"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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"dark and troubling things"

i watched Eraserhead with ben this weekend. i was intrigued after reading K's tumblr post about it.

David Lynch's films have always puzzled me, mostly because i know so many people – people whose opinions and tastes in literature, music, and film i respect and usually concur with – who swear a Lynch film is a good time (Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet).

i remain mystified, and unconvinced.

i have tried on several occasions to endure a Lynch film, and find myself 5 out of the 6 times willfully putting myself to sleep. after the first half hour (the precise time it takes for the nuance and strangeness of the sound and imagery to wear off), i tend to find myself thinking about the film in a meta "why am i watching this again?" kind of way, more than i am actually engaging with the film i'm attempting to watch and enjoy.

which is why i will never understand the cult-like appeal of David Lynch's films to what seems like a hefty number of my friends and, admittedly, the great majority of average people. what am i missing? when i watch things like Eraserhead, i find myself in utter denial of the fact that anyone actually likes this movie. how can Eraserhead have a "cult" following, when there is so little tangible substance to hold onto?

i find that when it comes to most things, but film in particular, i am extremely unforgiving of an aimless use of time. when i commit time to something, i expect a reward (who doesn't?) and come to resent the task if i come to suspect that i'm not going to be compensated for my time. and lo, the story of every David Lynch film i have ever watched: a long wait for little reward. thus my history of resentment.

the more i think about it, the more i begin to wonder if everyone is just lying to themselves about liking David Lynch's films, so as not to seem unwise. or, perhaps it is just one of those things White people like...


Tuesday, January 19, 2010


what is the point of this?

the only possible outcomes of this much rain are:
1) mudslides

and 2) one helluva work week (children are like gremlins when it rains)

i think it's time to burrow down until next saturday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


awoke this morning: cold, tummy-aching, missing the sound of ppl talking in the kitchen below me. missed going to the windows and seeing snow over everything.

flying into LA last night made my stomach hurt. i think the appropriate response for flying over a city should be awe or excitement, feeling like you're arriving someplace. but i saw the million lights, the traffic jams, the density and sprawl of this city manifest, and i felt a sick longing for the bluegrass.

exit plane, enter breezeway, begin panic attack.

boarded taxi. a small blue-eyed man with an unidentifiable accent drives me to my school where i left my car. we listened to some conservative talk radio show, the duration of the ride being the same host reiterating the same point over and over again, with increasingly dripping vitriol. "the new full body scanners at airports will specifically take pictures of genitalia, male and female genitalia, these scumbags will be looking at every crack, fold, and imprint on your genitals. they will look at the details of your genitals to see if you have explosives or not. if they can't see every crack, wrinkle and fold on your genitals..."

i open the window to drown out the noise, and to keep myself from throwing up all over the backseat.

the ride was short, only $14 on the meter, but the driver asks me for $17.50 ("flat rate," he says, while clearing the meter). i give him what i have, which is $18, and he demands more. "are you trying to make a point?" "no, i just want to go home." i look around nervously as he angrily argues with me, and i begin to worry about the lack of other people around, the dark, how far away i am from my car. he eventually gets back in the taxi, and i sheepishly say thank you, relieved.

i get home to an empty apartment that smells vaguely of spoiled food. notes on my desk reminding myself what to pack, a glass of water left on the table, slippers left where they were taken off, a half box of uneaten cookies – it's not that the apartment doesn't feel lived in, but i feel so alone.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

the trouble with Tiger Woods

i read this really great article today, about Tiger Woods and his recent "fall from grace" (the only article about Tiger's recent media scandal i could bear to read. i can't stand watching the media pick apart celebrities like that, when they're obviously having some serious family/marital issues). [i find the more i try to read about grad programs in education and the more i try to write something related to a personal statement, the more news i end up reading, and the more blog posts i end up writing. at least i'm being productive in some way?]

i was working online when the Tiger story first broke, and was ostensibly mistaken in thinking it would subside quickly. since that Thanksgiving weekend, the story has been a topic of almost daily discussion in entertainment/celebrity news circles and manages to leak into the periphery whenever i venture online.

but this article i read today takes a much-needed critical stance on Tiger's problems that has been completely ignored and excluded in the majority all of recent corporate media coverage. [it is interesting to note that the article i read incidentally comes from a grassroots, socialist-leaning, online media co-op. coincidence?] the article discusses Tiger's loss in corporate sponsorship as a result of his negative media attention and the pulling of Tiger spots and commercials, even the halt of his own Gatorade drink, "Tiger Focus." of course, it came as no surprise that Tiger's irresponsible conduct would result in huge blows to his public image and career – the almost total loss of his billion-dollar sponsorships, the subsequent self-imposed exile from golf and life, the increasing amount of tarnish on a once veneered and venerable public image – but, what this article brings up that others have forgotten in the sizzle and scandal, is that Tiger's had it coming for a while, and not just in the sense that he's received his comeuppance for marital infidelity, i mean a practiced neglect for social responsibility in his career actions.

unbeknownst to me prior to the recent media attn, Tiger's had some pretty nasty corporate bed fellows, including Chevron and Nike (who, touchingly, bucked the trend of dropping him, choosing instead to stand by their cash cow, citing his tenure on their payroll and his proven athleticism). Nike, Tiger's sponsor for ten years and counting, is also, let's not forget, well known for their use of sweat shops. so Nike's loyalty is perhaps not undeserved: Tiger, in his ten years under their sponsorship, has never once spoken against or implored them to pursue different labor practices. and this, it seems, is only the tip of the iceberg. Tiger has been linked to selling his celebrity super power of distraction to aid the efforts of developers and military in ousting Filipino peasants from their land, in the name of bringing golf and golf courses to the Philippines.

as this article makes clear, Tiger's conduct has deserved scrutiny for quite some time, albeit for different reasons than what warranted his current media spanking. while the world continues to lament Tiger's tarnished public image, it is necessary that we pry a little beyond merely the celebrity tabloid fodder and get at the real reason for Tiger's declining success (considering his involvement with some questionably irresponsible corporations and businesses, is it any surprise that at the first sign of trouble, they decided to jump ship? corporations do not usually specialize in solidarity or compassion, maybe Tiger would have learned that if he'd checked up on some things).

accepting things for how they are and focusing on just how one benefits from the system is to live in denial that the system eventually comes back to screw you over.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

the problematic sociological messages in Avatar

warning, spoiler alerts to follow!

on further consideration, i have more troubled thoughts about Avatar's problematic representation, in addition to those i illuminated yesterday:

1) Jake, the protagonist and surrogate character for "us"/the audience in the film (indeed, our avatar into the world of the Na'vi), becomes enmeshed in the Na'vi culture by way of initiation and, "mating" with the Na'vi leader's daughter (who, of course, chooses the mysterious and potentially dangerous stranger, who she calls "moron" from the start). of course, he, the incompetent outsider, comes to be an even better Na'vi warrior than the rest of them, and must come to their rescue (they of course being unable to defend themselves, even though they were, supposedly, "very hard to kill" and dangerous.) the film seems to suggest that it takes an outsider (a colonialist or imperialist) to preserve a civilization, or to lead the way in helping the "natives" get what they (don't realize they) need. [sound familiar? how about our efforts to "bring democracy" to the ignorant (read: unwilling) masses in Iraq...]

2) at the end of the movie, Jake is reincarnated(?) as a Na'vi, what the film suggests is his "true nature." his fellow humans (that is, the military nasty ones) are sent home by arrow-point and told never to come back. that is, to return to "normal" again, the races are segregated, with each race banished and confined to its own world, minus Jake, the bridge between the worlds. this provides an interesting contrast to, say, the ending of Lord of the Rings, which promotes, in my opinion, a far more multiculturalist conclusion (remember that at the end of the trilogy, the different populations of humans, elves, hobbits, wizard, and Ents are united in solidarity against the threat to their shared home, Middle Earth, and Aragorn takes an elven bride, uniting the kingdoms of Middle Earth, and gives credit to the true heroes of the story, the endearing hobbits. [ok, i admit, i'm a LOTR fangirl. those movies hit the mark for me. i can't understand the kids growing up on Twilight, i feel they are really getting cheated out of smarter film and literature opportunities...]).

additionally, i find Jake's final transformation into Na'vi to be confusing (why wasn't the doctor similarly resurrected? why was she not worthy enough to embody the Na'vi spirit, when, arguably, she worked harder to understand their culture and customs and lived among them as much or more so than Jake?) and why couldn't he stay in human form, why did he have to become Na'vi in appearance too (when arguably it's his spirit that is truly Na'vi)? it suggests to me that he can perform the part all he wants, but he's got to look the part too. and finally, this reminded me of the commonly held notion that white is "neutral" and that "white" can become anything it wants to be (in this case, Na'vi). it just has to work at acquiring the necessary signifiers.

3) finally, i realized after talking with my partner this afternoon, that for all the knocking i'm doing, i still believe there is value in the movie and its overall message (about imperialism and colonialism, that is. i still find the sociological representation stuff to be a bit distracting.) the important thing to remember, i think, is that even though the story may be cliché, or predictable, it is necessarily so, because it is a story worth telling and retelling, in multiple manifestations, because it needs to be heard again. we could always use a reminder.


Tuesday, January 05, 2010

existential crisis #2

i have a major problem and that's that i can't convince myself, no matter how hard i've tried, that going into "educational leadership" at a phd level will actually change anything or allow me to act on the kinds of changes i want to work for. all the programs i look at talk about "organizational theory" and "leadership studies" and i can't help but feel like i'm going to be going to school to study how to manage and micro-manage, rather than teach or create social movements. this is the problem i had with education that made me want to get into the field, but is now keeping me from entering into it (as if i'm not in it now?) becoming "a serious (i.e. phd-toting) academic" in it.

every single program i read about talks about organization, student affairs, administration, and governance, and that doesn't sound even vaguely interesting to me. is this what i'm looking to sign up for? to become the stuffy administrator of some school district or college? no thanks. i just want to teach some radical social change theory. where can i beef up on that?

seriously, if anyone has info, drop it below. if i read one more boring course description about organizational theory i think i am going to slit my wrists.

déjà vu: a comparative analysis of James Cameron's Avatar

i watched Avatar with my fam last night. i enjoyed it, really, and maybe one of the most enjoyable facts was how my dad and i became really absorbed in the narrative, [spoiler alert:] cheering on the Na'vi, boo'ing the imperialists/capitalists/US foreign policy surrogates.

for those of you who haven't seen it yet, i would recommend seeing it soon, but mostly because i think the theatre surround sound and giant image add a lot to the experience. if you can, see it at a 3D iMax (which we did not, [my mom and i get motion-sick] but the whole time i wondered what it would be like [probly the closest to tripping on acid i will ever get]).

those of you who can't afford to see it in 3D iMax (esp those of you in CA, where those tickets can cost close to $20!), let me save you some of the suspense: my brother called it cliché, "it had the same gist as The Last Samurai and Dances with Wolves." (mm, not true? i believe in The Last Samurai the "natives," that is, the samurai, actually lose. and i haven't seen Dances, but at least it didn't distort or adulterate a historically significant theme [colonialism vs. "native" culture] with fantastical allegory, at least Dances was explicitly and unequivocally talking about Native Americans... right?)

despite its predictable story arch, Avatar does throw in some delightfully sharp jabs at recent foreign policy, mainly, US adminsitrations' predilection for forgoing diplomacy and resorting to force – quotes such as "fight terror with terror" and "shock and awe" were pulled right from Rumsfeld's mouth, generating huge snickers from me and my dad. (i wonder, too, about how uncomfortable the film might make staunch republicans, Bush fans, FoxNews junkies, Glenn Beck nutsacks, and jingoes, once they get past the colorful images and realize that the film is asking them to cheer against what they believe in. has Glenn Beck seen Avatar and/or done a review yet?)

Avatar, just like Lord of the Rings before it, uses the winsome conceit of fantasy to send us a much-needed message about how our modern lives are ruining the beauty of the world around us (indeed, the world without us). Avatar allows us to sink just deep enough into its fantasy to absorb its message, but i wonder if the message gets left behind as soon as we leave the world of Pandora and step out of the darkened movie theatre. as a kid watching the LOTR films, i eagerly took up where Peter Jackson left off, i wanted to be a hobbit and live in a Shire-like community, and i felt that meant we needed to protect our (Middle) Earth better. i started an environmental club at my high school, i got my family to recycle more and waste less. small actions probably, but illustrative. in contrast, leaving the theatre after Avatar made me feel exhilarated, but more in a "wow, what a really awesome movie" kind of way (residual spectacle). later, i felt bitter and angry as my thoughts turned to the surge in Afghanistan (no thoughts about the beauty of earth and nature).

i guess the significant difference between these two comparable films is this: while LOTR grounded its story in something fantastical, it still seemed plausible (warriors who looked like nothing stranger than medieval crusaders, trees who could walk and talk – this doesn't seem so strange if you accept the idea that the natural world is teeming with life and hidden beauty, which i do). Avatar, to use a phrase from the main character, was too "dream-like" to be real. and that's the problem, it is real. wars against native peoples and cultures happen all the time, thru brutal, irreverent force and extermination, and ppl don't see it or don't care. what good does it do for these things to be brought to the surface but to be forgotten in spectacle?

finally, a word about representation: i found it difficult to enjoy the movie for the first half an hour or so, because i was deeply disturbed by the way the "natives" were depicted. long braids, tall alien-like bodies and cat-like features, broken english, scarce clothing, hissing and animal-like agility... it was a biting reminder that our society often thinks of ethnic as "strange" or curious (disturbingly, something about the Na'vis faces, in addition to looking cat-like, suggested that the actors playing them were ethnic, which was what prickled me most ["native" = ethnic, colonialists = "white"] because it suggests that ethnic peoples are somehow wild or alien). for more on what i mean, see this article on what it means to wear "ethnic" fashion.
(update! this article from a really great website on representation, picks Avatar apart quite aptly. again, spoiler alert!)

and, for those still wanting to see the movie but without the means to do it, this video sums it up nicely as well:


edit! found this great image that sums it up pretty nicely:

Monday, January 04, 2010

alligators in the sewers

i know, it's been a long time since i've posted, and shame on me for letting this fall by the wayside. before i forget, HAPPY 2010!(it's going to rock so much harder than 2009, don't you agree?) and also, a recollection of a dream i had last night:

my friend Dave who incidentally goes to grad school at UCLA (but who i haven't seen in months despite living just blocks away from each other) asked me to come over to check out this crazy-looking condo he was thinking about renting for him and his new girlfriend, who may or may not have been pregnant. when i got there, my immediate thoughts, i remember, were "sweet dang! how much money does a grad student at UCLA make?!" – because the place featured impressive (albeit confusing) post-modern architecture and, the real point of interest for me, an expansive lagoon/swamp/"koi pond" underneath the deck. this is what i felt most obligated to check out for my friend. i tip-toed closer to the water, and observed the alien-looking marine plant life, as well as some strange movements on the surface. i saw some kind of mechanical alligator head, which looked like a wind-up toy, but then i couldn't be sure, so i got creeped out and discouraged from venturing a toe into the water. i searched the depths, murky and deceptively deep, looking for fish and now, alligators.* i informed my friend that i believed water of unknown depths to be dangerous.

we moved further along the deck and i observed fins skimming the water. i looked on closely, tensely, awaiting dolphins or sharks. first, dolphins, and i thought about friendly swims with porpoises. but shortly after, sharks emerged too, and i thought of thrashing water and sharp bites on the ankles. i delicately lowered a shoe'd toe beyond the level of the deck, offering it up to the depths below to see how eager and hungry the marine ecosystem below me was, but Dave snatched me up before the sharks and alligators did.

we moved inside as my friend told me how much his new investment was going to be, "$500, 000 for rent." rent?!! i gasped. you can buy a house in kentucky for that much! ah yes, but he reasoned that he really wanted a nice place for his gf and "baby?" to live, and i concurred that, despite the potentially dangerous lagoon in his backyard, living with danger and a body of water nearby could be a pretty satisfying experience, albeit a uniquely LA one (and already attainable, at a much cheaper price – ah, the glories of private property ownership!)

we moved inside to his artfully minimalist living room and sat on his firm couch, and his dog came up to me and wrestled with my leg. i then remarked on how impressively wide and large his dog's head was, and told him what he had here wasn't a dog, but a polar bear. i cautiously played with it, then watched as the dog and another animal my friend seemed to be domesticating (an otter? a fox? a bear cub? i don't know, just that it had a red body and a furry face) started making out.


in the dream before that, i believe i was wandering around the city of chicago, looking for a place to stay while i was there for a conference. i had a map, but the lines showing streets were gone or faded and all i could see were the names of streets floating on a page, guessing at their intersections. my parents came and met me at a corner bakery where we talked to some business man in a suit and tie about staying in one of his many properties in the city but he seemed unconvinced i shouldn't just be homeless and continue wandering the city for the entire weekend.


earlier this week (or last week, as today is monday) i had another dream where my family was trying to swim across a river. i made it across and was looking down into the water, watching alligators swimming up to the shore, bellies up and skimming the surface, then flipping off the bank and catching things in their arms and legs. my dad was the last to swim across the river and i watched as he got closer to the bank of the river, at the same time an alligator came near enough to flip off the bank and onto my dad, its body sinking him into the water and swimming away with him. i woke up terrified and gasping, as if i too had been drug under water.


i looked up the symbolism of alligators in dreams, and Bella, "the voice of women" writes:
alligators and crocodiles in dreams can signify 'hidden danger'--a situation that you are aware of on an intuitive level but are not acknowledging in your conscious mind. This can be a simmering situation at work, a untrustworthy person, or sadly, anything that you can't really see coming but which strikes out of the blue and without mercy.
i don't listen too much to psychoanalysts, even tho i once wanted to be one. i don't read too much into my dreams either (i have a record of outlandish, vivid dreams that are more exhilarating than they are revelatory) – i have at least one intensely vivid dream a night (that i can remember).

that is to say, i don't write about this for any truth-seeking reason, but merely as an exercise in recording. and, writing. and also: because they are fun to remember. (but, since i mentioned it: stressed thinking about school (applying, attending, working at) and possible future lives, the dwindling winter break and how much i miss being home and particularly in this house, with my family, and the fragility of life and how delicate each moment is but how destructive we can be with each other in spite of life's fragile moments...)

much to think about, and it's almost time to sleep.

*once when i was very young (maybe 10?) my family went to vacation in south carolina. my dad, recently returned from a business trip to florida, brought me and my brother matching mickey mouse hats (my brother's was blue and green, and mine was red) and we wore them out onto this long wooden deck where the locals dangled pieces of chicken meat on metal hooks, in order to catch crabs. crabbing was an intricate process, from skewering the chicken bits just so on the hook so that the skin and fat would dangle off the bone enough to dance enticingly in the water, to sensing the slightest bit of tension on the rope, signifying the crab's eager tugging on the bait (you had to time it just right so that the crabs had enough of a taste to want more, and then slowly hoist them out of the water so you could slip a net under them), and we enjoyed it for hours on that wooden deck. until suddenly, i felt a sharp tug on my line, and looking down, ready to bring my catch up, realized i had baited an alligator. it was thrashing and tossing its head around, the rope coming out from between its teeth and leading up to the deck, where i had tied it just in front of me. terrified, i yelled for my dad, who came rushing to my rescue to wrestle the rope still enough so he could cut it. i remember feeling like the whole deck was going to come crashing down into those alligator-infested waters. in the excitement, my hat got knocked off my head, and i watched in horror as it fell down into the water.
that night, lying in bed, feeling i had just survived an alligator attack/ avoided an alligator eating, i imagined my hat, the hat my dad gave me, lying at the bottom of the swamp, alligators swimming around it, mickey mouse winking up at the surface, forever suspended in time.