Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Give me wonderment. *Flash* Give me innocence. *Flash*

On my walk to the cafe just now I was enjoying the mittens I'd just purchased, but still felt, as they say, under the weather. It was cold. Cold cold cold. The sky was grey and murky like a swamp filled with frog legs and alien brains. Wind blew the last leaves around the pavement, and the branches waved them goodbye. The scene was, I think, to express it in a word, "bleagh."

Then a woman crossed my path. She was carrying a toddler into the daycare next door, and had the child's jacket, but had foregone the struggle of putting the jacket on in the car only to take it off again indoors. The little girl's back was open to the cold air.

And she was laughing. A gigantic grin wrought her giggles into an echoing cackling, and her hands drummed on the woman's breast. She loved it; the cold was a new sensation, not yet bothersome, and she loved it.

They went indoors and I crossed the last half block to the cafe. But I was smiling.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Drenched in Vanilla Twilight

Shameless use of photoshop. Shameless shameless. It makes me feel like I fell through a chasm of stars and landed on an Age of Myst.

(Nubble Light, York, Maine)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bare Threads, Here, But I Trust in You. Put them Together.

One of my favorite comments in these history classes - although it's levied by far the most in Modern German - is a variation on commenting on how the historian used the archives.
"This is totally a book he could have written in St. Paul."

"I think the chapter on East Germany is sparse." - "But she was the first one allowed access to East German archives."

"He obviously has spent the past twenty years poring over the city's records."
(I swear that this strain of dialogue has tickled me even before I saw it explicitly attacked as an intellectual's conceit in Antoinette Burton's Archive Stories.) The timbre of the comments I just now referenced plays countermelody to a different strain of thoughts:
"She has an acknowledgment to a specific archivist; you can tell she really lucked out and got access to something she wasn't expecting."

"Here are a few of my favorite things." [followed by a list of classic texts.]

Burton's comment on the Lower East Side Squatters and Homesteaders Archive Project: "The squatters' project is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of similar archive enterprises taken up by groups who believe that their histories have not been written because they have not been considered legitimate subjects of history -- and hence of archivization per se."
All's I'm trying to say is that there are pressures to reify the archives, even among the people who ostensibly read and paid attention to works like Burton's, if for no other reason than to protect oneself against the inevitable onslaught of cranky grad students, looking to create some corpses.

I realize there can't be any goal in any writing project except to write the best one can write, period. And yet it strikes me that no one is ever going to look at Virginia Woolf's Orlando and say that she ought to have left Cornwall and spent more time in the Moscow archives...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh, Monolithics of Culture

This university releases crime alerts for [any?] [violent] crime that takes place. Typically, the activity happens late at night, to a student alone or in a very small group. Typically, the description of the attacker is: "tall black man wearing a hoodie." Case in point.

[Typically?] the racial tension has finally come to fruition. While the victim in this incident isn't explicitly labeled as black, one can picture that the "tall and semi-muscular" man, one of "five white males and two white females," who decided criminally to threaten the individual, was ensuring that "Mr. Scary Black Man" (thanks to the unBridge for that terminology) wouldn't rape one of the women with him. Because [ostensibly] fratboys with guns are what America needs to protect herself. Right to self-form militias and all that.

Of course the response ranges from the altruistic to the politic to the polemic.

I could go into a diatribe about race and racism, but it comes down to what the Czech dissident author Václav Havel had to say about Marxist ideology in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia: there is a difference between class consciousness and conciousness of class. That is, there's a marked disparity between knowing how to "talk the talk and walk the walk" (or knowing what is or is not politically correct, playing into power structures of acceptance and sociability, sensibility) and actively believing in the power of those words.

In a community that so obviously does not have race consciousness, it shouldn't surprise me that the consciousness of race doesn't equate to judicious decision-making. There might not [always] be a moral judgment on the class and race statuses of individuals [although the unBridge reports that the commentary at a "Campus Safety Town Hall Meeting" proves that there is still a fair amount of that], but there nevertheless is a lack of subtlety, of empathy. It doesn't help students of color that the racist stereotype: "You are black therefore lazy therefore poor and evil and scary" has been shortened to "You are black...therefore evil and scary." The thought process is still racist. It is still ahistorical; what other motivations are driving the attack? Rather than arguing [again, as, I'm very sorry to admit, the unBridge reported was a legitimate suggestion at the Town Hall Meeting] that "those community members" be banned from bars, or that homeless people be deported on account of their homelessness, we should spend some time examining exactly what driving [historical, economical, subjective] forces are at play here.

(Edit: Find the "official" interpretation of the Town Hall Meeting on the Daily Illini website.)

(Editx2: Don't take anyone's word for it. If you have a spare two hours, watch the meeting yourself here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

No Dahlias and Cherry Trees. Just Poppys.

It bothers me to participate in holidays, as if only once a year is it appropriate to think about the dead, and military conquest, and expansionist entrepeneurial-colonialist utopias.

I found myself reading an article about Armistice Day at 10:58 am., and decided I could take the two minutes on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to have a moment of silence. My brain, of course, would not be silent, and thought about the ramifications of war and - more importantly - the assumptions that allow for it. I came up with the following guidelines for myself, that I should not become a soldier:
I respect fellow humans' right to live.
I respect their right to the mutual protection of imperfect mortal law, and the benefits of my subjective metaphysical contemplations, as long as it doesn't interfere with theirs.
I respect their earnestness.
I respect their will to live, their pursuit of happiness.
I respect their quest for understanding in the postmodern world.
I respect their right not to be over-romanticized.
I respect their right not to be patronized.
I respect that placing them under my chains of influence is counterproductive to these desires.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whose feet are being dragged by whom?

I love thinking about the illogic of set expressions in the English language. I talked the Animus's ear off today about things like "couldn't like less than." Does it mean there is no higher? Or no lesser?

Anyway. That was getting him back for when I said "the water lapping at the bridge" and he asked if water has a tongue.

Here's another gem from yesterday's New York Times reportage of the possible US deal with Sudan: "...persistent reports of foot-dragging by the Sudanese authorities..."

Let's think about this foot-dragging. What Mark Lander is implying is that at the macro level, the Sudanese government isn't outputting everything it should be. The way he says it is by - apparently - giving agency to individual bureaucrats.

Yet consider the mental-state of a bureaucrat. Might a bureaucrat flex his or her respective muscles in order to feel powerful? Certainly.

Could such a state employee really drag his or her feet in such a way as to jeopardize the national status? I don't think so.

Which leads to an impasse. If bureaucrats are taking unnecessary amounts of time on filling out those paperworks they need to, it's either because someone higher up directs them to do so -- or because of extenuating circumstances. There's no way for us to tell which, but either abnegates the entire purpose for using the "foot-dragging" metaphor in the first place -- we no longer have any appreciation of individuals participating in Sudanese governmental policies. We just have one monolithic structure.

That's ok. Later we can talk about the English propensity to mask agency. "This paper argues that..." or "The committee decided that..." or "Mistakes were made..."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Number Nine [Turn me on dead man]

Maybe the answer was six? Or seven. I can't remember.

The thing is, neither could anyone else.

Here is a situation where context is key, perhaps. Trivia, on a Sunday night, in the cornfields of Illinois. The question: "Including both regular and post-season match-ups, how many perfect games were there in the American League in the past MLB season?"

Teams full of white guys, middle class and beer bellied, put their heads together and started counting, naming, of course, every pitcher on every team who had succeeded in that feat.

When it came time for the answer - either six or seven - and the resultant uproar, not just was the announcer anticipating said uproar. He knew which game was the one in question. "It was a no-hitter, but there was an error," he said, almost immediately, almost before anyone had said, "What about --?"

My team [Oh Shit, Dragon Attack!] watched with detached bemusement.

It's ok, because a guy at the gym listened to the unBridge and me discuss whether Kate Perry's "Fireworks" is kitsch, or vulgar, or both (or if a cultural event can be both) with the same kind of detached bemusement.

That is: one might find the things I think about extraneous or irrelevant. That opinion doesn't necessitate that what [other] men typically consume is worthwhile or relevant.

Six, or seven?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Too Much (too many?) Wiggles.

I think she's pretending to be Captain Feathersword?
Posted by Picasa

Ophelia-so-bad-for-yourself. Write a poem.

I have to remind myself that the throwing of temper tantrums is inappropriate. One may only kick a tantrum, these days. Suffice to say I had a great long weekend and wish it were not for to be the end. Quite. Yes. Considerably.

Pictures will follow.