Wednesday, December 28, 2011

decisions to make before home-making

I told my friends that St. John's was starting to convince me that Utah isn't the place for me, and their response was, "we thought it was strange that you stayed so long."

Mostly, this made me sad, because I see so much of the same situation in Utah but in a very scaled down way. The reporting took a very clear viewpoint--a seven/eight year old who is afraid to walk down the street represents a shameful situation in the town; her mother, wearing a pencil skirt with a slit in the back, well, "nobody could say she isn't being modest." Except, Slaya (an orthodox Jewish friend who doesn't veil) would say she isn't--and so would a lot of moderate Mormons, though they probably wouldn't mention it. The frustrating thing for me, here, is that no one in the clip is talking about the real issues.

By the real issues, I mean: the behavior of individuals impacts the freedom of other individuals to live in the kind of community they want to live in. No one in this news clip is disagreeing with that premise--they disagree only on what the reasonable standard of behavior is to enforce upon individuals. On top of this, the narrator doesn't appeal to any sort of logic to describe why his standard is better than the ultra-orthodox one--it is presented as something that should be obvious to the viewer.
The real questions--what standards of behavior in a community ought to be accepted, how those standards should be arrived at, and how they should be enforced, need discussing. And you don't get very far into those discussions before you run into other questions, like, "should we just let people group together into like-minded communities?"
Why did I stay in Utah for so long? (From the news clip: Should we have stayed, and fought? Here I know my school will not be shut down. . .) Community is inevitable and inherently restrictive. Some kinds of diversity bring good things--certainly it makes St. John's more interesting. I would like to think that I'm doing some kind of good for my nieflings who correct strangers who swear in public parks, who are dreadfully concerned with whether the punch in "A Christmas Carol" is alcoholic, who are much of the time in need of attention but showered with it on the day they get baptized.

And I would like to think that we have something to learn from the fundamentalists; if nothing else, they should remind us that we, too, are enforcing a standard of behavior for the sake of our community, and that this standard ought not go unexamined. Is there anything deeply (fundamentally?) different between the fundamentalists, the moderates, and us (for this I'll say, both liberals and radicals), when it comes to our desire to enforce community behavior standards?

Is it possible to find a balance wherein we agree that we are all in this together?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

one (Ogden Nash reading) for the nieflings

I didn't manage to get the pictures where I could show them to you, but hopefully you can find them in your own copy at home?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

and now. . .

Why is definition 5 of Book V:

“Magnitudes are said to be in the same ratio, the first to the second and the third to the fourth, when, if any equimultiples whatever be taken of the first and third, and any equimultiples whatever of the second and fourth, the former equimultiples alike exceed, are alike equal to, or alike fall short of the latter equimultiples respectively taken in corresponding order.”

different from definition 20 of Book VII?

“Numbers are proportional when the first is the same multiple, or the same part, or the same parts, of the second that the third is of the fourth.”

VII.20 deals in number, and V.5 does not. Number creates (or perhaps is) a concise language with which to describe the basic concept of proportionality. As with any translation from one language to another, the new statement will imply more or less than the old one. To take these two definitions as equivalent implies that all magnitudes which can be in the same ratio can be expressed as numbers—or that magnitudes and numbers are equivalent in some way.

This makes some sense. Any magnitude which we can bisect can be expressed as a multitude of units—as a number—so long as we are free to define our base unit as we choose. However, despite this, numbers, magnitudes, and the mathematical entities that have magnitudes are all different. Numbers, while less complicated than magnitudes to talk about, introduce the problem of incommensurability; it is possible for there to be two magnitudes which are not possible to measure in number using the same unit, no matter how small we make that unit. This problem can't arise if we aren't talking about how to describe the magnitudes in terms of units. More specifically, it can’t arise if we aren’t insisting that more than one magnitude ought to be measured using the same unit. The presence of incommensurability as a problem may be the most important distinction that this “translation” out of the language of magnitudes (the language of all ratios?) and into the language of number has brought.

Some of the apparent simplicity of definition VII.20 comes from its use of the terms “part” and “parts.” A “part” is basically the same whether we’re dealing with magnitudes or numbers. A magnitude or number is “part” of another magnitude or number, the less of the greater, when the smaller measures the greater; this is from V.1, V.2 (which clarifies measure), and VII.3. For one number to be “parts” of another, however, means that the lesser number does not measure the greater number(VII.4). Why aren’t these terms used in V.5? We don’t have a definition of “parts” that applies to magnitude. If we extended the definition of “parts” from numbers onto magnitudes, we could say that any magnitude that was shorter than a second magnitude but did not measure it was “parts” of the second magnitude.

However, I think this equivalent definition is absent from Book V for a reason. Any group which only includes all numbers which are “the same multiple, or the same part, or the same parts” of some other number can’t include all possible ratios of magnitudes. This is, again, because some magnitudes which are in the same ratio are not commensurable with one another, and thus can’t be expressed at all within the same system (using the same sized base units) of number. Having no definition of “parts” which applies to magnitude highlights this difference, however subtlety.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

From "Literacy With an Attitude"

"As working-class children progress through school, their reading scores fall farther and farther below their actual grade level. We presume they don't have the basics, and we give them more phonics. They don't need more phonics. They need to be introduced into and made to feel welcome in a community where explicit language makes sense, where it's necessary--a community where nonconformity is tolerated and even encouraged, where authority is exercised collaboratively, and where students do not feel powerless, where they have choices regarding the topics they will study and the materials they will use and where they are given freedom to work with others (preferably from backgrounds different from their own) and to move around the room. Such classrooms make negotiation possible and even necessary."

-Patrick J. Finn

(emphasis mine)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

some thoughts about political engagement

1. You must expect complicity as your baseline. Instead of looking at the ways in which a person fails to be the perfect, superhuman activist, one should observe the ways they rise above complicity. It isn't wrong that people should look first to their own survival, even to their own thriving.

2. When it comes to issues that aren't your primary focus, the goal is to find a compromise that isn't particularly reactionary that works for you. Maximizing your functionality as an activist and a human being matters. You are not a perfect superhuman activist either.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

trouble contemplation

I don't think I've written much that was good since I came here.

Which is alright; it's not like I haven't been getting plenty else done. The breakneck speed isn't always good for me, though. I am living in a flood, and so far my best writing comes from long percolation.

In my nonexistent free time I'm reading Delusions of Gender. It convinces me of what I already knew but constantly doubted; this world really is stacked against women.

And poor people, and brown people. And neurologically divergent people, and disabled people. And fat people. And people with unsupportive families. And, god knows, adult survivors of child abuse.

The question is how to live gracefully in a world that's stacked against you--not in a moment when the column of tanks is about to mow you down, but all the years and months and days and moments before that. How do you stay hardworking and reasonable and uncompromisingly kind, and not take it laying down?

How do you live?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

still in love

Friday afternoon means catching my breath before diving into the weekend's worth of work. It turns out to be a problem that I'm so bad at doing things half-way--but not a big problem.

I am slowly conquering grammar.

There are moments when I think--this is going to be ok. I can do this. Not just this, now, but this, life. We are diagramming sentences in Greek, just like when I was learning to teach English, and I remember how much I love that. A little thrill goes through me; I could actually use my CELTA when I get out of here. I'll have a bachelor's degree. I can go to China. I can have a life.

This week has been hard. You can't leave the past behind you. Yesterday we opened a cow heart, slitting the vena cava to lay it flat, cutting through the rubbery lips of the right atrium and and into the rich dark muscle of the ventricle. It is easier than I thought, up the other side and down the septum, my scalpel forcing away a perfect cross section, just like the model but so much more real, bloodier and less color coded. I have declined gloves so that I can feel the differences between flesh and vein and fat; when I lift it up the blood goes to my elbows, the meat is thick and dripping, and the veins that hang off the top are bloodstained pink. When I close my eyes to sleep, the heart is in my chest but my hands are still trying to rip it open.

So I go downstairs; my friends are talking about seminar. Georgias: better than Meno, we think? The security of military bases in Israel? What goats won't eat? How to get your taxes done? Correlations between dance ability and sexual performance? The big project Y did to clarify the logic Socrates uses about rhetoric and justice? This is a strange place full of strange people, and most of us didn't belong anywhere else. It is good to come home.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reflections on Study On Automatism

Recently I’ve adopted a new hypothesis about my own art, such as it is—my writing. For me, language feels like a vast interconnected web of meaning. Each word is a node with many roots and branches. When I see the word “fort,” I think of a military base, but in my mind the words “fortitude” and “forbearance” cluster nearby. Not much further along the web, the French connotations of strength and loudness echo. These associations come from my experience with language; I imagine some are legitimately etymological, but many aren’t. I often choose my words specifically for their significance in my web of meaning, and I am never exactly sure how much my web overlaps with anyone else’s. My hypothesis is: perhaps when I am attached to my words, even though they are not as clear to others as they should be, I’m searching for a reader whose web of meaning and perhaps experience overlaps my own.

Perhaps this is why I am drawn to abstract impressionism and automatism. Alongside our verbal language, maybe the world we live in presents each of us with a visual vocabulary; perhaps we each have a web of meaning where we remember how blue is peaceful and diagonals signify mid-motion. Abstract paintings play with visual language closer to the center of the web than most other images in art. I have seen “green” and “round” many more times than I’ve seen “vegetable garden” or “face of a pale woman with dark hair.” As such, these simpler visual components are both more resonant and less precise. It is as if the painter is searching for a viewer whose web of meaning overlaps his own, but rather than satisfying himself with the people for whom “face of a pale woman with dark hair” means quite the same thing as it does to him*, he reaches for a more primal vocabulary.

I found Robert Motherwell’s Study On Automatism beautiful and interesting. It is not large, and the pale green of the gallery walls set off its blue and ocher beautifully. The composition features a strong diagonal from the bottom-left to the top-right of canvas. One of the most striking elements is the high contrast between the portions of the canvas covered in lighter colors and those covered in black. To me the abstract shapes suggest old, geometrically torn paper against a black background, but there’s ambiguity about what is foreground and what is background, and about whether background and foreground are present at all. Like the classic image that can be seen as a young woman or as an old one, we may see ochre over black, or we may see black blocking off ochre—or we may see neither. On top of this ambiguity, there’s a terrific sense of depth. The black is clear and calm, and the shading of the ocher grants the image a sense of nuance; if this is paper, it has been crumpled a bit, and if it is against the black, we may be looking into a bottomless void. The deep warmth of the ocher is balanced by the black, and by the coolness of the gray-blue that looks to be smeared around the lower left corner of the canvas.

Black scribbles across the lighter portions of the canvas, which are mostly shades of golden ocher, are reminiscent of a child’s drawings or first attempts to write. There is a delightful contrast between the playfulness of those scribbles and the obvious adult competence other aspects of the painting demonstrate. As a whole the lines are too straight, the colors too pure, for this to have come from the hand of a child—and yet, certain elements of the painting seem to have been created with such freedom and carelessness that they might as well have been. The gray-blue and white paint in the lower left quadrant once more mimic a child’s work, applied in simple strokes up and down with little precision and little depth that doesn’t come from the context. Additionally, there are places where the black and ochre paint smear into one another and the “paper” edges fade into the black, breaking the strong lines and strong color distinctions that are so striking on first look.

I don’t know much about aesthetic theory, but I guess that balance, contrast, and strong associations—perhaps even in common with the artist—are what make this painting so pleasurable for me to experience.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I will buy you a new life. . .

So. . . finally starting to get my feet here at St. John's. The campus is beautiful. The people are fascinating. The food is awesome; less awesome, I think, if you're less vegetarian-leaning or more vegan-leaning than myself, but it works out well for me. Despite all this, integrating the fantasy with the reality seems to be challenging me a little.

Math is my favorite class, which at least so far consists of playing with Euclid. I find myself relieved to be assigned papers (even papers like the one from my Greek tutor, who requires us to pick a piece from the modern art gallery on campus and write about it) because it's nice to have something so familiar as writing to work on. Seminar started out a little terrible but seems to be rapidly improving; last night someone gave an interpretation that made me want to go back and read the entire Iliad a third time.

I think the part I least expected is the 57 hour work week, and figuring out how to deal with that and not go insane has been consuming most of my time and energy. Since that's what I've been thinking about, that's what you get. :)

Strategies :
-Walk more, carry less. This works out to taking my books to my dorm before meals and picking them up after, rather than carrying them around. . . hopefully, it will result in less pain and a little more exercise.
-Drop the homework at bedtime.
-Make sure I sit with talkable people at meals, find study groups, and hang out after seminar (but not too late).
-Do my PT. :/
-Read ahead on the weekends, to not die on Thursdays.

Previously established rules that are turning out to still be really important:
-Write when I need to
-Try to be outside around sunset as often as possible
-Take the time to practice music, even in little five and ten minute chunks, when I get the chance

I need to write more. Also, I'm gonna go write some papers (which shall probably find their way here) and then meet up with my Greek study group.

Monday, August 15, 2011


The trouble is

admitting that you're a survivor of sexual abuse went out of style in the mid nineties

grownups admitting that they have feelings has been never in style

survivors of sexual abuse and assault still make up ten percent of the population or more

if you're willing to talk about your emotions publicly, most people will assume this is a sign of weakness rather than a measured choice.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

real world

something I wrote a month ago

I think I have a new rule; correlated to "don't seek comfort or recreation in commerce," there is "go out into the real world." To the places where things are made and people survive. And live, maybe.

Yesterday I pulled over at some cherry orchards outside a small town and took a slow half-mile walk while I watched the sunset. I let the wind make a mess of my hair, and I felt it against my body, and I thought about how the life I have right now doesn't quite provide access to either people or nature in a way that would be good enough. I thought about how people choose to make a life for themselves instead of a revolution, and I thought about what walking down this road would be like if I were thin (not very different, it turns out) and I felt the knots in my body just begin to uncoil themselves. I realized that I was very sad--heartbroken--and I didn't know why. I needed to watch the sun leave the orchards, and get a sense of myself.

Lately I often find myself overcome with sadness. It's hard to explain this because I am also the happiest ever. Odd things will set me off; a mother's story of playing with her children, the last few sentences of a chapter in one of my paperback urban-fantasies--"he died as he had lived, a hero and a survivor, protecting the things he cared about the most." I am mourning everything that was lost or stolen or broken that can not be replaced; all the moments when I pulled away from a lover and reminded myself to breathe, the years of hard-earned numbness, the mangled school records, the people I'm still afraid of and frighten away in return, the ugly gifts of my past that catch me unaware long after I've given up running.

For the first time in my life I'm building something very different. I cry sober the kind of tears that carry something away with them. I walk, and breathe, feel the wind at my back. Slowly, I begin to let go.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

short story

In his body he was always not good enough. Maybe it started with perverse infantile sexuality; maybe it was Alexis' delicacy next to his muscle that made him feel blunt and squat and rectangular. Maybe the shrill homophobic taunts on the playground convinced him that he was asexual, or maybe life had simply taught him he was safer that way.

He took this out of himself in cold, salty sweat, sticky on his arms for years on end. He used the aching of his back and the searing pain through his legs to punish what was wrong; it never worked.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Objectification: why not?

(Written for some folks on facebook.)

What does it even mean? Well, to objectify someone is to treat them as an object, rather than a subject. A subject has the capacity for subjective values, preferences, emotions, and beliefs that matter; an object does not.

In this culture, men are most frequently objectified as sources of money and (particularly in Mormonism) decision makers. This happens when men are expected to financially support and "preside over" a family without any regard to their actual preferences. It also happens when their ability to make money is considered the most important or only important thing about them. When this happens, a man might as well be a money making robot--or an ATM. An object.

Correspondingly, women are most frequently objectified as providers of sexual pleasure. Women's bodies are routinely described as the most important or only important part of them.

So what's wrong with that? I'm not going to pretend to be arbiter of objective morality. My problem with you objectifying women is that it makes me uncomfortable. Very likely, it makes other people uncomfortable too. From my perspective, there are three possible explanations for your behavior:

1. You don't realize that it bothers people
2. You are aware, but you feel that it has benefits which outweigh the discomfort it causes
3. You are aware, and you're just a jerk

I'm hoping/guessing it's number one.

One reason it bothers me is that I don't really understand why you're doing it. Let's say you post in a facebook group that you are only attracted to slender, blond (white), tanned women with great muscle definition, stunning faces, and b or c-cup breasts. After the first 45 seconds of feeling sorry for you--since you're clearly unable to experience the pleasure I do when viewing a much wider variety of bodies--I start wondering why you've told me this. If this just came up once in awhile, I'd think to myself, "Whatever. I guess he needs to out himself as an anorexiabarbiephile. Sometimes we all just have that kind of day; poor kid must need a hug." However, it seems like there are guys who feel the need to talk about this almost constantly, and it seems to extend significantly beyond simply sharing "this is the kind of body I'm sexually attracted to."

The case-by-case standard which I prefer to use when deciding whether to sexually objectify someone or not is this: What would the person who that body belongs to (subjectively) prefer? When I sit there and stare at my boyfriend's ass/arms/shoulders/face/whatever, thinking nothing whatever about his sexy brain, I can be fairly certain that his sexy brain is down with that. When you sit there talking about whether the sister missionaries on temple square are "doable" or not, I can be fairly certain they would not be down with that. And so can you.

"But wait!" you say. "We aren't actually doing anything. We're just talking, many miles at a distance. This doesn't impact them at all."

And the answer to that is. . . well. . . sort of. Because when you talk in this way--when you go on about who is hot and who isn't and which body parts should look like what--when you are so obviously willing to ignore the preferences of both the women you're talking about and the women who are in the room with you--you leave me with the impression that you are used to sizing up every woman you meet as a sexual object, and that her functionality as a sexual object is often more important to you than her subjective preferences.

I feel threatened by this. Objects are vulnerable. If an object doesn't live up to your needs and expectations, you can do pretty much whatever you want with it, and that's just fine. I have a friend, for instance, who takes great joy in smashing his old crockery pieces against a cement wall. At the very least, you're likely to discard objects that aren't satisfying. I feel threatened because there's absolutely no way that I'll be an adequate sexual object* in your world. It's like loosing a contest I never wanted to enter before I'm allowed to talk to you. If I had to pass the "are you a good sexual object?" test before you ever get around to considering my other qualities, you would never even see me as a human being.

And I feel frustrated because there's no place for me in that conversation. Since I'm not interested in objectifying others with you, and I'm not interested in being objectified, that leaves me. . . not interested. It leaves me on the sidelines, worrying about what the takeaway message is for the younger and less confident women in the room, and whether this is a healthy place for them to be.

I get that you, rightly, don't want to be demonized for having a sexual interest in bodies. I get that you are almost certainly not ever going to do any physical harm to me. I sympathize deeply with your desire to bring some freedom and openness to your sexuality. I just think there are better ways to do that.

*Ironically, while it is objectively/statistically the case that the average college dude would rather date a skinny heroin addict than me, focusing on the ideal female body is likely to make any woman--even a woman who actually does look like a supermodel--feel inadequate. Or at least, that's what this book told me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How do I ask out a woman without being creepy?

This post is adapted from some comments I made on a feminist blog in response to complaints about men asking this question.

I think the problem is that a lot of men, despite their privilege, feel intimidated and dis-empowered by the dating scene. It is a legitimate human behavior to seek companionship and love. When guys want to know how to express their interest in me without being threatening, invasive, or objectifying, I'm glad they're asking. I want companionship and love too, and I want it from people who care about not being creepy.

Here's the relevant thing most men don't know about being a woman: for nearly all of us, personal safety is a constant concern, and unknown men automatically register as a potential threat. To illustrate this, let me describe two exercises from rape crisis team training. In one exercise, we divided the white board in half. On the first half, the men brainstormed all the things they did to protect their physical safety. After several minutes, they had listed maybe three or four things; they would wear seat-belts, try to be aware of their surroundings, maybe avoid some neighborhoods at night. On the second half, the women brainstormed the things they did for their safety; this half of the board was covered. We carry our keys like a weapon when we're out walking; we study martial arts; we check the backseat of our car for strangers every single time we drive. We double check our locks and carry whistles or weapons. Some of us don't go out alone at night, and there are some places we never go alone at all. We are careful about what we wear, and where our drink is, and who we associate with. Do all women do all these things all the time? Of course not. But trying to avoid getting raped is, on average, a far more substantial part of the female experience than most men realize.

In the other exercise, the instructor picked a male volunteer and a female volunteer. She set them at opposite sides of the room, and asked them to walk towards each other. When they got close, the female volunteer blushed and ducked out of the way. We tried it again. . . and again. . . and again; the results were virtually always the same. Now, this was a truly kind and decent guy; he was donating thirty hours of his life to learn how to spend more of his time comforting the families of rape survivors while they waited for their loved ones in the hospital. Plus, he was cute, and nice, and had a great sense of humor. On top of this, it's hard to imagine a safer situation. However, he was a male and bigger than us--and that was enough to make him physically intimidating.

Obviously there are circumstances where picking up on someone is never appropriate. However, I think "you don't ever ask women out or tell them that they're pretty" is a totally counterproductive thing to say. It's better to explain that:

(1) Non-creepiness is all about letting her have the power in the situation--the power to leave, the power not to have to deal with physical threats, the power to avoid social or professional reprisals, the power of being listened to and respected like an actual human being--in short, the power to say no without inconvenience or harm of any kind

(2) Certain situations--approaching her while she's alone, at night, after drinking, in an elevator, in an isolated area, in a professional situation, etc.--carry implicit threats that men often aren't consciously aware of. . . and becoming aware of these implicit coercions can help them to be better men, and more attractive to boot

(3) If there isn't a situation where you are sure she feels/is safe and powerful about being asked, don't ask her out. This is the feminist way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

on happy memories

Yesterday morning I finished reading this book. It had several ideas I think I can use, though I do wish the whole thing were better annotated--there are a couple of references I need to write the author and ask for.

An interesting snippet:

"One piece of wisdom that didn't resonate with me initially was the importance of keeping happy memories vivid. But as I mulled over this principle, I realized the tremendous value of mementos that help prompt positive memories. Studies show that recalling happy times helps boost happiness in the present. When people reminisce, they focus on positive memories, with the result that the past amplifies the positive and minimizes the negative. However, because people remember events better when they fit with their present mood, happy people remember happy events better, and depressed people remember sad events better. Depressed people have just as many nice experiences as other people--they just don't recall them as well." -p.101

I'm sure this isn't universally true--I believe that situational depression exists--but making a point of good memories seems like a really good idea. Scrap-books seem like a stressful hobby, but Elizabeth Gilbert apparently keeps a record of the happiest moment of each day, which I may try.

Yesterday's moment: Sitting around with Logan and Dan at the end of movie night, after everyone else had gone, enjoying the company of two close friends who I adore and feeling the evening had been a success. Which it totally was. The conversation*, the movie, and the company were interesting, the food was decent, and I think I managed not to mortally offend anybody. That's a good evening in my book. :)

*may have managed to change my opinion on gonzo-docs. . . we'll see, I need to ruminate. Once I manage to not feel so threatened, it feels really good to let some new ideas in.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I got dumped by Shakesville today.

I made a couple of comments (in clear and direct response to other commenters) that I thought were respectful, insightful, well written and well thought out. For this I was accused of bad faith, and twice chastised--the second without time to respond to the first-- for derailing the thread. I left a last post apologizing, stating that my intentions were good, that I'd read the comment policy and hadn't intended to violate it, and that I did not feel welcome and would not be troubling them further with my presence. This post was replaced by a moderator post which said that new readers were welcome, mentioned the "required reading*" and (again) that my post was off topic.

I get--I truly get--the need to have sheltered discussion spaces for groups whose ideas are so poorly mishandled in mainstream discourse. I'm just not used to thinking of myself as the flaming bastion of patriarchy who needs to be excluded. Perhaps even more than this, it was a shock to realize that a blog I tend to think of as particularly reasonable has a de-facto censorship policy that doesn't make sense. I don't mean "doesn't make sense" like "we will delete your shit if we feel like it and that's how it is," which can work out beautifully. I mean "doesn't make sense" like "lacks any internal coherency." What would be so off topic about an apology post that it would need to be removed, while another post clearly in response to it and the two preceding accusations of off-topic-ness--surely no more on topic--would stay?***

None of this matters very much, except that I am by my own standard very oversensitive about some things. Being excluded from groups of people I like, respect, and was trying to be nice to is definitely one of them. I went to the bathroom and cried for awhile before making the apology/leaving post. When I got back I happened across a page that was extremely critical of Shakesville and their censorship practices. I read that for an hour or two, which made me feel a lot better and gave me an education about the stupid drama goes down between factions of the moderate left, both historically and now.**

I still feel unsettled because it would have been a fantastic time to step it up, to practice some qualities I want to develop--resilience, adaptability, independence, healthy emotional coping, and the ability to bridge communication between groups. . . but I didn't. At least, not as well as I'd have liked. And I'm not sure how I could have done better.

*I confess, I only skimmed their "feminism 101" document, which was pretty good but not what I felt like reading at the moment. I guess I assumed my college course on and longtime obsession with the topic would fill in somehow?

** I suspect the radical left is even worse, when there's a radical left to speak of. . .

***On further reflection, this is clearly emotional defensiveness; it does make sense in that context. Which is a valid context, though it is nicer when people are clear about what they're doing. Now I just need to learn how to deal with it. . .

Sunday, July 3, 2011

True Blood Season 1:

It's better in French. I still can't defend this as good storytelling, exactly, but it has charms. Everyone has a gorgeous voice in the dub, and in an L2 you can't tell how terrible the screenwriting was. The part of your brain that was bored/horrified/disappointed when you listened to it in English is now busy trying to decipher. It makes the visuals easier to enjoy, and I get more fluent while I relax.

Of course, one musn't forget the things that made it popular in the first place: awesome characters, sex, violence, a delightfully self-aware sense of humor, and pretty monsters with fangs. The monsters, I think--and the violence--are a thing we do to make real violence less frightening.* Based on the increasing popularity of monster stories since I started reading them, I'm guessing it's a need a lot of us have. If any of y'all know a convenient source of Anita Blake or Hollows equivalents in French, let me know. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

sovereign power. . .

simply produces the obedient social subject it needs. Such a notion of the production of the subject by power, the complete alienation of the citizen and the worker, and the total colonization of the lifeworld has been hypothesized since the 1960s by many authors as the defining characteristic of "late capitalism." The Frankfurt School, the Situtationists, and various critics of technology and communication have focused on the fact that power in capitalist societies is becoming totalitarian through the production of docile subjects.

To a certain extent the nightmares of such authors correspond to the the dreams of the strategists of full-spectrum dominance. Just as the capitalist yearns for a labor force of obedient worker-monkeys, military administrators imagine an army of efficient and reliable robot soldiers along with a perfectly controlled, obedient population. These nightmares and dreams, however, are not real. Dominance, no matter how multidimensional, can never be complete and is always contradicted by resistance.

-Multitude, pp 53-54

I wonder, true or false: is "power in capitalist societies becoming totalitarian through the production of docile subjects?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

sorted update

1) The waiting continues. I finally got a letter back from my admissions officer, saying she'd been out of the office unexpectedly which caused my application to be delayed--but I should know by the end of this week. It feels so good just to have applied. There were four things I'd done in my life that I regretted so much I would go back and change them if I could; one was not applying to St. John's. I guess now the list is three.

2) I've been thinking about my desire, approaching life, to cram it all in. Definitely I did this when I was dancing; I found an old class schedule in my files the other day, and I'm amazed I did it. That was a sort of special case; I knew that the opportunity was for a limited time, and was desperate to make the most of it. In retrospect, over-scheduling myself was still a great decision.

Now I'm responsible for much more of my own life, and it's become clear to me that to live how I want I need to give some things up. You can only pack life so full if some of the things you're packing are quiet moments.

I am newly resolved to a) own as little stuff as practical, b) take shortcuts in housekeeping as necessary, and c) limit the number of projects I engage in at a time.

3) I've also been thinking about what I'll do if I don't get into St. John's. Definitely go for some crappy housing (to better live within my means) and rent my house to someone who can take care of it. Definitely get more involved in working with some of the college profs I really respect here in town--Scott Hatch, Michael Minch, Shannon Mussett, Chris Foster, I don't know who all else. Finish my bachelors degree, and then--at least for awhile--go away. It's not that I don't want to live in Utah; it's that I want to know if I don't want to live in Utah. Additionally: hike more, and get better at the other basics of living.

Friday, June 24, 2011

About The Tao of Pooh

--I think I've figured out where I disagree with it. Hoff says cleverness, information, thinking and trying are the problem. I don't. Thinking and trying are like a hammer and nails: not useless, but not necessarily what you'll need in a rainstorm. As he sees it,

Scholars can be very useful and necessary, in their own dull and unamusing way. They provide a lot of information. It's just that there is Something More, and that Something More is what life is really all about. p.31

I suppose if I found scholarship as joyless as that, I might be down on it too. How terribly sad for him. I don't suppose scholarship, in some contexts, might be performed in a way that has something to do with Something More? He also thinks that

Cleverness. . . takes all the credit it possibly can. But it's not the Clever Mind that's responsible when things work out. It's the mind that sees what's in front of it, and follows the nature of things. p.75

I think the best mind for working things out would see what's in front of it. . . and have a lot of things in front of it, as much as it can handle well.

Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

In China, there is the Teahouse. In France, there is the Sidewalk Cafe. Practically every civilized country in the world has some sort of equivalent--a place where people can go to eat, relax, and talk things over without worrying about what time it is, and without having to leave as soon as the food is eaten. In China, for example, the Teahouse is a real social institution. Throughout the day, families, neighbors, and friends drop in for tea and light food. They stay as long as they like. Discussions may last for hours. It would be strange to call the Teahouse the nonexclusive neighborhood social club; such terms are too Western. But that can roughly describe part of the function, at least from our rather compartmentalized point of view. "You're important. Relax and enjoy yourself." That's the message of the Teahouse.

What's the message of the Hamburger Stand? Quite obviously, it's: "You don't count; hurry up." pp. 106-107


The play-it-safe pessimists of the world never accomplish much of anything, because they don't look clearly and objectively at situations, they don't recognize or believe in their own abilities, and they won't stretch those abilities to overcome even the smallest amount of risk. p.122


Thursday, June 23, 2011

in the past

it was always me that did the dumping, and I knew that wasn't right. I feel like a traveler, freshly arrived at the place where everyone lives. Awhile back I was at a bachelorette party and learned how open relationships are scandalous; no one seemed to think of them as that-thing-you-do-when-you're-afraid-of-commitment. That thing I do. It hurts, but in my head I know this means I've broken my mold, and I remember this is a good thing. At least in my head.

I was so happy; I thought you were in. I thought we really we had a shot. I thought I had permission to speak freely. I thought I had not been lying to you.

I hope you don't hate me for being so hungry. I don't know how to make it go away.

* * *

I've been reading the Tao of Pooh. It has such good ideas, but the anti-intellectualism gets to me. . . especially since one of the great lessons of the original Winnie-the-pooh books was kindness towards those characters who are self-important and full of silly mistakes. Hoff makes it very clear that they are Doing Things Wrong, but I relate to all of them so much that I want to stick my tongue out at him, though the changes he suggests are things I want.

* * *

Lately I feel like a writer. I've produced two essays, on demand and deadline, that I think are good--start to finish. It has never happened before. I am learning that I work slowly, and that it is tired, painful, satisfying work. Of course, my kitchen looks like I've been a writer. Maybe someday I'll find balance; maybe not.

The application is in, and I am waiting. They said I would know in days. If I get in, I decide whether I want to upend my entire life to go--a lot of work. I think yes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Maybe happiness is harder to write about, or maybe I have a lot of selection bias.

Ten days ago I had the idea to apply to college. I've done my time in open enrollment schools, but this is new. It won't be the end of the world if I don't get in, but I'm drawn by the promise of intellectual community.

Today I have everything finished for the application but my last essay, which is all about how Twilight changed my life. Wish me luck. :)