"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Sunday, June 29, 2008

sites/sights and sounds!

that's right.

my friend Inka and i went out to Venice Beach on saturday to partake in EcoFest 2008. she described Venice to me in a way that made me think of it as a small fragment of San Francisco, crumbled off from the whole and dropped onto the sandy beaches of L.A.

and though i'm not too familiar with San Fran (i only go like every 5 years to visit my grandmother, and we only go to her house and the airport, so i don't have a holistic understanding of the city), if you believe the stereotypes (that it's a city of hippies, beatniks, and homeless ppl) then yeah, i guess Venice fits that description pretty well.

here, pictures and video from our fest-ing experience:
the Venice boardwalk.

Inka, in a really design-y boutique that sold ergonomic kitchen/housewares

pro-peace drum circle protesters. (made me a little sick for home and Oxford peace rallies...)

anti-war signs + art

sand art.

man with companion (note matching hats and glasses - and demeanors!)
and "tongue whistling"!

so, this is L.A. ...

Friday, June 27, 2008

great things come in small packages

i just got a funny package from my parents. they sent me a pile of things i'd left in my room which they'd misinterpreted as crucial to my life here in the limited part of LA proper where i am currently residing.

and it's a good mix of things: some Situationism books, some shoes, fabric softener (but no detergent), a first-aid kit, and some recycling (must've forgotten to take it out before i left. oops.)

it seems my parents, in their wisdom, inadvertently sent me an important reminder: that i need to continue educating myself and learning and not forget my critical perspective, that my feet deserve to be kept safe and warm, that i should keep the things around me soft and fragrant (tho not necessarily clean...), that i should always disinfect my wounds, and that no job should go unfinished (i'm taking the recycling out tomorrow).

this is good life advice. heed!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

dessicating + de-sexing

from the pages of a notebook, which i sought to represent as closely to the original hand-written version:

i've noticed a weird vibe about the ppl here. i'm struck by how attractive everyone is:

tall, leggy blondes; thin, well-spoken women with perfect bone structure in skirts and stilettos all the time

but what's remarkable about it is there is nothing really attracting about any of them.
! and it occurs to me: they're too perfect, they're almost eery

it reminds me of Vonnegut's short story "Welcome to the Monkey House" and the suicide mistresses (/waitresses?) and how they were required to dress in skin tight body stockings and knee-hi boots, but no one was attracted to them & they weren't sexual beings themselves b/c ppl were doped up on these numbing pills [that made them lose all sexual urges]

and it seems to me it's the same way with [the women here]. everyone is so obsessively focused on [a] "mission" that they're blind, deprived of their basic humanism, dried up and numb

i feel like since i got here i'm feeling myself become... a prude/ dried up/ sapped of sexual urgency/ desire or spontaneity or fervor... it's hard to say

but you get closer to what i'm thinking if you think about it this way: sex as a ferile desire/ need/ a wild passion/ an urgency/ an animal veracity/ferocity that grips you, right? something a little depraved, perhaps a little messy, a little too animal and a little too human

= too much reality and rawness for this environment, which is drying up all our sexual/human urges

i think of corporate suckers, how those poor bastards spend so much goddamn time in suits, in meetings, in these glass facade buildings [spending all day repressing their human needs and desires] so that all they wanna do when they get back to their posh hotel rooms is don a pair of lady's stockings and fuck each other doggy style.

or, i think of school teachers we've all had, those crusty old spinsters who we pitied on some level as kids b/c we knew they were [probly] terribly alone and had probably never known a night of real passion in their lives.

and i wonder: is that what i'm getting into?


(as i wrote this i listened to "the twist" by Frightened Rabbit, off their album Midnight Organ Fight and one quote kept recurring at exactly the right moments: "i need human heat."

i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. i need human heat. ...)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

twitter updates

as i've said before, twitter is the shit.

instead of writing a whole post, i can just post this image capture to keep you satiated until time permits me to write something further.

with infinite love and bags of baby carrots,

Monday, June 23, 2008

new project forthcoming!!

hello friendly loyal readers!

i have news: today at the TFA training, we discussed leadership and stewardship, and had the uncomfortable experience of discussing censorship and blogging as TFA corps members, and how we are strongly discouraged from posting public writing that may reflect poorly on TFA the organization and the communities and students we teach.

so, i regret to inform you that i will not be able to share my TFA experiences with the level of candidness and open critique that i would like. at least, not here.

but, before you begin to assume that i am contradicting my personal blogging philosophy and engaging in self-censorship, i would like to say that is hardly what i intend at all. it's just that, sadly, the circumstances make it so that i do not feel entirely safe about writing everything here without it getting discovered by a TFA staff member. and, i would like to avoid another Big Brother conversation like i had in the spring.

so, yes, i am considering opening up another blog, in some secret location on the web, using pseudonyms and secret codes and possibly exclusive readership. i hope all of you would be interested in following me there, but for obvious reasons, i can't reveal the exact location of that secret club just yet. but, if you are indeed interesting in tracking my progress in this wonderful and terrifying experience, you can shoot me an email at:
free [dot] radical [dot] lee [at] gmail [dot] com.

hope to see you on the flip side!

p.s. and yes, this blog will continue to live on. so keep ur RSS feeds tuned!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

hello from LA!

(wish you were here!!)

Dear friends,

I am writing with pleasant tidings from the City of Angels after a whirlwind first day of workshops at the Teach for America Induction. Hello!

The first day has been hectic and unconscionably long, and the remainder of the summer promises to continue in similar fashion. I've been rapidly learning TFA-specific acronyms and lingo (it's basically another language!), and acclimating myself to walking around this gigantic campus in heels (the last of the inadequacies I'd expected to have to account for...) Haha, needless to say, there is much to learn!

Nevertheless, I'm enjoying meeting the people here and getting closer and closer to being in the classroom. I'm happy to say that I will be interviewing for my placement on Monday, and, to my surprise, I will NOT be teaching in Compton. Yeah, I guess I really dodged a bullet there (haha...). I received contact today from the principal of John Muir Middle School, which, if my Google-ing is correct, seems to be this fine institution. So, I'm extremely excited, even though I still haven't a clue how I will handle a special ed classroom. But, I think I am up for the challenge.

Anyway, if you would like to continue to receive brief and occasional updates, let me know, I would be happy to keep you updated (if time allows).

For the next 6 weeks, my address will be:
Stephanie J. Lee
Rains 204
Conference & Event Service MS 8150
Loyola Marymont University
One LMU Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045

If you ever find yourself in LA, be sure to call me and we will enjoy that famous LA smoggy sunset.

With love,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

i've put you in my suitcase

i'm sitting in my room, on the floor, in the middle of heaps of stuff i'm stuffing in boxes.

i'm flying to LA on friday morning. early friday morning. and i'm not coming back.

i'm scared and sad and nostalgic and don't even know where to begin sorting the books i want to bring...

but i don't feel alone, because these last few weeks have been filled with so much love. and eventhough i can't listen to it, it puts me in mind of a song by Devendra Banhart, that, when i listened to it in March, i knew would characterize this particular feeling accurately: confused remembrance and clinging-on. wanting things to stay the same, but knowing that a kind of soft embrace of the impending future and all its changes is necessary to continue living without getting left behind. i dunno, that's what i'm trying to tell myself right now anyway, as i carefully place my things into a suitcase one pound at a time.

in between the layers of soft (borrowed) clothes, frames and pictures. if i can't have these faces in the flesh, i'll settle for them behind glass. (and i'll wake up to them every morning and press my face against them and pretend there's not all this time and space between us. all my friends and family are going to be in the midwest. i've never been 3 time zones away from them for longer than a month before. this shit's bananas.)

love and faces,

Monday, June 16, 2008

i love my mother

she says the greatest things!

example 1: today, on the way home from running errands, we see a boy on his scooter, and his dog on a leash running ahead.

my mom: "Oh!" [expecting something along the lines of aaaaaaww...] "what an ugly dog!"
me: [incredulous surprise and laughter]

[a few moments later, we pull up to our driveway. i see the neighbors' dogs sitting on the lawn watching us approach.]
me: our neighbors' dogs are pretty cute, though they're loud.
mom: THEY'RE NOT CUTE AT ALL! i saw them eating their poop once. one dog was in front, pooping. the other was behind, eating it. they weren't even eating their own poop. true story. i saw it with my eyes.

[she then goes on to regale me with reasons for not understanding the dog-owning population. i cannot stop laughing.]


example 2: a few weeks ago, Mom, Dad and i were watching P.S. I Love You (did i mention that i also love my mother for her deliciously abysmal taste in movies? i once had to sit thru Failure To Launch with her, because no one else in the house would submit themselves to that kind of self-torture.)
there's a scene in the movie where Lisa Kudrow's character is walking around a bar meeting single guys. the scene goes like this:

Lisa Kudrow: Are you single?
Guy 1: Yes.
Lisa: Are you gay?
Guy 1: Yes.
[she walks away]
Lisa: [a few frames later] Are you single?
Guy 2: Yes.
Lisa: Are you gay?
Guy 2: No.
Lisa: Are you working?
Guy 2: No.
[she walks away]

so my parents and i thought that was pretty funny. my dad started thinking out loud, "i wonder what question comes after that?

are you single?
are you gay?
are you working?

are you healthy? (dad)
are you an alcoholic? (me)


"are you insured?!" (my mother)

my dad and i started crying we were laughing so hard. apparently, medical insurance is extremely important if you want to date my mother.


p.s. the title for this post is so delightfully Buster, that it reminded me i should post the rules for the Arrested Development drinking game we made up for last week's awesome party. and pictures!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

the sweetest thing ever? possibly.

my good friend Brandon just planned a going-away party for me on the eve of my very last visit to Oxford, Ohio! 

imagine: a room full of my closest friends (and my boyfriend! - this has me extra excited b/c we don't really get to party together very much). a table full of liquid courage. a night full of debauchery, or at the very least, opportunities for debauchery. kittens! dancing! spooning! and Arrested Development! as Brandon likes to say, "More of That!!!"

i was so overwhelmed with excitement and jubilation that i invented perhaps the most awesome expression of love ever communicated by putting a bunch of words together. and i bestowed it upon Brandon. he seemed to like it.

[as it transpired over our g-chat conversation:]
aaaaw, B, i LOVE you
very very much
in fact, if humans could grow extra hearts, i think i just grew a tiny new one just for you!
and it's filled with love!

(commence aaaw'ing)


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

booking face

as i mentioned last week, i had a moment of weakness: when my best friend back home made good on her promise to get me to join facebook and sent me an actual facebook invitation, and all i had to do was click a link, i finally gave into years of nagging peer pressure and joined - which, as those loyal to the blog would know, is basically like saying i just became a business major, or purposefully killed a small animal with my foot. it just doesn't make any ontological sense. i mean, i hate facebook.

but lo, i'm one week in and i'm enjoying this. not the whole "collect as many friends as possible" thing (i only friend ppl i'm actually friends with. except this one guy. he was so creepy i was afraid not to friend him. does that make sense?) and i don't much care for the whole "create a fancy profile" aspect (i figure i spent 2+ years generating a pretty detailed virtual and actual persona, which realistically speaking, if these ppl are my friends, they should be familiar enough with. spare the interweb the redundancy, you know?

no, what i'm really enjoying is getting to see other ppl's virtual personalities. there are many ppl i'm facebook friends with now who are totally different via this medium than they are in person. example: i have one facebook friend who i haven't really talked to a whole ton in person, and i always felt like she didn't even like me. but now that we're facebook friends, we've been writing each other basically twice every day, talking about some pretty personal things, and it's crazy, because we hadn't really talked longer than 10 or 15 minutes before!

it's amazing how "wall" posts/ shout-outs take on a different form of (in)formality just b/c of the nature of this virtual space. i guess what i'm saying is that facebook is actually enhancing my relationships with (some) people. (i've noticed that those i'm already really close to, both emotionally and physically close to, are the least interesting - and least interested - to interact with. which is hardly a complaint but more a sigh of relief.)

see what i mean by "enhanced": i had a good friend in middle school who moved to Michigan. we were best friends, but back then no one our age (11-12 years old) had a cell phone, and hardly anyone used anything but dial-up for their internet, so email was unheard of. i still remember writing weekly letters and sending gifts and christmas presents thru the post for about a year before we lost track of each other. gasp and a half, right? (amazing how a young'n like me can assume the "when i was your age..." tone when it comes to technological changes - tech is speeding up our aging! we are quickly becoming outdated! ironic considering the transhumanist view that tech could potentially prevent or delay dying...)

anyway, so i figured if i'm going to be a part of this madness, i might as well try to take advantage of it. test out the tech capabilities, you know? and wow, i realized i could track down all these old friends from middle and high school, all i had to do was remember their names! and suddenly, i found myself retracing and rekindling friendships i'd accumulated over the last 10-12 years! CRAZY, right??! yes, yes it is.

and you know what's even more insane?! i found out that almost everyone is hitching their wagon to the marry train. whoa, when/how/why did this happen? everyone's getting hitched! and it makes me kinda sad, not b/c i'm not even close myself (ha, that's hardly my concern, since i don't envision myself getting married any time soon... or ever?) but because it's so hard, when you haven't seen a childhood friend for so long, to be so excited to find them again and realize, very quickly, that you're not kids any more. nothing hurts the same.

i mean, imagine my surprise to find that my best friend in middle school - who i sat in the back of the bus with and talked about boys with and whose house i went to after school to work on science projects and practice violin duets and watch Star Trek and drink juice boxes with - now has a husband! and, knowing i wasn't there to meet him and watch their relationship grow, that i won't be at the wedding, well, that hurts too. (on a positive note: facebook enabled us to get in touch and catch each other up on the last 10-11 years of our lives! that was pretty amazing.)

it feels like a time warp in here. the past and present are meeting themselves much too quickly, and i feel shrink-wrapped.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"integrity, there is none."

it's true: i joined facebook.

is it ok if i say i did it just for the reactions?

and what great reactions they were! check 'em out (note that they are in reverse chronological order):
"i'm going to clutch the world around me and hope to god this is not a sign of the apocalypse.""you have GOT to be kidding me... my world is literally collapsing..."
"integrity, there is none.""the world no longer has any virtue."

hahaha's and squirms at once,

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bill Moyers is my elvis

as i usually do in the summer, i've been setting my alarm to wake me up to Democracy Now (sometimes it's the only way i can get up in the mornings).

and today, in a foggy half-sleep state, i thought i was dreaming of the '60s and listening to a poet, back from the dead, encouraging us to revolt and revolution. i was confused.

but as i gradually gained consciousness and listened more closely, i realized what i was actually hearing was a journalist's plea to the American ppl, and that this was actually the keynote speech at the National Conference for Media Reform which i was invited (and now regretting declining) to attend.

the speech itself was beautiful, the pace reminiscent of Ginsberg's "Howl", the urgency appropriate for our times. the post-speech was pretty awesome, too. as Amy Goodman explained, Bill O'Riley (yes, i spelled that wrong. no i'm not gonna change it. that's how much i care) and his slugs were "outing" Dan Rather and Bill Moyers as "leftwingnuts" for speaking at this conference with "these people" (read: progressives, liberals, media critics. oh my, indeed.)

apparently, they dispatched an O'Reilly factor producer to "ambush" and accost Mr. Moyers after his rousing speech. this is the verbal pounding that ensued:

it occurs to me that my generation has had the pleasure and honor of seeing several inspiring media moments in recent years:

Jon Stewart on CrossFire (2004):

"I'm here to confront you, because we need help from the media and they're hurting us..." (transcript here)

Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents dinner (2006) [click to play]:
"...And as excited as I am to be here with the President, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of FOX News. FOX News gives you both sides of every story: the President's side, and the Vice President's side." (transcript here)

these have had the collective impact, for me anyway, of revealing the spectacular theatre of mainstream news media, and encouraging citizens' critical investigation and dissent.

as Bill Moyers said: "it's up to you to remind us that democracy only works when ordinary people claim it as their own."


Friday, June 06, 2008

life is stupidity!

as i was cleaning my room today, i read through some of the random notes i wrote to myself in the past year and didn't get a chance to do anything with yet. many of them were intended for blog posts but for some reason or other (SR PROJ), i never got around to sharing them.

anyway, here comes one of those now. but since it's been so long, i can't remember the context, other than to say that i was on a shuttle from the Denver airport to my hotel, where a bunch of people and their dogs were incidentally taking up residence. i was there for the weekend for a Students as Colleagues conference presentation, but everyone else in Denver was there for the dogs. (regrettably, i had taken pictures of the experience, but have since lost them in my harddrive death. no, i'm not over it yet.)

written on the back of my ticket stub, a conversation i was overhearing between 3 or 4 business people:
"We could get a salad @ Chili's, put it on ice for our trip to L.A."
"You could get Quizno's @ Phoenix. Or Schlotsky's... Quizno's though... Mm-mm good!" (--> isn't that another fastfood chain's slogan?)
"We could get Sonic breakfast..." (they proceed to talk about ice. they discuss the iced drinks they've tried.)
"Papasito's Burritos, you should get the avocado salad dressing. Ranch blended with avocado. Good fat!"

(i think my thoughts at the time were: "wow, do they know how impossibly ridiculous they sound?" who knew there existed a special sub-breed of human that prides itself on being fastfood aficionados? i pray to god i never become a person who spends so much time at work and/or in airports that i forget the joy of actual food and conversation. i try my best to focus my attention on those mountains i've heard so much about...)

on the other side of the ticket stub, written in different ink, i observe an interaction between a pair of dogs and their owners in the lobby of the hotel. i think i'm in line to buy a muffin. it goes like this:
small voluptuous woman in a visor and spandex pants with a bit of a waddle walk. dog is large and slender, shaggy. dog encounters a small, boxy terrier(?) with an old man-looking beard. bearded dog's owner is a tall woman with a shiny long face. slender dog sniffs up beard dog. barking and attempted mounting ensues.
owners tug at dogs' collars. walk in opposite directions. banter:
curvy little woman: "She wants more of him!" (looks down at her dog, speaks to it as if to remind her:) "No puppies!" (they continue walking, dogs look longingly back at each other) "Oh, she wants more... She likes what she sees..."

at that moment i remembered Best in Show and the way the film satirizes the subculture, and particularly the absurdity of dogs shows' tendencies to simultaneously suppress and heighten sexual tension.

wow, so sometimes the movies really do get it right.

i'm sure i'll have more of the same tomorrow,

p.s. the blog post title was under suggestion of my past self. i guess i had a blog post in mind when i took these notes. or, had a title ready, at least. [edit: now that i think about it, i recall that it might have actually been a quote from the first conversation... wow.]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

on the intimacy of clothing: an analysis of what's in my drawers

yes, that is my closet, but i hardly wear half of it. really, the middle shelf is all i wear and the rest are keepsakes. read on...

i'm sorting through my desk drawers at home. oh desk drawers. they're so fun to clean! don't you agree? drawers are like the limbo of office supplies and personal effects. if they get shoved into a desk drawer they're probably on their way to the garbage, but for some reason, you decide not to toss it just yet, and hide them away in the back just for yourself to find later when you're trying to cut down on all your material possessions.

i read an essay or short story a long time ago about a middle-aged man confronting the reality of his father's death. he realized he never knew his father in the way he wanted to, and now, after his father's passing, was trying to reconstruct his father's life from his possessions. in the story, the author finds his father's wallet tucked away in a nightstand drawer, and clutching it close to his heart, tells the story of the object: how its edges were worn from everyday use, how he imagined it snuggled close to his father in the back pocket of his jeans, the smell of the old leather (isn't it amazing how that smell never completely fades?), imagined the stories that wallet could tell: all the places it'd been, the kinds of things his father bought, the touch of his father's hand, the pace and rhythm of his walk as felt from a jeans pocket (i remember the story being particularly striking to me when i read it, however many years ago, b/c of the significance of the wallet being so close to his father's bum, tucked into a pocket and nestled beside his father's buttock - something so peculiarly taken for granted and yet so beautifully described that it made me wish more things could be kept in back jeans pockets.)

of course, i read that story a long time ago, but something about it lingers with me still: the idea of closeness, how use and physical contact transforms our objects into possessions. old shoes, worn and hole-y shirts...

one of my friends said recently that the idea of our bodies conforming to our clothes made him squirm. at the time, i imagined a body with the qualities of a liquid, taking the shape of its container (we are, after all, how many %'s water?) i imagined a huge fat man (or woman) squeezing into a pair of pants, and afterward, the shape of the flesh when it was declothed - the lines pressed into skin from pant creases, the bulge of stomach fat demarcating where the extra flesh flowed over the top of the waistband. yes, that was gross. but now i imagine the opposite, and think of our bodies shaping the clothing, stretching them thru wear and use, the touch of skin lingering in the fabric, the warmth exuding through the fibers.

i guess this explains my penchant for taking people's clothes. i love borrowing worn clothes. while packing and sorting through my closet for things to donate, i found a pile of clothes i'd borrowed indefinitely from my friends. almost every close friend of mine is now missing a shirt, a pair of pants, mittens, a hat, a sweater... i've kept them all this time because they really do have emotional value: i feel safe when i put them on, like i'm wearing a hug.

example: my friend John and i had a mud fight on the lawn behind Shriver Center my junior year. it was one of those spring nights when the trees are just days away from full bloom, and it was raining (i love the way night-time spring rain smells. the smell of cooling daytime pavement and saturated dirt and leaves). we got completely soaked, so we jumped in the fountain. it was wild and wonderful. we went to his house afterward and he lent me a t-shirt and a pair of old corduroy pants to change into. the pants were a little too small for him and they were a little too big for me, but i loved them. i put them on and felt like a little kid playing dress up. a week later, i gave the t-shirt back, but i never returned the pants. that summer, i packed his pants in my suitcase bound for Mongolia and wore them nearly every day (you can see, i'm wearing them here) - the air was so dry we hardly ever changed clothes.

i also have my friend Brittany's brown cardigan sweater. it doesn't fit me very well (the shoulders are bunchy), but i still wear it occasionally and hope that maybe, just maybe, it will fit this time.

i have piles of my mom's old clothes, which i love to wear and think about the prior life they had. was this the dress my mom was wearing when she met my dad? is this the skirt she wore out on their date when he proposed? i found an old color block sweatshirt that belonged to my mom which i wore all the time when i was in elementary school. i spilled acrylic paint on it once in art class and cried for almost half an hour in the bathroom when i realized i'd stained it and ruined it forever.

and i feel cliche about it, but i love wearing my (ex)/boyfriend's clothes. i found one of my ex's old t-shirts in the closet. i loved sleeping in it. i haven't worn it in about 2 years since we broke up, but i still appreciate its softness, and the smell, which i swear, still reminds me of his apartment and the Writing Center.

my boyfriend Ben lent me one of his shirts the other day b/c i was cold, and even though it didn't fit me too well (the sleeves were really long, it hung off my shoulders, the neck was really low), when i wore it, i felt safe and warm, like he was holding me close - closer than would be physically possible with just our arms alone (sometimes i wish i could pull someone into me so tight, and eliminate all the spaces between us, the way you can pull a shirt around you and your body heat fills in the remaining spaces in between). i thought of all the times i'd seen him in this shirt, the way it hung on his shoulders, the way it felt against my cheek when i hugged him, and how much i wanted to be able to take that feeling with me to L.A., when we will be half a globe away from each other starting in the fall. lucky for him, i didn't decide to steal it right then and there, though the thought had crossed my mind.

borrowing clothing is a really intimate act, like sharing a personal space with someone else. think about it: getting into someone's pants (literally, rather than idiomatically speaking, that is). walking in someone's shoes. wearing your heart on your sleeve... i'm out of examples but i'm sure there are more...

this is why i hate packing. i always go to my closet convinced i am going to cut down so much of the stuff in there, that i'm gonna donate half of what i have and make room for new things. but, i always end up putting things back on their shelves. i just can't bear to throw them out or give them away. my dad chides me for being over-sentimental, but he doesn't understand! - this is love i can take with me and tuck away in drawers...

with love and a pair of hand-knit mittens,

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

a-twitter: life in the digital age

i'm amazed by all the means by which the internet helps ppl keep in touch these days. does anyone even remember how to use a phone or make a house call?

i think technology is seriously incapacitating us. i remember before i even got a cell phone how different my personal interactions and relationships were. i mean, i remember having to plan ahead and set times to meet people - wow, can you imagine?! if i was meeting a friend for a date, it was a specific time and place, no if's, and's, or but's about it. you actually had to keep your obligations and commitments, you couldn't just call them at the last minute and cancel or say you were running late.

i'm sensitive to these things lately because of the amalgam of online applications i have recently started using (what i have come to collectively term my "e-life" applications). first, i finally caved and joined facebook. this was a huge personal defeat for me, since i had held off on joining for the entirety of my college career, because i found the idea of online social networking to be shallow and ridiculous. i had better ways to waste my time on the internet, and, as i constantly reminded others, there are other ways of keeping in touch with people.

but, over the years, as more and more people joined facebook, and i continued to refuse, i noticed i was getting left out of what appeared to be a digital modification - no, transformation - of modern life. my friend Robert likes to talk about transhumanism, and i think that now i finally understand what that term (and its philosophy and associated ideas) means. could it be that humans are really adapting themselves, overcoming "undesirable aspects of the human condition," by plugging ourselves in, and loading ourselves up?

i've discussed before my belief that humans are becoming increasingly technology-dependent. let's think about this: life support. "pulling the plug." we liquefy our lives, distill the essence into digital data, and upload it from any port in the world, as long as we have high speed internet access and an outlet. this process of uploading, of instant publication, of visibility, transparency, inescapability... it's invigorating. makes you feel alive, makes you feel real, makes you feel like you've got an audience and what you're doing matters (because it matters what you're doing). "overcoming involuntary death" - everyone a 15-second internet celebrity, everyone an immortal, everyone inhabiting a webspace. my life was contained in the microchips of a small whirring piece of hardware, until it decided to die. when that happened, i felt like it was i who had been erased. so what did i do? i turned to my virtual self and recovered what i could from the internet. life doubling up on itself: all the music i originally found on the internet, recovered again via my own past posts.

the digitalization of our lives has other impliations as well. facebook is not so much a way of keeping in touch with people as it is about keeping track of people. ah ha! - surveillance! yes, it seems that what we're all really doing is keeping tabs on one another. is there any other way to justify or explain the news feeds? we watch for changes in biographical information, relationship statuses, we track the lives of our friends as if our lives were online dramas being played out for entertainment.

now, a shameful admission: i don't necessarily dislike the idea of being able to track every change in every person's life. i actually rather like seeing what people are up to. example: i love using gmail. the chat feature is one of my favorite tech tools of recent memory because it allows me to see when my friends are online and what they might be up to:

i never used AIM as a kid, even when it was all the rage and all my friends used it to keep in touch. i preferred calling people on the phone or riding my bike to their house to say hi (it seems being behind the technological times has always been a proclivity of mine.) the same is true now: i could easily call someone and get a response just as quickly as i could if i sent them a chat. but, i wouldn't get the luxury of a status message for context. it's sometimes nice to strike up a chat with a friend who, by the look of their status, is feeling down, stressed, or lonely. and i'm sure lots of people would agree that it's a great window for expressing emotions without feeling like you're unloading or being extremely desperate, of putting yourself out there without having to risk anything, because the audience you want is there, in that little sidebar, and if they want to talk to you, they will. and you get the benefit of feeling a slight sense of relief and catharsis, without having to wear your heart on your sleeve, so to speak.

it's also a great way to share a link you like, a clever thought or quip, or even your latest poetry: one of my friends wrote a series of sonnets using the gchat status message as a creative medium (he found the character limit to be an interesting creative feature). i used to document away messages, finding them to be fantastic narratives (that document has since been lost in the death of external harddrive, boooo.)

but, as much as i love status narratives, twitter has taken this to a completely new level. holy shit, man, this thing is madness!!

here is a sight [sic] where you can upload away messages, as if it were a blog, and it stores them for you, as a narrative! and, you can "follow" people you know, or people you hardly know at all! (right now i am following Achewood and a Miami professor who i never took classes with, just talked to occasionally about living wage issues).

the striking thing about twitter is that, unlike gchat or facebook, it doesn't aspire or pretend to be anything other than a news feed for your personal life. there is no use for it beyond occasionally reminding people "yes, i am in fact, alive." in a digital age where we are constantly connected and plugged in, i find it fascinating that our everyday actions can find outlet and audience in cyberspace. ("i am typing... i am thinking... i am breathing... i am living...")


-stef lee

p.s. speaking of narratives, a twitter conversation unfolded on the 'net this (6/6/08) morning:

Monday, June 02, 2008

long live The Dame

my friend Chelsea just sent me these horribly cute pictures of us from the other night, when we went to The Dame* for their '80s luau party.

as you can tell from these photos, it was a blast, and we were HOT. and i mean smoltering... it was not too breezy in the club that night. and with all the dancing bodies... you can imagine how hot it got.

*on a side note: i was deeply saddened and enraged to learn that, as i feared, The Dame (and its neighboring bar, Buster's, collectively my favorite hangouts back home) would be closing its doors this summer to make way for what some have termed "the cock and balls tower": a monstrous condominium project in downtown lexington. obviously, this really blows, because it will ruin the cultural and physical landscape of downtown lex. the C&B tower will be only a block down from the Kentucky Theatre, and across from the old courthouse and the new courthouse plaza.

there were numerous community efforts to prevent the Webb building project from going thru. i recall signing and circulating a petition to keep the condo project away from downtown, and many other lexington denizens took other actions to oppose the destruction of downtown lexington.

to learn more, visit Preserve Lexington, and keep updated on their action alerts!

sadly, when i took a bike ride thru downtown today, Buster's windows were covered in flyers reading "the end of Buster's as we know it... June 20th." sadly, that is the day i will be leaving lexington, my hometown of 22 years, and moving to the strange and bizarre land of Los Angeles. this too, feels like the end of life as i know it...

fist pumps and hip thrusts,