apple of its eye
I gotta fly once, I gotta try once,
Only can die once, right, sir?
Ooh, life is juicy, juicy and you see,
I gotta have my bite, sir.
Get ready for me love, 'cause I'm a "comer"
I simply gotta march, my heart's a drummer
Don't bring around the cloud to rain on my parade!" (link)

Well most of that I said and some of it I meant to say. I really did sing it to him, though.

People, we have a community organizer moving into the White House. This is huge. This is just as significant as his Blackness in making history.-89044444444444444444444444443oixze

(that last part was a contribution from Finch)

xox

18 October 2008

Look for the helpers

"When I was a child and would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find peoplep who are helping.'" -Fred Rogers, /You Are Special/ (1994), p. 104

I've been reflecting on that for the last few days. It's a matter of zooming out your lens on reality. Where you see only pain, zoom out. There are helpers out of frame. They may not be fixers, but they are trying to make it better. They are still positive energy pouring on the hurt*. And having a more complete picture will help you remember humanity even in the face of atrocity.

*because of these darn kids and their new slang, i need to clarify that i mean "positive energy is flowing on top of negative energy", and not "positive energy is causing harm". darn kids muddling up the language... :)

[edit: omg cosmic alignment-- i just navigated to the family communications, inc, webpage, and they had that quote playing in a photo collage of him in a flash animation on the front page! omg!]

12 October 2008

Autumn

When the temperature drops and the air turns sharp and clear, I know that winter is hiding in an alley around the corner, smoking moist-air-cigarettes with Slush and Gray. For a week or two, I appreciate the beauty around me as the last bits of green happiness before the 6-month winter settles in and I never want to go outside because my eyelashes will freeze together.

And then, all of a sudden, Ann Arbor is aflame with a blazing vibrancy of colors unique to anywhere in the universe. It's a fire that warms the cooling days, gorgeous to look at. But more importantly, it's one big Mardi Gras parade of life, love, and color before the somber Lent of winter comes in. Autumn is a celebration of life, a reminder that all things pass, but our existence flows in cycles, and so there's no need for despair at death. Life will come again. Without death, the renewal, the joie de vivre, of spring would be meaningless.

But death is winter, and winter is not here yet. Here is Autumn, and Autumn is glory days. Autumn is love and reflection and beauty immeasurable. Autumn is a 100th birthday party-- we know the end is coming sooner rather than later, but still we rejoice in life.

There's a reason a phoenix bursts into flame before dying, instead of withering away to dust. When time is of the essence, style must be, too.

26 September 2008

Palienation

I feel genuinely bad for Sarah Palin. Have you seen the Katie Couric interview?



She is clearly in over her head, and she knows it. The bravado she rode in on at the RNC has long since faded, and now she's got another whole month to perform without the benefit of pyrotechnics. McCain was incredibly short-sighted and plain ol' sexist in choosing Palin as his running mate. He gives no intimation of actually trusting Palin, or respecting her as a professional. He bought her to show off to the boys-- young, sexy, ignorant, ambitious, and smart (if not savvy). The McCain campaign flaunts her like the first lady Cindy McCain doesn't appear to be playing.

And not being a feminist herself, Palin doesn't have the guts to call out the bullshit. They're tokenizing her, brandishing her femininity like the social phallus McCain lacks. They expect her to dance not like an organ grinder's monkey, which is what we're used to in the VP slot, but like a stripper sharing and baring her feminine wiles to garner cheers and cash for men in the back office who don't care that she's also getting catcalls and bottles whipped at her.

Watching that interview with Katie Couric, I saw desperation, as if she wanted to stop the interview and yell, "What do you /want/ from me? I am clearly not qualified for this! My personal and family life is a mess! I never wanted this! If I fuck this up, my career is OVER, and I don't have the skill set to win!" McCain has led her out like a pig to the slaughter, lipstick and all.

I hope she grows a pair and writes an expose memoir in a few years that details the horror of this campaign and analyzes it in a feminist framework. I also hope this is a turning point for her and that she shaves her head and becomes a radical militant lesbian separatist. It's what America needs, now more than ever.

06 September 2008

Dreams are weird, and I am a homo

I had a nightmare about Fanny Brice this morning. It was based on a scene from Funny Lady that I caught on TV last week in which Babs-as-Brice sabotages a synchronized swimming rehearsal by dressing as a grown-up-child and bumping into people and literally knocking the prima swimmerina off her pedestal. She does it not out of mean spirit, but a desire for attention and love; no one gets hurt, but I'm sure they're pissed off a little.

Okay so in my dream, I had to get from GodKnowsWhere to Ann Arbor in time to start classes on Monday, and I was supposed to fly but I hadn't packed anything yet. So then I was going to drive, but I wouldn't be able to get here on time, but I was excited to see states that I'd missed. I remember the trip would have involved driving through northern Texas and Missouri, but not where I was starting or why.

So then somehow I'm on a big diving platform and Fanny (played by Barbara) is there with some other statuesque white women. She seems desperate to get back in the spotlight, even though she's already in the show-- she wants more. So she's been surreptitiously plotting to injure the other headlining swimmer so they can't perform. There's an area off-stage serving as a long-term infirmary for women who've been injured, and the implication is that they're more like race horses than human athletes—if you get hurt, your career is over, no matter the severity of the injury in the waking world. All injuries are terminal in this world. One woman lying on a cot told me it was her shoulder (a strain, I believe); she'd gotten hurt 3 times, and now she'll never get back in the water, because she was dying.

[By this time in the dream I'm one of the background swimmers, and I know the routines and all.]

So Fanny is really being ruthless here. Even a minor injury can ruin a life, and here she is actually trying to hurt someone. Such is her desperation! I find out that she's already taken one woman out of the running, and she is in the infirmary, "healing", but essentially being bitter and waiting to die.

On the diving platform, stacks of ballet insoles are sewn in everyone's starting points. Some have more than others some in different foot positions. We start each routine by jumping off our insole-spots into the water. The stage managing people work very meticulously to make sure that each swimmer's insole-spot is the right height for their starting dive; some have 45, some 65, and generally the less important you are to the show, the fewer you have in your stack. If there's any error, the results could be deadly, as our dives are calculated to incredible precision.

Fanny removes a few insoles from the stack of the prima swimmerina and hides them in the garbage (not unlike Matthew Broderick in /Election/ with the ballots, but more carefully). We're ready to start the show. The prima swimmerina takes off her silver chenille robe and walks over to the platform. She's a total priss and looks down on Fanny, whom she considers to be a washed up has-been, but she doesn't deserve to die.

The music starts, we're all in place, and dive we do. Only somehow, it was MY insole-stack that failed, and my back is paralyzed the instant I hit the water. People scream and move out of the way, and somehow I get to the infirmary. In the dream world, now I'm both myself, the innocent bystander, and the prima swimmerina, the intended target.

In the chaos, we find the body of a tall man in a trenchcoat, apparently mugged and killed on his way to the show. And this is the deepest irony—he's one Fanny wanted to perform for, the one from whom she sought love and attention so desperately. She's distraught at the pain she's caused, which has now all been in vain.

And now I'M GONNA DIE and how I am I going to be able to drive to Michigan if I'm DEAD? And then there was something about Surya and then I woke up to /On the Media/, which was equally terrifying because they were talking about all the protesters who got arrested and tear-gassed at the RNC, and I was reminded that we live in a police state and the apocalypse is upon us, but we're too busy fiddling with our ipods to notice.

31 July 2008

poem of the moment #4

I knew you
before we both knew ourselves.
before your wounds had healed,
when your blood, true and strong,
flowed from your veins just as
thickly as it now pumps to the surface of your skin.
we were both more honest then.
tossed dignity aside,
too overwhelmed by love and life and
hormones
to conceal our soft bellies (fat with mother's milk).

and yet still we hid
from
sneering peers
strangers' gropes
fathers' arms
from
loving ourselves.

Then, then, I knew you.
And loved you for reflecting me,
whom i could not.
and for, within, the You i saw.

Loved you for the moth, wet and curled, wrapped within the
delicate protection
of
concentrated resolve.

I see you've got a wing out now, and a leg or two.



Good.

Me too.

So I'll know You, too, when we both emerge,
triumphant in birth and ready
to flutter,
and
depart.

30 July 2008

Love and Universal Everythingness, the blog!

The following essay/reflection/treatise/thingy operates by taking as given that Human Civilization is FUBAR. Please suspend your investment in Modern Culture accordingly for the duration of the trip and keep hands, feet, and tentacles inside the ozone layer at all times.

We humans spend and awful lot of time and energy trying to ascribe meaning to our lives. We build massive (phallic) structures, wage wars, create religions, interpret dreams, make incredible art and music, exercise control over our children, and on and on. There are deeply important forces of creation as well as destruction at play.

Some humans have spent years and lifetimes, generations and centuries trying to pinpoint our position in the Grand Scheme of Things, taking time for deep reflection, tormenting the spirit and mind, reaching enlightenment of some kind or another. Others have refused to take off their social blinders and look at the world outside of social constructs.

In the end, though, none of any of that matters. This is not to say I agree with nihilists or libertarians; I choose to infer from my existence as a fraction of a speck in the Universe not that my life is insignificant and therefore worthless, but rather that my very existence is indeed significant just because I am and we are.

I exist! Out of the [LITERALLY!] infinite possibilities of the Universe, I, me, myself, happened to come about. How amazing! Light energy has slowed down at just the right frequencies to allow distinguishable matter, and that matter vibrates at the exact perfect frequency as to form atoms and molecules and amino acids and nucleic acids and large, complex protein structures that compose my anatomy and there is electricity in a glob of glucose that I call my brain, and that gives me a consciousness. And every nanojoule of this energy that constitutes ME was present when our proto-sun exploded and turned into a star, expelling matter and energy hundreds of lightyears in every direction.

What more do I need to consider myself significant, my life meaningful? How can something so fundamental be controversial?

Here's the problem (and the beginning of my speculation/theorizing/philosophy/argument). Lots of other humans faced this question and decided they couldn't deal with their
infinite natures. So we have spent thousands of years trying to separate ourselves from nature.* Making tools, weapons; controlling fire; trading, devising monetary schemes; ascribing power. It's all a diversion from the universal truth that we Exist.

People looked past "we Exist", and asked, "so what?"
They said, "A rock exists. So what? A rock! A boring, plain old rock. A rock is of no use except to throw or build. Surely I'm more important than a rock."
They said, "A tree exists. A tree! A tall, beautiful tree. A tree provides food and shelter, and I can kill it to make things. But it can't do anything to defend itself! So surely I must be more important than a tree, because I can control it."
They said, "Bugs and worms and jellyfish exist. So what? If they can exist, it can't be all that special. I can control them, too, so I must be more important. There must be more to life than living."

And as they worked their way up the hierarchy of life that they were building as it occurred to them, suddenly, oh shit, they were looking at other humans. How many thousands of volumes of literature have been devoted to ranking humanity, ascribing value to difference, subjugating enormous classes of people, creating categories that, try as we might, still can't quite encompass everyone. How many wars? Genocides?

The entire global social order is premised on the basic flawed assumption that human life, life on earth, earth itself is ultimately powerless and insignificant.** It's one hell of an inferiority complex, magnified over generations, infected globally through processes of war and colonialism and other forms of cultural exchange.

Now, of course people will try to tell me, "But it's not all bad! We're just trying to live up to our potential, given the amazing gift of life that we do appreciate! We've done things like Science and Art and Progress! We've fixed Things!"

The crux of the argument, the real heart of it, is in how we conflate self-worth with power. As a consequence of that action, that judgment, we turn our gaze outward, away from our infinite selves, and onto false idols of social, cultural, and institutional Meaning.

We, humans, will never be able to build enough, create enough, destroy enough to give ourselves the satisfaction we desire. We're trying to play God, imitate nature, not participate in it. If, instead of trying to create meaning, significance, control, we resign ourselves to accept that in the Grand Scheme of Things, we have no control, and neither does anybody else, we will start to get back on the right track.

Because right now we are living in a nightmare that we as a species have created. To love ourselves just as we are right now in this moment is antithetical and deeply subversive to social entente, and that is fundamentally fucked up.***

So please, run around naked in the woods. Or hell, run around naked at your office! It'll be a move in the right direction.

*By "nature", I mean to say "untampered physical, geographical, and physiological ecology".
**NB: I'm not saying everyone in the world believes this now or always has, I'm saying social power and function today are inextricable from it.
***This sentence alone deserves an explanation that would fill several volumes. It applies to consumer citizenship most obviously, but to many other aspects of life as well.

This essay comes out of a burgeoning tradition of philosophy known as Love and Universal Everythingness (which I have made up), which is not a religion but a path to enlightenment, and which, as I read and think more, I will probably discover has really been Vipassana and/or Hinduism all along.

17 July 2008

Poem of the moment #3

Folding laundry and suddenly
a small doesn't seem quite so.
a shirt filled out, no longer draped loose on
soft shoulders, thin ribs.
chinks in the armor i put up to pretend i'm the same,
that i could have been happy before,
that it's No Big Deal, i can Handle it;
my excessive artificing foiled by a skin of cotton
spilling volumes of what lies beneath.

23 June 2008

poem of the moment #2

I should tell you that I love you more.
It's silly, this game of invisible strings.
Of course I love you! It's what I was made for,
how we operate.
How silly, alien, to be afraid of that,
our most obvious connection!
Silly. Shake my head and laugh in
admiration
of my own absurdity.
I love you. Of course.

05 June 2008

Thought of the Day

"Making everyone else wrong is easy; understanding difference as complimentary rather than oppositional seems to be a much more difficult project." -Jamison Green
taken from the article "Part of the Package" in the Journal Men and Masculinities,January 2005.

This is something I could go on about for days, and I have (in my own head). But I hadn't been able to articulate it so cleanly as Green does here. I encourage you to stop and reflect on it in the context of your own lives, and in the context of mine.

04 June 2008

Poem of the moment #1

By the way,
you
owe me six dollars.
Which I only remember
because
I was mad at you
because
I was mad at me
because
I was insecure
and
I was afraid you wouldn't love me.

Which you probably didn't.
But neither did I.
So keep the six.
I'll count it penance for sinning
against myself.

10 March 2008

Love (part 1)

Sometimes in life, it goes too deep. You love someone so much you can't conceive of life without them; a heartbreak too unbearable to imagine.

That's how it was with me and my bike. O! Bikebert, how I betrayed you!

She was a 2000 Gary Fisher Gitche Gumee, a unisex frame, the perfect size for me. Frog green, 8 speeds.

It was love at first bike.

Bikebert circa August 2004
(photo circa August 2004)

We bought her from Mr. K's Bicycle Shop in Rock Falls (before they closed), after the new models had already come in. She was on sale, even! I remember the first time I rode, testing her out in a circle in the parking lot of the store. The seat was too high, but we fit like hand in glove. Or butt in seat (seat in butt, more like. have you ridden a bike?).

I remember the first time I ever went for a ride with friends-- Kim and Andrew. The first time I cut across an intersection (the same day). We went to Sinissippi Park and free-wheeled down the sledding hill, which bore, instead of snow, spring's mottled patchwork of light and shade.

I remember trying to ride home from contest play rehearsal over spring break junior year. The first time I really understood what a blizzard means for traction and why people hate driving in winter. Not that I cared-- slipping and sliding my way up 5th avenue, we were reckless youth in lurrrve.

I remember summers, riding down LeFevre out past Westwood to McCue Rd and then back into town. Downtown to the police station to register her, 2 years into our relationship. I suppose it was a commitment ceremony of sorts-- it was the first time I really took ownership and started taking care of the bike. Getting tune-ups. Cleaning her.

We quick-released the front tire to fit her in the rented mini-van we drove to Ann Arbor when I first went to college. My god, I rode everywhere on that bike 1st semester. Until it got too cold and the lock froze solid with ice inside and I couldn't get the key in (can't find the blog post I wrote at the time).

When Kris helped me move out of MoJo after my freshman year, we haphazardly hung Bikebert on the back of the Jeep with 1 1/2 2-foot bungee cords. They held my lightweight (though steel-framed) beauty just fine.

She came with me to Lester House, my first home away from my parents. It was bike heaven-- folks who rode bikes, knew about maintenance, loved bikes. Her chain guard went mysteriously missing that first semester, and I could not figure out how that would have happened casually, since you'd have to take the whole chain and back wheel off to get it, and then reassemble the whole shebang. I did (and do) have a suspicion as to who did it, but I have plenty of other reasons not to like that guy anyway. But parked on the rack in the back of the house, she was safe.

Or she would have been if I'd kept her locked up. Chained down. Bolted. I left for winter break on December 19, 2005, and never saw her again. Like an idiot, I'd left her sitting in the rack with the U-Lock carefully draped around her handlebars.

And the thief, can I blame them? Hardly. She was too fine to pass up. I know the real reason I lost her is that I took her for granted, forgot to treat her with the respect I owed her for taking me around everywhere, and with nary a complaint (well, her brakes did start making this horrible screaming around October '05... it was pretty embarrassing) .

All kidding aside, that bike was my first taste of real independence. Going for rides alone, I was in charge. The sweet taste of freedom, power, control, and probably a little grass, all rolled into one. It really was quite intoxicating, I tell you what.

And honestly, I've never gotten over the loss. Sure, I've ridden other bikes-- toyed with the idea of buying another, even. But nothing could compare to her. In fact, Gary Fisher has discontinued the line-- there will never be another like her.

Once, in the fall of 2006, I saw a doppelganger parked outside Dennison as I was coming out of class. I inspected as close as I could-- same year, same size, same color. There couldn't be 2 in Ann Arbor, could there? Surely Bikebert had been stripped down and sold for parts by then? I was all set to wait there at the bike lot until the owner came out and ask them where they got it, but then I noticed the handlebar grips-- barely scuffed, and the originals. Mine were worse for the wear, ripped in places. She was really gone.

So, in tribute to the freedom I felt the first time I set out on my own on my trusty steedette, I've decided to embark on a crazy bike trip. This summer, I'm going to bike from L.A. to Portland and back. Anyone want to come with me? I'm thinking maybe July 10 - August 10. How's that timeline sound?

[addendum: alternatively, i could ride to Michigan when I move in.]