"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

Thursday, December 23, 2010

the rising

who wants to form a Bruce cover band with me? name ideas:

1) Springscenesters...
2) Spring(steen) It On...
3) Full Springsteen Ahead

more to come.

am i taking this too far? probably.

Monday, December 20, 2010

take the initiative

i dreamt last night that i discovered an old forgotten live session of Bruce Springsteen's, in which he plays a set of 11-13 songs, with lots of soaring violin and a video of someone hang-gliding or flying an open top plane. lots of blue, yellow and green. and the music, though beautiful and folksy, was less like Bruce and more like The Frames. but it was beautiful and the first song was called "Take The Initiative" and i coveted it as part of my growing Bruce collection.

in the dream i was Bruce's tour assistant, but in the form of Portia de Rossi. the Boss was playing a set and i had to stop him to tell him there was someone trying to bomb his tour bus. the Bruce came right off the stage and tackled the terrorist and beat him with his own (the terrorist's) golf clubs. end of story! Bruce for President!

i then woke up at 8:40, which is kinda early for me, feeling like it was really late and i must be dreaming still, because i felt so well-rested.

---

as part of my new year's resolutions and my birthday-initiated self-reform, i am making a conscious effort to make tv and internet less of a daily habit. i think i've grown too accustomed to frittering away my days with these technological distractions and have grown tired of reaching the end of my day realizing i haven't done anything productive, haven't created anything or bettered myself. the worst and most embarrassing time-suck is Facebook. yesterday, i decided i was going to do it, i was finally going to just delete my account and be done with it. it's super annoying, omnipresent, ever-controlling, and a constant source of anxiety (what are people on the net seeing of me? who is looking at it? is there something that could prove deterrent for future employers?) and yet so many of my friends use it that to delete it makes me worry i'll be left out. gah, the trials and tribulations of our modern existence!

so, as of today (and last night too) i have been limiting my Facebook time to ONCE a day. that means i only get to check it once, and after that i can't until the next day. and, i only get to check my notifications, and i only get to approve friend requests, not go seeking them out on the internet. it probably seems silly and trivial, but i think it will help wean me off of this artificial community and start creating real relationships with people again. and, my hope is that after doing this for weeks, i can get it down to just checking Facebook on fridays, and then after that, maybe i'll get down to just once a month, and then, in┼čallah, maybe i'll be able to delete it altogether from my life.

i'm also trying to limit my use of the internet and tv to about 5 hours combined, which is actually a LOT of time spent on these machines when you say it out loud, but that should say something about my prior habits. the average american spends 5 hours of the day just watching tv and roughly 250 billion hours per year with the idiot box. i'm trying to shave off a little of that time and make it more meaningful. i guess we'll see how it goes but i'm hoping it makes for a happier and less aimless 2011.

welp, my hour's almost up so i should get going!
-stephan!e


oh, and if you're wondering how much time the average american spends watching tv, these nifty scientific reports proved illuminating:

Monday, December 13, 2010

dramatic reading of a real breakup letter

OMG THIS IS HILARIOUS.

my favorite is when the reader (the voice is so familiar, anyone know who it is?) starts cracking up at the sheer absurdity of the prose.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

i want my phd in Springsteenology

i wanna go on a Springsteen-themed road trip, listening to Bruce the whole way and visiting all the seedy little towns in Jersey. i want to see all the towns and streets mentioned in all his songs, i want to grow a beard and wear a denim jacket over a muscle shirt and drive in an open top convertible down the Jersey turnpike screaming "NO RETREAT, BABY, NO SUUURRENDEEEEEER!" man, how awesome would that be?

but for now i'll settle for listening to a ton of Bruce songs, dancing in my bedroom and learning how to play my favorites on the cheap little guitar i got a few summers ago when i decided i needed something to go with my harmonica. today i churned this puppy out, along with a cover of "Fire," which i'm too embarrassed to expose to public scrutiny. but this one is alright so i'll share:



my favorite lyric? "is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"

hm, i'm not sure when my blog and all my writing became about Bruce Springsteen, but i hope nobody minds. i mean, he sings about broken dreams and broken promises and looking for love and redemption and he fills me with SO much joy that i can't hardly help myself from sharing it. sorry if that's not yr bag. (unfettered joy, that is).
Bruce fills me with so much joy! i just want to listen to this and dance thru the night and scream and shimmy and clap until i get too old to shake it any more (and even then i'll be doing it in my head).


Friday, December 10, 2010

don't call me chicken

i had a dream last night where me and my boyfriend were driving around late at night looking for a place to eat before driving a long way home. we were in some dark and desolate country-looking town. my bf made us stop at a gas station so he could get cigars. i filled up gas. then he saw this chicken and biscuits place and wanted to stop there for food. he got out and talked with ppl in line while i waited in the car. i watched a man that looked like Mickey Rourke but smaller wearing a jean jacket and some bleached hair drive a big semi past my car and pull up to the side of the chicken place. he got out and fumbled with something in the ground, and i realized he was digging for a gun. two people appeared in the dark alley and asked him what he was doing, told him to stop, and he shot them. then an old man with a long beard who looked like a Hassidic Jew version of Paulo Freire walked up minding his own business on the other side of the chain link fence at the end of the alley and Mickey shot him too. then he ran away. i went inside to get ben. the sign at the chicken place said it was $36 dollars for a chicken and biscuit sandwich, $56 if we ordered two. we could also donate chicken and biscuits to charity. there was a really skinny woman there with big glasses who said they were so good she came every night. an asian man in a metallic puffy jacket came with a big canvas bag to collect his donations for the night. ben decided he didn't want chicken and biscuits after all and decided to leave. we walked to the car and i started yelling, 'why don't you want to eat there? why can't you decide what you want?' i started the car and it made a strange fast sound like gunshots. i looked over at ben and asked, 'did that sound weird?' he gave me a look and we sat in the car a bit to let the car warm up. i felt strange and was about to lock the doors, when a strange fat middle-aged man with stubble all over his face and wearing a haiwaiian shirt came up to the car, opened the back door on the driver's side and asked what we were doing. i told him to shut the door. he laughed. 'driving around at night with two twenty-somethings, sure seems safe.' i freaked out and slammed down the gas and did zig zags in the parking lot and thru somebody's lawn and into the street where i kept swerving around, even though i saw a sign posted that said no swerving (a swervy black arrow with a red line thru it). i was swerving mostly to try to shut the open door in the back of the car. i looked to ben and told him to close the door. he sat very still and said no. i asked him if the fat guy managed to get in the car and ben said no. 'why won't you shut the damned door!??' i started thinking something was extremely wrong with him. and then ben looked at me and said 'there's someone else in the car.' and then i woke up.

whoa scary right? and i still had chick-fil-a a few hours later.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

across the sea

last night i dreamt my partner and i were floating on a couch on an icy vast ocean. it was pristine blue but opaque. i jumped in and took a swim around and then it occured to me there might be sharks. ben me and my dad set afloat in a large glass tupper ware container and a spoon and tried to drift across to the gas station across the sea. sharks circled us everywhere. a tall man in our camp was eaten because he couldn't fit into the shoe they were trying to use as a boat. we went on a tv show at the end of the dream to tell people all about it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

spread some darkness so we can shine!

man, i love the holidays. i love the seasonal festivities and the excuse to be home with my family, i relish the occasional snowy blizzard that shuts everything down and makes you stay inside, and i love how dang happy and busy all the little animals seem to be. and dang-it, i love holiday food and getting all fat and happy and listening to smooth jazz at home with my parents as we are wont to do around this time of year.

what i do not love is the Holy Daze. the way people get around this time of year seriously freaks me the heck out. fighting in lines at the post office. ravenously consuming things at the mall at the Target at the Walmart at the whatever. the crazed looks on people's faces as they sit in traffic. the way people get all Animal Kingdom over a parking spot. it is INSANE. George Romero knew what he was doing. hungry zombies trapped inside a mall – does it get any scarier than that? emphatically no, and that's the same level of terror i experience whenever i am coerced to enter a mall around this time of year.

i think what makes the holy daze especially depressing is how obvious and conspicuous my/our suburban privilege becomes. and how even in the light of all this material excess, there's still a want for more. and how unachievable "more" can be. what i mean is, the kids and the adults in the suburbs are some of the saddest people you'll ever meet. and isn't that so spoiled, so excessive of them/us? like, gosh, they/we already have so much! and yet we're depressed in our warm houses, sadly crying into our chicken noodle soup or Starbucks coffee or whatever. we/they're living out our/their American Beauty tragedies. and yet, that is some real, non-neglectable sadness. serious stuff.

which is what makes this song so beautiful, so "exactly what i want to say," so... perfect. there is joy and an upbeat relentlessness to it, but what they're saying is really a cry for help and escape. they totally get what i'm trying to say about the Holy Daze. they're sad and feeling kinda weird about the whole situation but that doesn't mean they're not averse to dancing all those concerns to the side.



this is the one stand-out song on the Arcade Fire's new album that i just can't let go of*. i've been listening on repeat for practically the whole month and probably won't stop until i've escaped this suburban funk. this song makes me feel like it's possible.

keep dancing in the dark my friends,
stef



*but i still think their debut album Funeral was insurpassably their best work so far.

geez, NPR, calm the eff down!



you're going to make us think the world is a dark, unfortunate and violent place.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thankful for this

i'm extremely thankful this moment exists.
i'm thankful for Bruce and for Jon and for what they've done for my generation and for our country.

and of course, i'm extremely thankful for my family and friends and for music and laughter and all the good trappings of life.

it's been a hard year for a lot of people. speaking for myself, i lost my job and my sense of attachment and belonging to a community, lost track of who i was and what made me joyful and inspired. this was the year i got really into Bruce Springsteen. i mean, really into Bruce. i moved from California to Kentucky to New York, and on that 11-hour drive from the midwest, my home, to Central New York, where i was going to make a new home for myself with little more than hope and a determination not to fail, i listened to nothing but Bruce the entire time, and for the first time, i felt like those lyrics were speaking for me, rescuing me from a despair i didn't know i was in. there was a desperate hope i could identify with, and as i was driving through that region of America i could feel Bruce there on the road and in those dusty bleak industrial towns, felt him present in my situation, supplying evidence for hope and joy in darkness that makes it capable for people like me, people like us, to survive these dark and trying winters.

it's been a hard year for a lot of people, and it may only get harder. but there are sources of joy and beauty and strength that we need to remember. and for that, i'm thankful.



abridged transcript:
"I am not a music critic, nor historian, nor archivist. I cannot tell you where Bruce Springsteen falls in the pantheon of the American songbook. I cannot illuminate the context of his work, or its roots in the folk and oral history traditions of our great nation. But I am from New Jersey. So I can tell you what I believe. And what I believe is that Bob Dylan and James Brown had a baby. And they abandoned this child, as you can imagine at the time...interracial, same sex relationships being what they were...they abandoned this baby by the side of the road between the exit interchanges 8A and 9 on the Jersey Turnpike...that child was Bruce Springsteen...

I cannot tell you where Bruce Springsteen falls in the pantheon of the American songbook. ...But I didn't understand his music for a long time, until I began to yearn. Until I began to question the things that I was making and doing in my own life. Until I realized that it wasn’t just about the joyful parade on stage and the theatrics. It was about stories of lives that could be changed. And that the only status that you could fail to achieve is the status quo. The only thing, the only failure in life was not to make the effort to change our station.

And it resonated with me because, and I say this truly to him... I would not be here, God knows, not even in this business, if it were not for the inspirational words and music of Bruce Springsteen."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

heed heed, ladies!

“Women themselves have come to believe that their ideas and emotions aren’t enough in themselves, aren’t worth giving time to. [...] It is as if we have to justify our existence by always thinking of and providing for others. [...] It is incredibly hard for women to be psychically singular, to be ‘selfish’.”

-Charlotte Keatley, “Art Form or Platform? On Women and Playwrighting”

murderville

i had a really nice dream last night. the kind of dream that makes getting thru today a lot easier, just the thing i needed. in my dream i was at some dismal party and i wasn't having any fun, so my friend K asked me to sing a song (for karaoke, no less!) called "Escape from Murderville" or something like that by the Smashing Pumpkins (though the song itself sounded more like it was by the Talking Heads) and it was all about casting off the expectations for a (financially) successful mediocre suburban life, and starting to live with excitement and vigor and daring. we were singing and dancing to it and i actually felt some sense of relief.

i woke up still singing the song and googled "Murderville" but nothing useful came up. now i want to write this song and perform it in real life.

"buy a big house and forget who we were? fuck that, let's go dancing."
-stef

Thursday, November 11, 2010

'nuff said

i wrote this little poem today:

i have more to say
than can fit inside seven
syllables of a hai(ku).

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

intergalactic dust

huzzah, readers! a friend of mine pointed out to me just an hour after my last post that today is Carl Sagan day. so, in honor of our galactic dreamer, i'm posting his famous "Pale Blue Dot" quote about the in/significance of Earth in the broader context of our universe.

to the stars, friends.
-stephan!e

a photograph of Earth from the Voyager spacecraft, taken on its way out of the solar system. Earth is the tiny dot located halfway down inside the brown beam on the right.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

per aspera ad astra

i decided today that if i ever get a tattoo i'd want it to be of the phrase per aspera ad astra - a Latin phrase meaning "from hardships to the stars." there are so many beautiful reasons i would want this on my body, that i'm tempted to rescind my prejudice that tattoos are tacky and have it inked into my inner arm.

first, i'd like to think that when i die, i'll be borne into the stars. and the idea of my body bearing this phrase, this philosophy, through life until death is exactly what i want my tattoo to be, a comment on im/permanence.

furthermore, this phrase was one of a few audio messages selected to be cast off into space aboard the Voyager, to represent peaceful intentions from humanity. this message was encoded into morse code and recorded on the Voyager Golden Record, along with samples of music, greetings in 55 different languages, animal and nature sounds, and a meditative message from Carl Sagan's wife.

i've never been terribly interested in astronomy nor fascinated with the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life. and yet, i find myself regretting the lack of this kind of fantasy and curiosity in our modern collective imagination. it seems my generation was the last to experience the height of the american space program, and current youth are perhaps untouched by the influence of these ideas and the accompanying sense of infinite exploration, as well as unquantifiable humility in the impossibility of ever being certain in the great big galactic scope of things.

i think that humility, that unknowingness, accompanies a healthy sense of imagination that in turn keeps people from being too ... material in their living. what i feel like we have now is lots of kids growing up and becoming bankers and not enough dreaming of being astronauts.

today's Voyager research (i got lost in a research loop on wikipedia today that started with me trying to sort out my tracklisting for the Dark Was The Night compilation, which led me to read about Blind Willie Johnson and his wailing gospel-blues slide guitar and how it was included as an example of loneliness on the Voyager record to be, potentially, discovered by future extraterrestrial lifeforms) also led me to consider the absurd task of writing and communicating messages to infinite space. in the Voyager capsule, Carl Sagan et al. included a letter from then-president Jimmy Carter:
We cast this message into the cosmos... Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some — perhaps many — may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: We are trying to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of Galactic Civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.
i think it's somewhat indicative of the zeitgeist of the 1970s that our president took time out of his schedule to write a letter to the cosmos. imagine what that conversation must have been like, "uh, hey jimmy, we want you to write a letter to the future. to be read by aliens. state our intent as a galaxy. btw, humanity may be completely gone by the time this is picked up by anyone. kthxbye." but that's what i'm talking about, you know? we're missing a little galactic humility and imagination in our present-day thinking.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Mondo Should Have Won: Project Runway, the American Dream, Mondo Guerra, and the depiction of difference in reality television

you'll always be a winner in our eyes, Mondo

I just can't believe that Gretchen, who seemed to only skate by challenge after belabored challenged, made it to the final, and then was declared the winner. It felt like I was being slapped in the face. I feel insulted as a viewer of the show. Forget about fashion and aesthetic, because that is all, as Kors said, "subjective." It''s sometimes painfully clear that the judges are making decisions based on ratings rather than actual design. Michael Costello, debatably, made it much farther in the competition due to his ability to stir up drama, than on his talent alone. The same, I think, could be said of Gretchen, who repeatedly showed drab, boring clothing that sank her to the bottom two. She clearly knew how to play the reality TV game, and to her credit, it served her well. Too well. Her spot in the final three was a credit to her ability to manipulate, to pander to the camera, and stir up drama.


When the judges and producers were making their final decision, they really should have thought about taking the pulse of their audience. I think that it should be apparent, to anyone at this point, that PR is less a show about fashion, than it is about ratings. PR has struggled with ratings and maintaining a steady viewership, going from being an exciting new reality show when it first debuted on Bravo, then being downgraded to Lifetime (network for sad housewives). You'd think the PR producers would be more careful with their audience. Instead, Season 8 took us repeatedly through confusing and catty judging, deplorable camera-pandering and unnecessary drama-stirring (from Ivy to Michael C. to Gretchen) and yet, in the midst of all that, Mondo was a consistently shining star. He was endearing in all his faults, and amazingly, honestly, real. He had real struggles and tribulations to overcome, yet through all that, his talent was apparent and brilliant, and his personality and demeanor, his conduct with fellow contestants and his candidness with the audience, were classy and heartfelt. Every week, I tuned in to watch, not because I care about fashion, but because I cared about Mondo, because I had a genuine interest in his talent, and because watching his struggle with darkness and the conversion of pain to deplorable, exuberant beauty and joy was heart-wrenching, captivating, and deeply inspiring. The PR producers must not have known it, but they'd stumbled upon a reality tv treasure, someone who not only delivered beautiful art, but had a touching message for our troubled times. And that is something much higher, much more important, much more real and much more permanent than "fashion." It was talent, it was life, painful and dark and compromising and imperfect life. And that is why so many viewers, so many young people, so many minorities and people of color and queer (and straight) people loved Mondo, cheered for Mondo, needed to see Mondo win.


Even in terms of the fashion, it established a binary between White/bourgeois/safe/acceptable and minority/carnivale/risky(risque)/daring/marginal. Despite Nina's comments that Gretchen's collection was more "ready to wear" and thus, more salable, it was, to be honest, ready to wear and salable to a very specific demographic: hipster girls with money. Mondo's collection, though theatrical, was not strictly high fashion in the sense of couture and extravagant money and luxury. These were clothes made from a man who has suffered and lived on the edge of privilege but never been a part of it. Gretchen, despite all her weepy confessionals to the camera about credit card debt and homelessness, has had much more access to material wealth and privilege, and it shows in her designs. When she makes clothes, they're for herself, for what she envisions women to be, what she thinks women want to be. And, to be honest, it's a very white-washed, hipster aesthetic. It also must be noted that though they are "easy sexy" and bohemian in feel, they are made for a higher class woman, and nothing irritates me more than bobo couture (bobo = bourgeois bohemian). It's the same irritated feeling I get when I go shopping and I hear hipster elitists lamenting the common people's refusal to commit to organic food and locally grown produce and blah blah. Look, while I buy local and organic as much as I can, I don't judge and patronize others for not having the means to do so. Organic food is very much a privilege perpetuated by poor farming and agricultural practices as well as government subsidies. But, I'm getting sidetracked.


Mondo was so refreshing to watch because what he produced was new. He possessed so much raw talent, was guided and inspired by personal experience and cultural upbringing, that it felt like he was not only introducing a new, daring aesthetic to the world, but a new perspective, a new experience, and one that has been largely ignored and been waiting to gain recognition and voice. Mondo had given this experience - of suffering, of marginalization, of being an outcast and being misunderstood - a voice and a face, and many viewers latched onto that, became endeared to that.


What irks me most about the finale is what it seems to say about our culture, and race, and class, and tv. Mondo represented an epic underdog of the times - an HIV-positive Hispanic gay man, with artistic aspirations - battling it out to have his dream validated in a modern arena - a reality tv show - against a waifish blond girl from, ostensibly, the upper-middle class. Giving Gretchen the win was like denying that dream that all of us shared with Mondo, and denying that importance that he gave to that story so many people share. It was saying that tv and "fashion" were more important than passionate, real life and talent. And, I think because of that, a lot of people will turn their tvs off to PR in the future, if they haven't already. I didn't even bother finishing watching the episode. It smacked a little too much of "to the victor go the spoils" and I wanted to remember, instead, an alternate reality where I thought it was possible for the Mondos of the world to win.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why Mondo Should Have Won: Project Runway, the American Dream, Mondo Guerra, and the depiction of difference in reality television

you'll always be a winner in our eyes, Mondo

I just can't believe that Gretchen, who seemed to only skate by challenge after belabored challenged, made it to the final, and then was declared the winner. It felt like I was being slapped in the face. I feel insulted as a viewer of the show. Forget about fashion and aesthetic, because that is all, as Kors said, "subjective." It''s sometimes painfully clear that the judges are making decisions based on ratings rather than actual design. Michael Costello, debatably, made it much farther in the competition due to his ability to stir up drama, than on his talent alone. The same, I think, could be said of Gretchen, who repeatedly showed drab, boring clothing that sank her to the bottom two. She clearly knew how to play the reality TV game, and to her credit, it served her well. Too well. Her spot in the final three was a credit to her ability to manipulate, to pander to the camera, and stir up drama.

When the judges and producers were making their final decision, they really should have thought about taking the pulse of their audience. I think that it should be apparent, to anyone at this point, that PR is less a show about fashion, than it is about ratings. PR has struggled with ratings and maintaining a steady viewership, going from being an exciting new reality show when it first debuted on Bravo, then being downgraded to Lifetime (network for sad housewives). You'd think the PR producers would be more careful with their audience. Instead, Season 8 took us repeatedly through confusing and catty judging, deplorable camera-pandering and unnecessary drama-stirring (from Ivy to Michael C. to Gretchen) and yet, in the midst of all that, Mondo was a consistently shining star. He was endearing in all his faults, and amazingly, honestly, real. He had real struggles and tribulations to overcome, yet through all that, his talent was apparent and brilliant, and his personality and demeanor, his conduct with fellow contestants and his candidness with the audience, were classy and heartfelt. Every week, I tuned in to watch, not because I care about fashion, but because I cared about Mondo, because I had a genuine interest in his talent, and because watching his struggle with darkness and the conversion of pain to deplorable, exuberant beauty and joy was heart-wrenching, captivating, and deeply inspiring. The PR producers must not have known it, but they'd stumbled upon a reality tv treasure, someone who not only delivered beautiful art, but had a touching message for our troubled times. And that is something much higher, much more important, much more real and much more permanent than "fashion." It was talent, it was life, painful and dark and compromising and imperfect life. And that is why so many viewers, so many young people, so many minorities and people of color and queer (and straight) people loved Mondo, cheered for Mondo, needed to see Mondo win.

Even in terms of the fashion, it established a binary between White/bourgeois/safe/acceptable and minority/carnivale/risky(risque)/daring/marginal. Despite Nina's comments that Gretchen's collection was more "ready to wear" and thus, more salable, it was, to be honest, ready to wear and salable to a very specific demographic: hipster girls with money. Mondo's collection, though theatrical, was not strictly high fashion in the sense of couture and extravagant money and luxury. These were clothes made from a man who has suffered and lived on the edge of privilege but never been a part of it. Gretchen, despite all her weepy confessionals to the camera about credit card debt and homelessness, has had much more access to material wealth and privilege, and it shows in her designs. When she makes clothes, they're for herself, for what she envisions women to be, what she thinks women want to be. And, to be honest, it's a very white-washed, hipster aesthetic. It also must be noted that though they are "easy sexy" and bohemian in feel, they are made for a higher class woman, and nothing irritates me more than bobo couture (bobo = bourgeois bohemian). It's the same irritated feeling I get when I go shopping and I hear hipster elitists lamenting the common people's refusal to commit to organic food and locally grown produce and blah blah. Look, while I buy local and organic as much as I can, I don't judge and patronize others for not having the means to do so. Organic food is very much a privilege perpetuated by poor farming and agricultural practices as well as government subsidies. But, I'm getting sidetracked.

Mondo was so refreshing to watch because what he produced was new. He possessed so much raw talent, was guided and inspired by personal experience and cultural upbringing, that it felt like he was not only introducing a new, daring aesthetic to the world, but a new perspective, a new experience, and one that has been largely ignored and been waiting to gain recognition and voice. Mondo had given this experience - of suffering, of marginalization, of being an outcast and being misunderstood - a voice and a face, and many viewers latched onto that, became endeared to that.

What irks me most about the finale is what it seems to say about our culture, and race, and class, and tv. Mondo represented an epic underdog of the times - an HIV-positive Hispanic gay man, with artistic aspirations - battling it out to have his dream validated in a modern arena - a reality tv show - against a waifish blond girl from, ostensibly, the upper-middle class. Giving Gretchen the win was like denying that dream that all of us shared with Mondo, and denying that importance that he gave to that story so many people share. It was saying that tv and "fashion" were more important than passionate, real life and talent. And, I think because of that, a lot of people will turn their tvs off to PR in the future, if they haven't already. I didn't even bother finishing watching the episode. It smacked a little too much of "to the victor go the spoils" and I wanted to remember, instead, an alternate reality where I thought it was possible for the Mondos of the world to win.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

happy 25th


birthday present to myself this year: seeing Jens Lekman perform solo in a posh bar overlooking the LA skyline.

who wants to be my date?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

history of photography

i love learning stuff! and i love looking at pictures. seriously, that is not a childish thing to say at all, so don't scoff. literature with fantastically-chosen images and photographs makes for succulent learning! i love when a writer can illustrate what they mean with their words, but sometimes words just aren't enough, you know? [ there is a reason for certain platitudes. . . ]

i sat in on a history of film and photography class at Miami, trying to force-add into a brimming class full of com majors, and it was the best week and a half of class i've ever had. i learned so much, i felt like that one hour of class every day did so much to open my mind and eyes to new things, it was a highly concentrated wealth of stimulation, and it was all from looking at photos and art! i gotta rummage thru my undergrad notebooks some time and see if i can find my notes from those classes, i remember scrawling endlessly about the Lumiere brothers and Michael Snow and diagraming how a camera obscura works and trying to sketch replicas of all the amazing things before my eyes, in order to try to preserve and save something on the paper to refer back to (if only i'd had a camera!)

anyway, i'm fascinated by the history of photography, and was delighted when i came upon this blog, which so generously shares hi-res historic (and historically important!) photographs with the general blogosphere. very exciting! did i mention it's hi-res? which is great, because if there's one thing you'll definitely want to do, it's click on every one of those suckers and check all the glorious details out!

like this one:
[Alexander Gardner / Gettysburg / Dead Confederate soldier in Devil's Den / wet collodion / July 1863]

if you click and blow this picture up, you can see all the amazing details, from the buttons on the soldier's uniform, to the cracks and moss in the rock. but beyond that stone wall, just empty whiteness, the hazy blur of a line of trees, nothing. it's so poignant. so much in the immediate before our eyes, and nothing beyond. transfixing!

also, looking thru historic photographs helps us to appreciate the clarity and detail in which modern life is preserved. the past has become a mythic blur in fuzzy bygone daguerrotypes. take, for example, a photo of Abe Lincoln from the Civil War:
his face lacks detail, stability, you can make out a rockin' beard and a kindness in his face, but it's mostly hidden in shadow. mysterious, beguiling, regrettable.

finally! be sure to also check out this article from NPR about photographs of atomic bomb explosions. way cool, way creepy and way way unbelievable (i could not, for the life of me, see the explosions. i kept thinking they were microbes. until i saw the trees in the bottom. whoaa!)

[Photograph taken by Harold Edgerton with a rapatronic camera, from the Smithsonian Museum of American History]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

do the best you can

Tolstoy once gave a lecture about the need for pure passive nonresistance and nonviolence to all living creatures, which is a very Buddhist concept. A member of the audience asked what he should do if a tiger were to attack him in the woods. “Do the best you can,” replied Tolstoy. “It doesn’t happen very often.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

american ethos and modern loneliness, but what's it got to do with Facebook?

since becoming unemployed and moving to a locale with lack of excellent weather, proliferation of mosquitoes and other blood-sucking bugs, and a lack of attractions, i've spent most mornings (into nights) reading articles on the internet and learning a lot. although i abhorred being unemployed for the good part of my summer, i have recently (read: as of JUST NOW) come to LOVE it. thank god for the internet and Wikipedia. i can spend literally DAYS opening millions of tabs and consuming them voraciously. gobble gobble!

i spent this morning reading a long list of terrific articles online, nytimes and newsweek and gizmodo and mostly, and thought i'd share this really great article, a review less about the upcoming Facebook movie than a consideration of modern loneliness and social debilitation as a result of / exacerbated by / evidenced by technologies such as Facebook. extremely extremely fascinating (consider: debilitation caused not by lack of access but by TOO much availability, social disability as a result of excess of mediums). great, great stuff!

some highlights from the article, in case you do actually have a day job and need to be on your way:
Fifty years before Mark Zuckerberg arrived at Harvard—back when facebooks were actually books, back when poking a friend had a whole different set of connotations—Thornton Wilder came to campus to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures. He devoted one of them to “the loneliness that accompanies independence and the uneasiness that accompanies freedom.” Raising such difficult subjects made him uncomfortable, he recalled later, but he felt better knowing that all of his listeners were American. It meant that “these experiences are not foreign to anyone here.”
The film turns out to have less in common with other campus caper flicks than with Freedom, Jonathan Franzen’s masterful new novel about an imploding family. Nobody comes right out and says that Zuckerberg and his associates (I almost said friends) don’t know how to live, as someone says of the Berglunds early in Franzen’s book, but the trouble appears to be the same. And the reason why both the book and the film resonate—why they stick with you afterward—is that plenty of the rest of us have that trouble too. By suggesting that a modern kind of loneliness led an obnoxious hacker to start Facebook, the film helps pinpoint our own loneliness—the feelings of aimlessness and isolation that make us do things like sign up for Facebook.
Zuckerberg and his employees spend enormous time and energy trying to make people connect to each other via their online social network, but they’ve got the situation backward. The route to a happy life, let alone a meaningful one, doesn’t lie in escaping loneliness. As Wilder tried to tell his audience, it is an inescapable part of living in a country as big and free and unencumbered as this one. The trick for us, and for the people around the world living as we do, lies in using our loneliness. Wilder stated the challenge best and for all time when he described “the typical American battle of trying to convert a loneliness into an enriched and fruitful solitude.” Like the Berglunds—or another touchstone of contemporary culture, Don Draper—these characters can’t get along with each other because they haven’t learned to get along with, and don’t even really know, themselves.

When you log into Facebook after the film—and you know you will—you might find that it feels a little different. On one hand, hanging around the site begins to seem like a bad idea. In a world that’s ever noisier and more demanding, it only gets harder to develop a “fruitful solitude” when dozens or hundreds of friends are constantly a click away. This round-the-clock aspect of Facebook, the perpetual presence of somebody to distract you from your anxieties and fears, begins to feel like being stuck in college.

The bigger shift, though, lies in how poignant Facebook suddenly seems. A site that began as a response to modern loneliness looks, after the film, like a record of our own struggle with that condition. The insistent connecting can’t fix what really ails us, but we go on doing it anyway.

{via.}

enjoy it, as i did.
-stephan!e

a resurrection is in order!

hello again, it is so good to be back!

apologies, explanations, and updates can delay another day; i am brought back to this happy medium to report a resurgence of happy feelings and an eager wish to write again!

for those who have followed my writing diligently and have persevered to this moment, i give my humblest gratitude. i am honored for your company and patience.

for those lost along the way, i can say that i understand, for i too, was lost for a long time. hopefully, they will return one day as i have.

the future brings many stories and exciting things to share! so let's not delay another moment!

starting with, what i find achingly appropriate, this live version of The Boss singing "Atlantic City" in Paris. so many things about this make me happy.



"everything dies, baby, that's a fact. but baby everything that dies, some day comes back..."

it is a fantastic day to be alive, my friends!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

end of year crazies

my 6th graders are merely 10 days away from the 7th grade!
which means i am only 10 days away from being done with my two-year TFA commitment and what has been a wild and enormously challenging and life-changing experience. i would be sad if i didn't feel i am really really reaaally earning my indefinite vacation from teaching.

just last week, i had my first fist fight of the year, which is a record, i think. (i believe last year it took only a matter of months). even more impressive, it didn't technically happen in my classroom, but outside my door during the 5-minute passing period. still, it was between two of my students, and since they are now both suspended and having parent conferences, i feel i can safely say that even without me providing my students a count down, they have already begun their familiar end of year race to the finish rituals.

the last weeks of the school year in LA go a little like this:
the heat turns up, and the AC's not working, so the kids are sweaty, uncomfortable, and honestly, a little stanky. (and this has been a fantastically chill summer in terms of temperatures, yet breaking past 75 in Culver City.)
the CSTs were several weeks ago, at the beginning of May, so the kids think they're "done" with school and with learning and they're sole purpose in coming to school is to hang out.
the administrators and some teachers too are getting laid off and losing their jobs, so they start giving little shit what happens on campus.
things inevitably start spiraling out of control before a huge crack down occurs, in which every "problem child" at the school gets sent home early for the summer, an "extended suspension." some good kids and some smart kids get caught up in the mix when they jump into a riot or a fight with their friends and/or siblings, and i lose some of my favorite students, like Ciera who looks like my friend dylan from college, or Salvador, a well-mannered hispanic boy who got caught up in a fight defending himself after someone socked him in the face.

just now i got an automated phone call from the school principal, a message intended for parents, explaining that if students are not kept at home by their parents for the "remainder of their suspension" (that is, the rest of the year) they would be cited for trespassing and fined. wow, what a message for the parents and community. STAY OUT OF OUR SCHOOL YOU HAVE WORN YOUR WELCOME, WE WILL USE FORCE AND LITIGIOUSNESS AND DEMEANING LANGUAGE IF NECESSARY.

at least some good news:
this evening, i got an email from my student Anthony, who wrote me to tell me this:
hi its me anthony i am learning more math because my mom is helping me on it so i am ready for the final test.and by the way this is anthony(last name) in your first and second period class.
i will be glad for all the drama and oppressive incompetence of LAUSD to be over, but i sure am going to miss my students. truth be told, they are the only reason i've been able to keep this up the whole time.
behold! the first ever picture of me and my class (minus several suspended students).

-miss lee

Sunday, June 06, 2010

wisdom, served

"How does a man die when he's deprived of the consolations of literature?"
"In one of two ways, petrescence of the heart or atrophy of the nervous system."
-Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle


*petrescence: (noun) the process of turning to stone; petrification

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Michael Jordan


that's some heavy stuff, MJ. i dare say, you are too filthy rich to be a nihilist. i call shenanigans!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

furry toes

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Facebook and the future of electronic media history

hot dog! every since my post about quitting facebook, i've been checking QuitFacebookDay.org every morning to see if they've made progress on their commitment numbers. i've been amazed to watch its trending in the last week or so, this morning at 10 am up to 20,123 and now suddenly up to 22,284 as of 1 pm PST today! every other morning the site has seen a growth of only 1 or 2K people, but 5K wow! word is spreading!

that's because Facebook is losing a grip on its PR. just this morning On the Media ran a little story on Facebook. here's an excerpt:

RYAN SINGEL [a writer for Wired.com]: [Mark Zuckerberg’s] a really interesting character. There’s a book about to come out, by David Kirkpatrick, I believe, from Fortune magazine. The excerpts that have come out have been fascinating. For instance, Microsoft came along and told Facebook they'd be happy to buy it for 15 billion dollars, and Mark Zuckerberg said no. And then they came back and they said, we'll buy it over a period of five years, so we'll let you stay in control. He said no again.

This isn't about the money. And he really wants to sort of change the world, and he really wants that Facebook page to be the place that people define themselves to everyone else online.

On Tuesday, Facebook’s public policy director, Tim Sparapani, said something that was, I think, a bit of a slip, when he said that the personalization that Facebook has offered to all the websites on the Internet [...] he called that an “extraordinary gift to the public.” I think they really think that they're doing this amazing thing for the public and we're not thankful enough.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: And the gift to the public is the fact that their information can be shared with so many vendors out there.

electronic media history is about to repeat itself. Facebook is to our web experience what the conglomeration of TV (ABC, NBC, CBS) was to television programming. with consolidation into one large corporation, rather than the diversified, differentiated offerings of multiple sites for different purposes (i.e. Flickr, blogger, Last.FM, LinkedIn, etc.) the public loses out on richness of experience. we self-impose our lack of choice. ironic, in a state where consumer choice becomes our most frequent and salient experience of democracy, we still choose convenience over variety of choice. Brooke Gladstone points out in the same piece that the average Facebook user "will choose convenience over privacy every time." the bad press, the QuitFacebook movement, and the premature buzz over alternatives such as Diaspora gives me hope that maybe we won't see history repeat itself, that we will avoid corporate control of the internet, we will reclaim net neutrality, preserve our right to privacy, and utilize the internet for its fabled purpose, of making voice and choice more readily available and exercisable by the masses.

all together now!Link
-stef

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

living in the digital age

fyi, anyone born post-1977 is a "digital native" and anyone pre-1977 is a "digital immigrant."

this video is terrifying.



this makes me rethink the "digital divide": my students may not have access to computers at home, but at least someone in their home has a smart phone with internet access. the digital world at their fingertips, and not a clue how to use it. frightening.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

i'm quitting facebook

as loyal readers would know, i have a problem with facebook. in fact, i was so steadfastly adamant about not joining it that my eventual giving-in was seen as weakness, hypocrisy and a sign of the apocalypse by some. in retrospect, i was grievously nostalgic and afraid of losing touch with college classmates when i made the decision to jump my happy ship and enter into the facebook-enabled abyss. but now, i'm considering quitting, FOR GOOD.

as i write this, i am afraid Facebook is watching (yes, i capitalized the F because it has now become an Entity). i've been doing a lot of reading this week, esp. concerning the topic of Facebook and its thinning privacy policy, and it's making me feel like i have no choice. i know, Facebook and its success are based on the gratuitous overshare of information; but holy geez, i only want to share what i want to and choose to share. it can't have all of me!

as the years of Facebook use have gone on, it's changed the way people see themselves, each other, and the right to people's personal information. The Age of Facebook has been one of oversharing and a gross sense of entitlement to people's personal business. Facebook has rendered us incapable as friends, and made us better voyeurs.

i've seen it in my own use of Facebook: i started out with little information, just my name and college, one profile picture that obscured my face, and a limited list of friends that had to be real friends (people i actually talk to and have spent qual. time with). but then it grew into adding a list of interests, joining a few groups, starting photo albums and tagging people in them, adding applications, and adding friends, from ppl i maybe talked to once in college or contacts i made thru different organizations, to now adding people i've never even met and even actually dislike in real life because i was just interested in seeing what they are up to nowadays. in short, i went from being Facebook-aloof to being a Facebook junkie. and i think it's burgeoning into a big problem:

now, every time i get on the internet, i check facebook. i check my notifications, check friends' statuses, comment on photos, etc. and by the time i emerge from my Facebook-sustained coma, an hour, two hours, a whole afternoon has passed! coming to work is such a productivity-fest because the acceptable use policy strictly bans Facebook, and thank god! i can actually get work done!

Facebook almost ruined my family! (not really, but it has hurt my relationships with people i actually care about in a genuine, real-life way.)

and now, i am finding out that Mark Zuckerberg, that King of A-holes, is making himself the youngest billionaire ever, by selling our information to advertisers and third parties. i'm not sure how it works (and that's part of the evil plan, to make it as confusing as possible), but i guess when you log on to Facebook, when you give it your email address, it keeps a record of all the websites you visit to determine your interests and catalog personal data on you, so it can sell your interests to advertisers who can better exploit you.

this article sums up the history of Facebook's privacy policy quite nicely, but this was the part that most alarmed me:
"If you are uncomfortable with [information] being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not providing) the information."
so basically, Facebook has no responsibility to protect our information, because we forfeit that right the moment we decide to use it. and protecting information is the user's responsibility, despite the ever-changing and ever-eroding privacy policies. this website does a nice job of graphically representing the growing circle of information now available to users and abusers of Facebook.

furthermore, Facebook invites you to tailor your own "ad experience," choosing how your information should be exploited best. is this what i joined Facebook for?

the point is, i'm getting sick of this information age. it's the wrong kind of information we are increasingly exposed to. i want demand to know how the BP oil spill happened and what the government is going to do to stop it and future oil spills from happening. i want to know how we're going to fix public education and restore civic health. i don't need to know all the microscopic details of all my friends' lives the very second they occur. i would like life to resume the way it was, when some things were better left up to the imagination, and ppl lived their lives in private and shared really important things with one another in secret conversations.

my initial gripe with Facebook and its antecedents has always been that i believe it ruins people's ability to communicate with one another: people are constantly on their smart phones on Facebook chatting in traffic – this is the new experience. and i honestly believe it is ruining our society (a whole generation of tweens raised on the iPod and iPhone, incapable of functioning in a real-time social situation with unpredictable and erratic individuals – this is the failure of our modern age manifest in a classroom on any given day).

and now i am learning that the dissolution of our relationships, our communicability, is simultaneously eroding our privacy, and that we're all complicit in this, because we are oblivious, or worse, because we choose to continue using it anyway. has it gotten to the point in American history when we will wage a war on terror in the name of defending our civil liberties, but willingly give up our right to privacy for the sake of social networking? i tell you, we are choosing a sad fate for ourselves: death by distraction.

the group QuitFacebookDay.com is urging ppl to quit Facebook on May 31, and in the three or four days since i had the window up and first started reading articles in preparation for this post, they have gained membership, from a little over three thousand a few days ago, to over eleven thousand this morning when i checked again. impressive growth, but considering the number of Facebook users/ potential quitters, i am sad they are not doing better.

for me, it's a matter of respect. Facebook doesn't care if it abuses its privilege to our information, and it will continue helping itself to more and more of it because it has proven profitable. Facebook users should not have to choose between keeping in touch with their friends or keeping their information private/ not being harassed by advertisers. there are plenty of other sites (flickr, twitter, tumblr, blogger, gmail, etc) that can do the same things as facebook but without the creepy prying. i'm tired of the idea of my information being fed to third parties so they can learn how to better manipulate and exploit me.

so, i'm quitting facebook. if you're a real friend, you'll know where to find me.
-stephan!e

Thursday, May 13, 2010

why i don't listen to the radio any more and only watch tv on the internet, OR, why the youth are starting to change

i got home from work today and, exhausted from bickering with administration about some sketchy misdeeds they are trying to pull on one of my special ed students, sat down in front of my computer to unwind, eat cake, and read some blogs.

i went to TigerBeatdown and started reading the first article up, something about Miley Cyrus and the "search for a feminist pop star."

um. ok. what?

i was unaware we were collectively searching for a feminist pop star. and i was confused about the parameters; have "feminist" and "pop" ever gone together? when was the last feminist "pop star?"* none come to mind.

still, i continued reading, interested to see where this was going. as it turns out, i guess Miley has recently released a new single and with it, a new music video. the article glosses over the use of tired metaphors and symbols: birds, cages, wings on ladies. you get the idea. and pretty soon, i was tired of reading. but i skipped over to youtube and quickly ran a search of Miley's video.


now, admittedly, i am so out of touch with popular youth culture these days. i find my career as an educator has made me more averse to children than understanding of their behaviors and interests. when i sit down at my computer to look up the latest top 40s or to read an article about Justin Bieber's hair, i consider it "research" for my work, rather than pleasure reading.

but here i am, on a thursday afternoon, researching and talking about Miley Cyrus. surely there are better ways of spending my, and your, time.

well, after watching the first minute of the video (and believe me, that was about all i could stomach) i continued reading the aforementioned article, and found i couldn't get far in that either before i had to write a little rant of my own. because the article, and, it seems, a lot of feminist bloggers out there, seem to be discussing the video, and Miley's career, for that matter, in these terms, and these terms only:
1) the rampant sexuality, and whether it detracts from the potential "feminism" present in the music and the act of her, a 17-year-old girl, being a successful "musician." (i use those quotation marks with a generous helping of skepticism, since, as far as i am aware, Miley does not produce any music of her own.)
2) her lyrics are "empowering," thus, she is a feminist because her music speaks to young girls. (again, the quotations around empowering.)

oh... the rant that is about to unfold!

as far as the blogosphere is concerned, Miley is either a feminist if you just focus on the words and the music, or a hypocrite if you look at her flapping those Victoria's Secret wings in the video. my adamant and vocal disagreement is: SHE IS NEITHER!

i agree with my blogger sisters that she can't be a feminist and a sex kitten. but not because i believe sex and beauty can't be empowering (because they can). i have a problem with the whole Disney virgin/pop princess image Miley tries to evoke, alongside the over-sexed performer she tries to be. madonna/whore dichotomy anyone!? i understand young women can be confused, because the patriarchal culture has us thinking we want to be so many things it's hard to choose sometimes, but you cannot evoke whatever persona whenever you want and call it "show business." (whore!)

that brings me to my problem with the "search" in the first place. because pop stars, almost by definition, sell sex, and use sex to sell more sex, under the guise of "making music." it's not music that's on display, it is Miley's precocious boobs and sultry legs. did Tracy Chapman ever prance around in a cage, half-clad in a leather corset and knee-high boots? no, because she was too busy writing music and winnin' Grammies! shoo...

a pop star can never make empowering music, because empowerment is not what sells albums or makes a trashy music video, or gets throngs of tweeny girls to go to your concert (oh, but if it were!) empowerment isn't about hyping up celebrity culture, nor is it about self-worship and hubris, it is about feeling confident enough to take agency and do something for yourself and others around you.

but what is being called "empowerment" in Miley's case, is actually a strong case of entitlement. here's a sampling of the lyrics from the newly released "Can't Be Tamed," the song some people are lauding as a "kick-ass girl power anthem":
For those who don't know me, I can get a bit crazy
Have to get my way, 24 hours a day
'Cause I'm hot like that
Every guy everywhere just gives me mad attention
Like I'm under inspection, I always get the 10s
'Cause I'm built like that

I go through guys like money flyin' out their hands
They try to change me but they realize they can't
And every tomorrow is a day I never planned
If you're gonna be my man, understand

[Chorus]
I can't be tamed, I can't be saved
I can't be blamed, I can't, can't
I can't be tamed, I can't be changed
in one of Miley's first singles, the chorus goes "blah blah blah... she's just being Miley."** see a pattern? don't let the erratic dance moves confuse you, Miley's not trying to empower anyone, she just wants a nicer, more lyrical way of saying, "I'M A HOT, ENTITLED, POP STAR BRAT. I DO WHAT I WANT!"

now, this wouldn't be such a mondo problem if it just stopped there. i wouldn't be writing this long-winded blog post if just a few smart, well-spoken ladies believed Miley (or Christina Aguilera, or Madonna, or Tina Fey, or etc.) was doing a really innovative and daring thing by singing about her selfish wanton desires, and confused her entitlement anthems for empowerment anthems. but, because pop culture and pop music is so pervasive, everyone starts to think these things, and this kind of thinking becomes ingrained into our daily lives, becomes practiced by real-life tweens on the street, becomes a chronic problem of irreverence and disregard among our young people.

you see, as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles, it is almost a daily topic of conversation and source of wonderment among the teachers, as we walk to our cars at the end of each day, "what is wrong with the kids these days!?" i never thought i would say it, and i guess it's a sign i'm getting old, but the behaviors of children these days is perpetually perplexing, befuddling, and bewildering. students cursing off adults who are trying to teach them, students pushing or touching teachers, students standing in the way of a teacher refusing to move, huffing and puffing as if they are engaged in some prelude to fighting ritual. my aide says, every time we have this conversation, "kids have more rights than adults to these days" and though i was hesitant to concur, i believe she may be right. there are no consequences strong enough to make an impression on a student in my school, so many will push their limits until they eventually are escorted out in handcuffs and served with fines. students come to school wearing whatever they want and argue with principals about the uniform, and sit in class looking cute but not learning anything. one of my students is doing math at a pre-kindergarten level (she cannot add without assistance and frequently doesn't know how to count past ten) and comes late to school each day because she spends her mornings straightening her hair and putting on her mascara. she got her nails done the other day and refused to use a pencil for fear of snapping a nail off.

my point is, maybe if our culture didn't glorify material self-worship, we wouldn't have young women walking around in high heels, booty shorts and low-cut tops, mouthing off to adults and carrying themselves with arrogance, thinking that they are being strong, confident females. maybe if we gave them role models with some sense and sensibility, we'd have some more respect and self-respect among our youth. it is so pathetic how starved of feminist idols we are that we will jump at the opportunity to call someone so clearly wrong a "feminist."

-stephan!e


*some might argue Lady GaGa, and as much as i love her performances and vision, never once considered her a feminist. an artist, sure (which is more than i can say about Miley) but not a feminist in the way Betty Friedan was a feminist. end of story.
** disclaimer: i only know this song because i work out at the gym a lot.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

oh, The Internet. how i love thee.

in the span of thirty minutes i went from reading this article complaining about Lost, to reading about Original Sin, to reading about The Fall and then learned that...

"The term 'prelapsarian' refers to the sin-free state of humanity prior to the Fall. It is sometimes used in reference to sentimental recollections of a past time when conditions stood in sharp contrast to the present; this situation is called nostalgia." [source]

huh! i am learning so much about Star Wars and pop culture and human nature, according to the Old and New Testaments.

thanks, Internet.

Monday, April 19, 2010

i wanna be your otter

HOLY. CUTE.

from Wikipedia [emphasis added]:
"To keep from drifting apart, sea otters may sleep HOLDING PAWS. Note the high buoyancy of the animals' bodies."

JESUS FLIPPING CHRISTMAS!



and what did my partner have to say about that?

"wha? they just float there? no wonder they're endangered. they're FLOATING MEAT. [shakes head] evolution failed them."

i feel like i hardly knew you.

MORE OTTER FACTSSS!!!!
did you know that otters spend most of their time floating around in the water grooming their fur? they comb it with their paws and BLOW AIR INTO IT! they catch fish with their paws! (agile! dexterous!) and they possess pockets for keeping those fish for later!
and a group of otters is called a raft! (i want to float around in the ocean suspended in water only by a bunch of bustling otter bodies, holding their paws and nuzzling my face into their clean furry bodies...)

also: the only reason otters are endangered is because humans once hunted them for their furs. what heartless beasts are we?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

retro-plagiarism

"The Jungians say that we hate people because they resemble bad parts of us that we aren’t willing to own up to, yet; we love people because they resemble good parts of us that we’re not confident enough to recognize in ourselves. I’m a pretty firm believer in that theory, myself."

––from this difficult article on Tina Fey, and how she is "not really" a feminist. now, i don't care so much for the critique of Ms. Fey, but this snippet was worth bookmarking. i've always believed in this theory but struggled to articulate it, and now it turns out it's based in Jungian psychoanalytic theory! i tell you, this universe is just one big Over Soul and we are all connected. you, me, Carl Jung, Ralph Emerson, and yes, even Ms. Tina Fey.

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UPDATE: the quote, as it turns out, goes like this: "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." - Carl Jung

industrial camouflage!

found this mind-blowingly fascinating article about industrial camouflage, a defensive method employed during World War II to disguise potential targets from enemy gunfire. industrial camouflage involved a number of different tactics, such as shrouding a steel plant in smoke, painting the gold dome of a state capital building gray, and the most elaborate of these, cityscape invisibility cloaks! using plywood and chicken wire, military defense built 3D models of suburban neighborhoods that sat on top of existing buildings.

uncloaked:

cloaked:

setting up:

on the street: