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n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency
Monday, October 31, 2005
"Yeah. People. That's what you get for interacting with people. Folks give lots of shit to those backwoods rednecks who get fucked up and drive around on the range for hours and get their heads caught in the barbed wire. But their marriages are probably much healthier than everyone else's. I mean, the baggage just doesn't come with sheep."
weekend like a season change
Friday, a friend of mine visiting from out of time, and I got to meet her family and go out traipsing in the wilds…
sp and I met on the steps of the Art Institute and I felt a little loop in me to watch a familiar face roam closer to where I stood, next to the bedecked lions and their observers. Everyone here is dreadfully excited about the White Sox and parades have been taking over… fireworks in the evening, and shouts on the subways. The Art Lions themselves were participating in the debauchery with a combination of Sox hats and laurel on their feline heads. After sp and her sisters took me out to a packed beer bar that irritated bp by making her put out her cigarette at a table in a room full of smoke, we went back to the institute and took a look around.
I’m dreadfully embarrassed to mention that despite having a free pass to the Institute, I have yet to perform a thorough exploration of this museum. I felt even more ashamed of myself as saw the variety of work...
...Bresson and other black-white photographs, exploring Paris of the architecture and humanity. Lines and reflections proliferated and I learned about a technique called camera obscura, which results in a double-landscaped shot, one imposed upside down over another--a technique that encourages crazy multiplications. Also, African and Chinese arts, a touch gallery, children’s illustrations, little windows into rooms that would make me very uncomfortable with their svelte. And then we got kicked out; the place closes damn early…
The opportunity to have sp for myself… I showed her my subways and these digs I’m now inhabiting and we frittered and fried our time by talking away happily until it was the moment to go out and make some trouble. Her sisters came and nabbed us. Ah… another big family… how I revel in the dynamics, the realigning of energies, the fight and burst, the ferocious intensity of a group gathered in memory and recapitulation. Each sister seems so different, but explicable within the fabric of their family: roles donned, discarded, donned. Laughter and a long search for the place to go. We made a brief stop at a bar for red-bull and jeigermeister shots, which I’ve avoided since cc stabbed me gently with a penknife under the influence of such… On our way to a place called “Spy Room” for some rampage. My roommate, lee, joined and walked fast, and we linked arms all of us and ran down the street in endeavor to get wherever it was that we were going…dancing.
The place actually turned out to be good fun. Electronica dj’s, one of whom bongo’d while mixing… most impressively to Thriller while the crew asked me if I knew how to moon walk (oh, how I wish). The scene itself was an interesting one... all the girls were dressed up like sluts and I couldn’t quite tell if it was Halloween influence or not. I was rather impressed by two big blokes costumed as Flash, one of whom took my effort to squeeze the puff-muscles on his arm as an invite to dance with all the sexy women who surrounded me (the p’s & lee). It made me happy to see my roomie dancing with us, enjoying herself, and after a few watered-down and extremely friggin pricey shots, I was into the floor, enjoying my body, the movement, the flicker of it all… lights moving and shutting down.
We had a couple good hours before the entourage—a slightly hostile, crowded and out-for-makeouts group of folks I wasn’t interested in exactly—took over and made me feel a little lost in the center of so much. We got kicked off our seats, which apparently had been “reserved” by rich folks (sonny echoed my feelings on the process when she said: “what, you mean the seats we’ve been reserving with our asses all night?”). I lost and found my friends, admired the fellow who had the break-dancing down, and then I shed the club and emerged lit from dark and went off home with lee.
In the subway, a man told me he was drunk enough to give me his CD for free, and handed me a wrapped CD-case which later turned out to be pretty good electronic mix (Stop Die Resuscitate). Later c2 seemed to be jealous that I get folks talkin to me on the subway, and I started reflecting on why it was that this always happens. I’m still not sure: the look of a fish on land draws the bears & felines? But it really has been a constant in my life; no matter where I am, strangers start it up.
As we transferred later, a man with the bends so bad I thought he might pass away in front of me. I watched him obsessive, waiting for him to raise his chin and leave. Lots of folks dressed up and drunk, celebrating a premature Halloween by emptying their guts into the subway trashcans. Kids on roller skates: “I don’t care what you think, I’m gonna make you smoke this fucking cigarette.” And the man with the death riding him, a white pupil in his left eye, shaking with seizure withdrawals every few minutes before subsiding and descending into his mauled fleece jacket again. I thought about giving him money, but he had his arms tucked into his coat, no pockets, and it seemed like waking him might be one stimuli too many after the rattle, cessation, and running of the train. I left thinking about grace. What grace would look like to someone in so much obvious pain.
Yet again, I gave a pumpkin-carving to-do, but this time more than 6 folks showed up. Which was great, since I spent all day cleaning, mopping, dragging my bed out for a sitting ground, decorating, washing dishes, showering, grocery shopping, and my coup de grace: making some salmon dip while baking two homemade, fresh-from-my-paws pies, one apple and one pumpkin. I even remembered to put the hot cider on the stove to encourage the olfactorily-oriented.
The arrivals were predictably late and gave me time to ready myself and start on my pumpkin. But when it got rolling, it really did. Candy, wine, veggie & dip, beer, pumpkins—the evening quickly filled out in light drunkenness and ramble. Little shards of orange peel speckling the floor and a knife snapped in half in wondrous carving-fervor. The place was a little squishy… not because there wasn’t enough room, but because the rooms are spread out in little living-area/kitchen clumps that encouraged a yo-yo roll between the pies and the candy.
A few Harry Potter jellybeans chewed, reviled and removed into the nearest trashcan. Even if you don’t like their taste, how is it even possible to avoid candy called “boogers,” “sardines,” and “dirt”? They reminded me of the gritty jellybean I once deposited on the floor of a movie theater.
I was hoping to mix up some of the winenight buddies with some of the folks from other parts of my life, and I did to a very small extent. sp came—for a short while accompanied by her sisters before they jettisoned for a party of two hundred they had been invited to by some guys leaning out the window of a truck on the freeway. And so did sb (a little shift from the letters of my pac-northwest friend… I’ve been noting that I have two cc’s in my life, so the Chicago one will be c2 from here on out. And I have three sp friends. So, maybe I should start assigning nicknames rather than stick with the initials? 'course I might piss some folks off with that one…). I work with sb at the Tutoring Center and have been waiting for the opportunity to make friends; something about her seemed kindred the second we met, and I was friggin happy that she could make it, even if her boyfriend couldn’t. But nobody from my dratted Narrative Design or Travel classes came...
But it all worked out well, because the joint was packed… aa steadied the music after awhile (and, it seems, rearranged the icons on my desktop?). p came decked in the baseball regalia, wondering if anyone else would dress up (which mp, sp, and aa sorta did)… he ditched the outfit once, but following a certain amount of rum and spiced cider, put it back on. c2 carved “her every-year same jack-o-lantern,” while sb carved an abstracted, but deliciously happy cyclops. p gave us a bat, and lee did one of her marvelous pandas with some etchings on its back. I did my traditional rabid face-scraping, which turned out fine, just fine. d and tw talked about baseball… discussing the 45-minute "old man discussion" tw had with his neighbor, while d dodged into the kitchen to ply the juice with vodka. mp and I nervously recounted our recent interview for our dream job, and then laughed it all off. L and m2 made the dynamics of conversations sweetly - engaging the shypers. And e was darling, as ever, although I was a little too distracted by multitudes to tease him about the recycling programs around town. Ahhh… the crew. Ahhhh… the crew.
A sidenote for the indoor-lurkers: we had quite some fun on the smoker’s balcony – conversations full of self-conscious pauses followed by self-conscious ruptures of silence. c2 eloquently filled in some of the space with a stream-of-conscious monologue about filling in some of the space. At one point, the conversation found its way to “booting.” It took me some time to figure out what this is. I knew the toilet was involved, but beyond that, “booting” wasn’t a clear term for me because the conversation started with a citation about how “booting is the only thing in the world that leaves you feeling better afterwards every single time,” which I felt could conceivably be translated in different ways… bathrooms are, after all, havens of great comfort and glory. But I figured it out after awhile. Slow me. Reminds me of when I moved from the county to Seattle and didn't know what half the cuss or sexy words meant. Anyhow, the conversation revolved around the nefarious topic for an amazing amount of time, and even though I heard several people saying “we have to leave this topic or I’m not going to be able to eat//going to boot,” I do believe these same people managed to continue with titilating details. Booting is such a good story center – abounding with embarrassing events both drunken and not.
We of course talked about intellectual things. Many, many intellectual things, thank you very much.
At some point, I got really tossed on the rum and ranted for a little while in the kitchen with sb and sp about Bush, war, organics, teaching, recycling, and all things political. I needed some of that off my chest. These are frightening times we’re living in… for example, take Bush’s recent decision to believe that his electoral base is fundamentally fundamental. Please god, don’t let this country become a crack-house surrounded by the police.
And then, the night was over… I had the glorious privilege of good company until about 2-ish and then everyone gave up on calling a taxi and walked off in search. community love, wind, this place like a newdream. sp stayed over for the night and we gossiped and talked for awhile before falling into the dreams of the moderately soused. The next day, we woke late, went for Mexican, watched the leaves falling around, and looked in on my favorite pet store, which sp found “random.” The long walk home, goodbyes to my first visitor in Chicago, and the solitary invasion of homework afterwards. And a few telephone touchdowns with some of my very verriest of favorites in this world.
just went to the store for some rootbeer—with outkast in my phones. the kiddies are all tressed with their bags. bumblebees buzzing, smiles at the doors… las tiendas cerca de mi casa estan dando dulces a los ninos pidiendos. grim reapers and vampires. little sox fiends and mouses. goldilocks and her three puppies. I will be doing homework tonight with all my gifted pumpkins lighting the windows and the sky falling deeper into a foggy bottom autumn where the leaves daily strip the trees more nudey. the narcissistic-libido of my mind slip-sliding in new cathexis-nexi where energies burst like bunny rabbits from overbred warrens of fuzz. enough with self-abnegation and judgment… today is the day of release. my life brewing like a witch’s caldron gone sweet and mysterious. who knows what will come next, but I feel it might be good, could possibly be good, most certainly will be good. my cup overfloweth with gaterade.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
time/movement, prt i, tk 1
a glance from the last cattle car
little lights to the side and narrow
a man behind me looking forward;
back of my head; my reflection;
i look at my face forward;
wonder what music he's listening to
i hear a train behind us, in front, catching up
the ocean always passes the tracks
seagulls in my headphones
i catch fish from my pockets;
tear at the fluid matchbooks
name and numbers to notcall;
a division between wall; platforms left
stalactites piling layers
the undersoles of so many boots heading
to escalators, green lights on building
one could cut me in half
ram my half-intestine against
nostril hairs, mustache, the patch of weeds
sprouting from her chin, your stomach
don’t trust the windows, tints always
blocking, please don’t smile that way
divots from trees torn, degrounded
please don’t wear it, it’s a wedding gift
and scratched the skin right off my face
when green paper mache
fell from the places where her eyes
should have been
(did you hear that this time?)
there’s been a little white space
take my porch, for instance:
three floors, a million bricks sidelining
an owl in blue and the blue it touches
a siren, low chimes, something i whisper
some days people get married, and birds die the next day
everybody breathes until they stop;
we never did laundry together, I watched
her hate each entry; grocery bags run amuck
write walls inside the bedroom;
mc hammer’s a thing of the past, pj harvey
has initials too, $18 dollars at Circuitown
30c’s can buy you burned love; just squint in flames
and breathe: “i heard”
broken wine, wrapped in a napkin
pieced like a wound;
wipe it up; something fell as laundry lint
from the sieve, after another failure’s load
the red of the shoes we bought, now within my duvet;
ten shots will break a cd-skeet flung;
i stomped my sunglasses to bits;
burning words never written
and framing it all, titled: “we thought”
call mom and hear surprise, “you sound happy”
break out in hives the first day
work at iHop next to people, spread papers
ignore phone calls
plant nasturtiums and spray with soap when aphids proliferate
clothe bodies in charcoal
hover the borders of ten different balconys
say: estoy aqui porque mas no pude creer
start over, start over, start over
Sunday, October 23, 2005
two recent events
Friday night I went to the closing of the G2 gallery exhibit. A School of the Art Institute space, G2 has a new show rotate in about every 1-1.5 months. This particular show, which has been in for about a month, had a friend's work (actually a couple of friends' although I didn't know that... it was a grad student exhibition) in it, and I decided I needed to see it before it hit the road.
1. A pretty fascinating title, all things said. Even before going, I got to thinking about why an exhibit would be called "Selfish," and what it means for a bunch of art students to fit their work under that description. An obvious first impulse for me was to think about the selfishness--or maybe the self-centeredness, which relates but is not exactly the same thing--of so many artists I've known.
Some artists have a tendency to view others/objects through their own perspective while pretending to be projecting into another person's space. A struggle of postmodern solipsistic inevitabilities. Especially writers and actors spend so much time believing they're a number of other people, truly believing and maybe getting as close to the other as possible, that they tend to forget people are outside of them. The people we imagine are not the people who breathe around us. This forgetting is both a form of self-centeredness (and the more I think about it, the more I wonder how this phrase leads to, or is related to, selfishness) and extreme selflessness as well. Selflessness, not in the sense of "generous" (like a mum who takes care of her children first, always first before her self), but selfless in the sense that the I disappears, gets lost sometimes, as we enter into the imagined Other-I.
But "Self-Centered" is not the title of the show I went to. The title was "Selfish," which I believe implies action although it's an adjective. I behaved selfishly. I am a selfish person. Everything is for myself. I will take care of myself (at the expense of others). I am the type of person to take care of myself (at the expense of others). Is the parenthetical always implied? I guess I think so. The difference between a word like "self-sufficient" and "selfish" is fairly extreme. There's such a degree of greed and arrogance in the term "selfish."
So, we start with a title that makes me nervous. I start thinking about the whole "who do you write for" and "what are you accomplishing" thing. But important to note: the title "Selfish" is, in a sense, neutral. Not "let's all be selfish and make merry," but simply the word. Not "as an artist, I condone selfishness in artists" or "as a politically-conscious artist, I condemn selfishness in the world," but just a static state. It got me interested.
2. When I went, I supposed that there'd be about an hour of presentation of some sort, and then a walk through of the four-five rooms of art, a chance to talk to the artists, etc. But the closing ceremony, divided into two sections, was less a presentation than a performance. The first half of the show, about 1.5 hours, was billeted as "spoken word," but was not so much spoken word as it was a reading--although about 3-4 of the readers employed some of the better characteristics of spoken word. The second half was a viewing of about 8 short films.
I think the artists were surprised to see such a large audience, and indeed it was large. About 50 people were there, I would guess, many milling about in the rear or the sides because the show was roughly 15 chairs short. I got stuck in the back on the floor, which was just fine... The acoustics took some time sorting out (a loud ringing off and on for the first performance), but eventually the show took off and had me intrigued. The first half of the "spoken word" performers did well, held my attention for the most part. A hilarious piece about "the attempters, the bad, and the good" (that's an approximate translation not exact) meditated on the various forms of fucking, and how fucking could move from "attempt" to "bad" depending on the amount of verbalization going on. Although her piece was pretty funny, I have to admit I was more entranced by her voice... extremely lilting, a kind of light southern drawl bringing out the important emphases. This is what I thought a few of the pieces did better than others, making some of the work "spoken word" and the rest of it just reading.
By the second half of the reading, I was getting a little worn down. I started to became temporarily pissy after a 10-minute piece by a guy who I'm sure meant well, but read some slightly-pompous philosophizing, which I'm sorry, just doesn't read well unless you're going to hype the poetry and de-hype the mathematical language (it amazingly coincided with my September entry "Intellectuals Grind Beef"). This was followed by a piece that sounded interesting but couldn't hold my attention, and finally by a hilarious piece by a MFAW graduate who wrote about joining an online dating group, getting ignored, and the dissolution of "winking at himself" followed by "writing flirtation letters to himself" and then "getting pissed off at himself" and "blocking himself" from himself. A good way to end.
The second half of the performance was a bunch of film pieces that made me feel like perhaps I should take up filmmaking, having only one quarter of experience and a good eye under my belt. The short films were either conceptually interesting and visually inane, or visually interesting and conceptually inane, usually the former. I was amazed by how slapped together some of the films looked... Of course, my friend's piece--"Tea Ceremony"--was conceptually interesting and short enough to hold itself together... the visual relied on jk's incredible flair/talent for fashion, and so worked out well. The last piece was a kind of "candid camera" series about hugging random strangers on the street, and it was pretty well done - from different angles, inviting speculation and anticipation. But I was nevertheless relieved when these were done.
Afterwards, I had the opportunity to browse around and look at various pieces in the exhibit itself--lots of photography, some installation pieces, and a few paintings. Actually, most of it was well-done... particularly the three paintings done by an artist my roommate recognized--works with ropes draping across the canvas, occasionally pausing from one side to another to hold a bag of dark material (looked like coal)... and then swish over to the other side. These paintings seemed very nautical to me, and reminded me of barges carrying petroleum-products across waters, but I honestly didn't have a chance to study them long enough.
3. But if you asked me if the exhibition really earned selfishness, I'd have to say no. I'm not sure where the title originated... there didn't seem to be enough conceptual overlap between the various artists' works, or maybe no formal tie-together available for the viewing. I think I would have appreciated a manifesto or rhapsodic contemplation of selfishness to end the closing ceremony, or to start it, but didn't find one. And really, when you think about it... thinking, really thinking, about what selfishness means, is, and does - it's pretty important. Too bad I didn't get any further with that...
I was nevertheless very happy to have gone. So, the exhibit must've been doing something well!
II. World Series and Psuedo-Dancing
I went out last night with my new-found winenight buddies, and yes, I had a good time even though it took place in a sports bar!
I spent an inordinate amount of time looking at everybody and feeling all soft and warm and fuzzy to have such a group around me, hollering quietly when the White Sox played well, so as to not upset Houston-identifying T & C. I found it actually quite humorous to watch the nervous tension slide in and out, the pitchers of beer to slide on the table, people to circle around the table, bumping each other and patting each other's backs. Formations.
At some point, a friend tried to stuff herself thoroughly into a 6-inch overhang-space behind the doorframe, and then lamented that her ass was too big... I was confused. But I sense this is what it's all really about.
I am still adapting though... I ended up calling my sis right before going into the bar and telling her that I was going to watch the Astros versus the White Sox. "What, is that football?" she asked. This morning, I talked to sp and told her, yet another Pac-Northwestener, that I watched the World Series, and she responded, "Is that the Soccer Series?" Basically, this affirmed every sense I've had about my Bville family folks being completely, if not totally, ignorant about the intricacies of sports, sports bars, and people running around with chaw in their lips. It made me feel better about my own deep deep ignorance on these matters.
And so, although I would piss and moan about the pitcher losing it, I really was making it all up because it sounded good and seemed to look right. Haha. So, when the Astros lost the first game, poor T & C were momentarily bluesy, but then bucked up under a pretended nonchalance. We got even drunker and then I managed to rile everyone up into what I thought would nicely lead to dancing... "I pity the foo."
Roving back and forth, I let the guys know the girls were dragging them, and goddamn it yes, they better go for it after we (and by we, I mean me, since all the other girls seem to understand baseball quite well) had suffered through the sports bar thing. Surely they could suffer through the dancing. So, we got going, walked basically what was a W-N-E pattern, backtracking and laughing. Asking various folks for directions since there was a little geographical infighting.
The place we were heading, when we got there, had a line halfway down the block. Sigh. I managed to secure us under-5$ covers at another place trying to hit their quota, but this is when my new peeps bagged out on me, and dragged us all into another virtually-sports bar (although the decor was nautical, various paintings of ships along the walls). Fortunately for me, everybody at least seemed a little guilty. "Sorry, j" was something I heard several times, and cc even came and loner-danced with me (trying maybe to tone down my obnoxiousness, because damn, I wasn't in full swing, but I was heading that way, and dared her to dance with all the passersthroughers... which she said was "rude"). But with time, lm & z & e & most of the others, did a little fun table-jive... lm and cc pretending to yank each other over the table via imaginary dance-rope, which was fun. I do believe cc almost--and I emphasize almost because it was never consummated although I was waiting--knocked over her beer about twenty-thousand times.
I also got to hear about traveling as a woman in Egypt, and then I got to go out and grab a nice quesadilla at Clarks. Although we also ordered some Mexican potatoes that must have had chili powder or something mixed in, because it burned my mouth badly for about an hour, and we couldn't finish the potatoes. And then, the long journey home alone, taking the sub south (damn it was friggin cold waiting on that platform), and then the long journey north.
A good evening, and I listed to music on the way back, but it was late enough for me to miss my family, my buds-in-crime, and to wonder what I was doing here. A distinct disadvantage of going home quietly at 4:00am... sadness. Contemplation of the number 11. But as I walked across the transfer walkway at Washington (red to blue), I noticed it was all men around me... about 15 folks walking through a white tube, and I thought, I may be missing the past at this present, but the tube, these guys, the music, and the walk from one side to the next with all these men strangers around me... is why I am here. And enough reason to write.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
that time again
Woke up this morning swathed in orange. Drank coffee from at the kitchen window and looked at all the leaves swirling slowly on the sidewalk. People passing by: a man on his cellphone with two children trailing behind. A woman sitting in a large car with the hood propped up. She sat there watching me back for awhile. Two girls with backpacks. The sky making up its mind to rain. Trickles.
I went out sofa shopping again with no luck... it's frustrating. I guess everyone at my party will have to sit on the floor.
Listening to two musics, thinking of subways. Reflection of reflection of reflection. With the right perspective, you can look at one person in three ways. Thought of traveling with tw and c, the hiccups which finally ceased. Laughter at the triumph of getting rid of hiccups... nothing quite compares.
I've been feeling soft today. Soft and quiet. Joshua Tree and Damian Rice.
"I gave me away
I could have knocked off the evening
But a lonelily landed my wants in her hands
In a way I felt you were leaving me
I was sure I wouldn't find you at home
And you let me down
Could have knocked off the evening
But you lonelily let him push under your bone
You let me down
It's no use deceiving
Neither of us wanna be alone;
You're coming home"
The songs on his b-sides live cd sounds like the view from my window.
I've been sleeping longer, but tonight I am going to a bar to root for the astros with my friends. I better get going...
Friday, October 21, 2005
cc was right
i love a movie that leaves me aching and joyful at the same time.
i'm trying to figure out how to get images looking how i want them in different browsers... mac, pc, safari, netscape, explorer, mozilla, etc. so, if you see something whompus, let me know, so i can keep working on it...
which brings me to another intriguing issue. in the two weeks I've had the sitemeter for curiousity, I've had over four-hundred hits. i'm sure most are passersby from blogger, but i still wonder why so few comments... it's rather odd.
p.s. this picture is of me mezmorizing you into commenting by working the eyes (ja dieses Mittel Sie mein liebes Mädchen, das ich nicht gehört habe, seit sie alt sich drehte).
outside within without in
“Oran,” Cixous says, “ohr ahn. My hometown, the place I grew up in. Phonetically, inside out. Outside hor. Inside (d)ans. I was born inside and out.”
The question of nomad, the one born inside and out. Born inside this skin, I am outside of others. Born into the world outside my body, I am inside place. Inside time. Inside the outside.
Within community, its people inside our mind. Without community, its people inside our mind. Within community, its people outside our mind. Without community, its people outside our mind. Who do you carry? And how do we construct our homes?
You frame my body. The structural supports of my roof. The kitchen of my heart. The basement of this soulspeaker. A few areas full and overflowing: books, computer, paintbrushes, aquariums, clothes, shoes, music, dictionaries, trash, cords, bed, sheets, plants. I will gather the supplies from the space inside you’ve created. A few areas empty, quiet, acoustically sound: bare painted walls, wooden floors soft and cool to walk across. I will shuffle across your land, I will walk along your body. My home will be the shell you create for me.
Of course, the outside. I stick my head out, my paws and arms extend. Claws scrabble at the gravel bed of water, and the green floating plants stand in the way. I struggle over and under them. I stand on my back paws and lift my head up out of the water. Open my nostrils to the heated air above me. And then duck back inside. Up above my head, bits of shrimp float and I will rush up and grab them, gulp them down whole and retch up the bones. A fish darts by, and I will leave it a snack for another day.Sometimes I come out, venture into the outside, and get scared by imagined dangers. I’ve spoken too much, I’ve told you my self. Will you think me cheap or drab? Will you break my hard surfaces, the framework of my imagined body? Will you take all the insides, all the people I love, all the voices wrapped around me, and speak them dry?
Outside the structure, a beast runs circles. First she’s on one side, lashing her tail. She jumps onto hills and runs to the other side. Her paw slaps the window of my home, and then she is gone. I run from side to side, trying to find safety, but the truth is: she’ll never get in. Unless she upsets the whole home, turns it upside down like a hurricane in reverse—the damns burst to suck my insides dry.
So many places. So many homes. I think back to Bville, Oran, Guayaquil, Invisible Cities. The echoes and memories lurking in overlap.
“When I moved from Oran to Paris, I carried Oran inside. So I was in Ohr Ahn and in Paris too. When I traveled from Paris to New York, I carried Paris inside. So I was in Ohr Ahn and in Paris and in New York too.” Cixous.
Land. This land. How many homes to carry, how they corner me. I stick my head out, and see an old place over new. But the new place cannot be the old, it is layered, multiple, but not the same, not home but a home.
In Spanish, sin is without. Casa is home. Sincasa is my name. House of sin. My clothes, the definition of my nomadic state. I live in the house of sincasa, the struts of people I meet there.
You are my home. I enter inside to dwell, the outside dwells inside. I hold the hints of homes before, I hand them over and become. Life tears, and art stitches. I sew the fabrics of our dome. The tent rises, the tent falls, someday it will be unpacked and rise to dry out the inside again. Within the tent, I hold your body, brush my palms against and find residence. Tomorrow, I will take it down. Today will be inside me. Memory the framing, and not the wrecking ball.
Community outside of me, without community. I walk inside of you. My fingers run the walls, my feet the ceilings, my mouth the air. I listen to the echoes of old-new lands. I ask you where you’ve been. I find a floor and lie down nude on your plank. My head leaves shell into shell within the shell outside the structure. Will you hold me? Will I hold you? Is it possible for the inside to hold the outside?
bez – without. dom – dome. nik – steal.
I steal without the home. I steal within the dome. Above me, an orb, shiny metallic stainreflection. A circumference of sky.
He talks for twenty minutes about the Mongolian invasions and how this developed the ideology of nomad. Life is a travel, and so is art. His films are international in tenor—one in the States, one in France, one planned for every other continent. He wants to cross the lines, to blur. He sets up strong narratives and then runs them through the subjectivity of characters whose language he cannot understand. After the session, he gives me a copy of his movie. I think he has a crush.
Me, I’m figuring out a new distillation.
How to sell yourself. How to do the research and couch it in humble narcissism. The gentle way she sits in her seat. The smiles after they leave. Something excited in them.
I think the best I can do is have them leave that way. Smiling, running to the secretary to set up another meeting. Energy suffused in their walks, something higher and lifted in them. The best rising and lifting them like helium.
My tutoring philosophy is love. My philosophy is passion.
Sometimes it doesn’t work. How am I supposed to help someone time-manage? I can barely get myself out of bed in time for class. I do my homework the night before and waste the rest of my time on the internet, scanning around for inspiration and connection.
Tall and lanky, she sits in stained corduroy pants and her teeth stick out a little. Endearingly, not buckily. She gets awfully quiet and it’s hard to tell if she’s buying the paper handouts we give her to fill out her schedule. Will she chart herself? Will she manage to examine time itself? I try a different technique: I tell her about stress and deadlines. How time-management takes place more in the struggle to set up appropriate stress and friend-driven deadlines. Paint for others, I tell her. Let them be your pressure. Cultivate a culture of entertained audience.
I think about the card my brolaw drew for me. “A Guide to Pacific Coast Bottom Dwellers” with halibut, cod, long-liners, and captains with beer in the hand. On the inside, an “aging hippy” with “dried-up eggs” and two, no make that one, turtles on a string. The message written on the inside: where is your novel? When is it coming? This, I want to tell her, is time-management.
She leaves without setting up another meeting, and ah well, I admitted what I did and didn’t know, and that’s the other part of my philosophy. Never lie about knowledge.
So, I try to help with artist statements, cover letters, essays on art.
A Korean girl comes in worried about her grammar on an essay about a picture from the Art Institute. It is a beautiful still, a slice cut directly from time and poised in black and white. I read her description and it is perfect. So is her imaginative interlude. And then her interpretation shifts past the details into cliché and I love this girl, because when I tell her this, she laughs and says, “wow, I spent hours looking at that picture and in five minutes you saw things I never did.” And this isn’t about my powers of observation, but about observation itself. Her details obeserved. My details a flash. When they bring in their essays, I try to see them whole in thirty minutes and offer an interpretation.
Another girl brings in an essay about failure, in which she has left out all but the bones of occurrence. This is incredible, I tell her, but you cheated.
-Yeah, she says. I didn’t want to talk about it.
-But you did, I say. It’s right there, and on the page you haven’t earned your revelation, but I get the sense that off the page you did. So, if you want this essay to be about communication, you have to allow your readers to experience the pathways you passed along.
-But I don’t want to talk about it, she says. It’s just the same old story. Everyone has to go through it sometime or another.
-That’s okay, I say. You’re talking about something important. Failure isn’t something to let go of because it scares you.
-I’ll think about it, she says. She smiles too.
-Don’t cheat, I tell her.
What I love is that she knows exactly what I’m talking about. I can say it, and she can let out a sigh of relief because it wasn’t just her. Someone else knew what she was striving for, but couldn’t allow herself to write. She doesn’t cry because I tell her she wimped out on the important stuff. Instead, she laughs, happy I’m not going to talk about grammar.
Another girl translating from Polish to English. Ah, I say, this sentence is really awkward, but I can see your struggle. You want to keep in the eye metaphor to connect with the next sentence, but the syntax goes off because it doesn’t translate exactly. She nods her head, and we re-arrange to keep the essence without losing the sense.
It’s amazing, translation. I knew it was hard, but I’ve never seen the process, so I’ve never had to develop strategy. How to keep to the intentions, keep to the wordplay, keep to the idea, keep the beauty while inhabiting a world where the structural framework of intention, wordplay, idea and beauty is completely different. How to translate an apartment into a yurt.
Maybe that’s my job, in a way. All the translations that go on inside that office. It’s so new for me. I love a job where learning languages is mandatory.
Monday, October 17, 2005
it wasn't applicable
Sunday, October 16, 2005
temporary rant, hopefully not applicable for long
“No, not really.”
“Oh ok, bye.”
Friday night I went out to dancing again. Bleps.
I keep looking places up on the web, trying to find just the right blend, but it hasn’t come yet. Most people in Chicago go out in groups or in pairs and then sit around talking amongst themselves, and once again, I feel like the idiot loner who just can’t help herself.
I chose The Circuit as the nightclub of the night, which a company called “Chixmix Productions” was dj-ing for—a company about which I had seen lesbian fervor on Craiglist, but which was also described by one pissed-off girl as “a bunch of snotty-ass dykes who won’t talk to you as they stand around primping.” I agree with the latter part of this sentiment, but not the former. The clientele doesn’t seem snotty—it just seems young, awkward, boring.
Black-Eyed Peas was playing as I walked in, but quickly ended for Nelly and other psuedo-rap. I ran to the bar, searching for a tap that didn’t consist of Bud Light, but soon realized I’d have to spring for a mixed drink if I wanted something not the consistency of watered-down piss. The cover was just about right—5 bucks—but a Greyhound cost me $6 and jarred nastily with the mint-gum I was chewing. I stood in a corner, and within twenty seconds was assaulted by a girl.
“First, what’s your name?”
I told her, and then listened unbelieving as she asked me if I was one of two astrological signs. She ran off as soon as I deflated her guessing game, and I sighed in relief. But three minutes later she was back.
“You look just like a friend of mine named Brenda. If you’re not Pisces or Aquarius, you must be a Libra or something else.”
Wow. I spent a few seconds calculating the odds of her hitting the right sign after the 17% chance of Pisces or Aquarius was used up (10% if we discount the “or something”).
“Yeah, Libra is close enough.”
“So, I have to go, but can I get your number? Can we hang out sometime?”
I’ve never had someone ask for my number who hadn’t earned the right by at least dancing with me, or buying me a drink, or saving me from a male letch, or shoving some glue-like substance under my nose, telling me to inhale, and then shrugging it off when I say no thanks, I don’t do that stuff. I’d been in the club for a record eight minutes before Alma—“which means soul in Spanish”—found me, ran through the gamut of The Worst Pick-Up Lines Ever, and then fled the club on her way somewhere else.
“Uh, I guess. Sure. But give me your number instead. I’ll call you if I feel like it.”
She startled the pissiness out of me. Her number, written on a matchbook, tucked into my pocket, I watched the massacre on the dance floor.
The club itself—swank. Actually, I think it out-swanked itself. Wooden floors, flashing screens, a dry-ice machine hissing smoke onto the dancefloor in a valiant attempt to mask the fact that about only fifteen people were dancing on a floor built for a hundred. Perfectly constructed lights, flashing orbs, a screen with bubbly kitsch screen-saver projected on it. Three bars, and delicate pastels painted on the walls.
The dancers made me cringe. I try not to be snotty, because I would say my one criterion is joy de vivre, but the 80’s robot totterings of a bunch of fat baseball hats dancing to hip-hop ruffled my spirits. I counted a sum total of two dancers who weren’t half bad (courageous), and at some point the floor became self-conscious and an evacuation took place until a girl came up and requested something that turned out to be: Besa me! Suavamente… beh – sa – me, or salsa. Definitely an upswing, but the next thirty minutes became a techno-salsa mix that swung into light jazz, all of which designed primarily for close couples to spin each other (I saw at least two pairs knocking heads), until it fell into an onfloor make-out session.
I left after forty-five minutes of torture and walked with my headphones on until I got to a bus stop where a man complimented my ripped jeans.
At the very least, I tell myself that I’m doing research for my travel-writing class. I’ve pretty much picked writing about the dance scene just because I couldn’t really think of anything else. Although I’m thinking of switching to art shows, just because I’m finally running out of the steam to go dancing by myself. After Bville, Guayaquil, Montanita, and now Chicago, I’m starting to question the reasoning behind my quest.
Here’s my short travel-writing article, which is over-wordy and dense because I had to keep it under 750 words, a definite stumper for my brevity-challenged self:
“Coming from the east, the black façade of Boystown’s Berlin seems surprisingly flat and quiet for a Saturday night at 1:00am. I pass by slowly, hoping a queue of like-gendered patrons will open its large entrance door for that one peek inside. The one peek: a necessary calming balm to either give the impression of having found temporary domicile, or the virtual elastic band from which one will shoot off elsewhere... But no such luck; I can hear a vague rhythm—certainly possessing solid techno bass—from within the shell, but it still takes a second neighborhood circle before I suck in my breath and dive. The truth about diving alone into the big city nightclub is that if you’re in it for the dancing, but desperately want to dodge the fellow who will inevitably start to grind right in the middle of Bjork, following some simple procedures will help.
“After the reconnaissance loop and initial freefall through the $5 cover, I always start by finding the zone of safety to which I can later retreat after throwing myself onto the dance floor, grooving with Fischerspooner, and then hitting exhaustion. At the Berlin, my zone of safety takes place behind the red shirt of a broad-shouldered queerboy with dreadlocks and a music-smile. You know, the music-smile: correct routine involves finding those people who wear them and together creating the zone. Standing next to the smile, feet twitch and tap—the irrepressible jazz of body—as one seeks out the comfort of familiar faces. Back home, the singular queer nightclub fills with the familiar: baseball-hatted females, doggy collars, dazzlingly sexy nancy-dancers, butches whose muscles one must admire while playing pool, and white-haired men who stand in the corners. With only one drag queen named Betty, who stands centerstage and lips songs while one hand rests on her second belly, drama is scarce yet still palpable. At the Berlin, the familiar is distinctly different.
“Most of Berlin’s crowd dresses well and looks hetero or male, including the packs of salsa-techno men who formally invite the few girls to dance. From the zone of safety, one can afford to turn a few away while searching out the ripest opportunity for the scouting missions. Having seen Party Monster, one would know the best scouting mission formula, but the one-person adaptation uses a combination of arrogant stalk and wistful “searching for that friend who promised to meet me.” In times of dire need, glancing at a watch and then studying the door gives the impression of waiting, which can later be shrugged off as a friendly “I’ve been stood up again” if anyone looks like a more promising dancer than the three most recently brushed off.
“Yet scouting missions contain a threefold import. One: when alone, it can be imperative to dart off for a loosening beer, which—at $4.75 a pint—seems a little pricey at the Berlin. More reason to leisurely sip the booze, give polite thanks to the girl who says “nice tattoo,” and take in the lay of the land—the second scouting significance. After a few minutes under the wide muraled grin of a woman suspiciously resembling Madonna, the sense of déjà vu might set in: didn’t I just see that man? The answer to the question is probably yes. Incredibly small, the Berlin uses mirrors along the western wall to give the appearance of depth. Bustling next to the mirrors, dancers form circles and bob alongside each other, rarely climbing onto one of the three central stages, which have encircling ropes that exude the feel of a boxing ring. You won’t find pool tables, but three bar areas overflow with talkers. Scouting undeniably unmasks the unfamiliar: despite the well-dj’d music, we’re in a bar-scene where the actual dancing limps along until about 2am, when all the last-minute shoppers show up.
“But one should never forget the third reason for the scouting mission: with careful examination of the dance floor, places open for the solitary dancer to insert herself. If chosen poorly, the dancer will be squeezed out of place like a pea from a pod. If chosen correctly, she can quaff music energy while enjoying the saucy grins of beautiful gayboys and bathing in the sweaty dance heat from a crowd of searching eyes. And one shouldn’t forget the last step of the procedure: always ride the music current until time comes to whirl out the door like a fish breaching for home.”
Yeah. I think I already wrote a little bit about that dance experience out here somewhere on the blog. Sigh.
So, what’s going on? What the hell is Chicago?
Well, bad dancing experiences aside, things have been running crazy. After Cixous, which knocked my socks off and sent me off to bed exhausted, I went to a Robert Bresson flick titled Un condamné à mort s'est échappé or A Man Condemned to Death Escapes, which I expected to be another French quirk, but which turned out to be beautiful and incredibly tense. I sat clutching the edges of my shirt, listening to the girls next to me gasping when the character was nearly caught, and gasping when he had to face a guard who stood in the way of his freedom. The film itself was quiet, very quiet, and the voice of the narrator comforting. Although I knew the ending of the film via title, I still spent an amazing amount of time worrying—not for the main character, but for everyone around him. We may know the eventual fate of one, but we don’t know the deaths and losses of his community. So, the bare and meditative movement of the piece encourages reflection on groups, resistance, and the roulette game of life.
I left the film center alone… feeling like maybe I too was making my own form of escape and wondering who got to stay behind in prison. As I walked out, the bells of a nearby church hit 8:00, and cars flowed, people coupled up, cigarettes were smoked, and I hopped on the subway, feeling more alone maybe than I have in quite some time. Not alone in the sense of people not around me, but alone because it has been awhile since I’ve run into anyone with a compatible and fidgeting sensibility as mine (here in Chicago, that is). I wondered if to make art is to be alone, which doesn’t entirely make sense. Art should be about community, should it not? I spend quite a bit of time wondering about that.
Truthfully, I haven’t exactly found tight friends here, with the one exception of my roommate, who made me a birthday cake, inspires me to wash dishes, feeds me Chinese soups, and seems to thrive on taking me to new places in Chicago to eat. I’ve gone to innumerable parties and made lots of chitchat, at one point stumbling into a 45-minute conversation about birth control and television that left me feeling red-faced and strange, or estranged, one of the two. It wasn't a bad conversation, exactly, it just left me wondering what I had to add... Of course, it drifted onto other topics eventually, but I was a little tipsy and once I feel outside of something... sigh. This is my life.
Inside, I feel chockablock. Every time I step on the subway, I meet a new face. Last week, a conversation, if that’s what it was, with a man talking about the difference between blacks and whites, salvation, who knows what. I was a little drunk and my main purpose in the conversation was to not back off. He moved up in my face, thumped the air with a tube of strawberry chapstick, which he would then use to grease his already-red lips while talking about blue eyes, black men who didn’t understand him, etc. I didn’t move away or look down. This, I think, caused him to ask me what I did in my life. I told him I was a writer and we discussed whether books or stories or what. He then took the book I was carrying (JoAnn Beard’s Boys of My Youth) out of my hand—I calmed myself down by saying if it was lost, I could always pay for it—and indicated to me while waving the book around, that he could sell anything I wrote from of the back of his car. He told me I should just do it, write what I knew to be true, and before long, with a Buick trek across the universe, he would have sold a thousand, then more than a thousand of my books. Then he handed back my library-borrowed stories.
Why is it I feel I have nobody here to share such a tale with? I’m at a school of artists, and I’ve been getting the vibe that I’m never going to fit. I hear reference to all the other students going out together to restaurants, baseball games, bars, etc… and yet I have yet to be invited by anyone, although I managed to foist myself onto one sushi dinner with two other writers. Part of me doesn’t want to try to force myself in if I don't fit, but I’m so tired of exploring this world by myself and would really appreciate toe-stepping like funk down the street with my friends. Where is the music? Where is the dare? When will it come to me?
I've had a great workshop, met a few teachers, heard a story about an octopus, gone to every “wine-night,” and had an intriguing conversation about re-enactment with a girl from an eastern-block country, who invited me to re-enact part of the script for an eight-minute film she is doing, and I talk with everyone I can.
But I think I’m going to turn stupid as all hell if I don’t find an intellectual conversation that lasts past seven minutes or a subway ride, or a body that can shake its ass. Enough with the girls asking me my sign, for god’s sake.
Monday, October 10, 2005
cixous cixous, mon petite jew
And it was honestly because when I read her work, I saw for the first time, the first time I can remember, how theory and idea can bed the word. How a crisp and crystal concept might ride piggyback, yes piggyback like love and anger and redemption, on the back of a lovely letter. And one might see how y is a balcony and n a low round slide. In redemption, we start with awkward climbing and then hit lumps of half-slide, scale against tempters in part reversed, and then prepare to slick fall off the edge into space. Yes, this is perhaps what I saw in her writing, this is what made my head ache and my skin turn red, this is what produced marginalia and dreams. Because burstlike I realized that a story does not capture the story by itself, but: the home clothes the room heats the clothes hold the body contains the juices houses the nutrients feeds the self two ways. Two parts, cells and movement, structure and flight. And the in between, the ligament of stretch between bone and muscle, is a mind, limber and flexing with each reading, at least two theories approaching either side of the page.
In my backpack, wrapped in a plastic baggie—-the kind with green ziptop closer-—a piece of homemade paper, a yellow chewed into pink bits, fragments of blender belching, shredded and falling apart. It takes only one thumbtack puncture, through which dental floss holds a second piece of paper to the first. This second piece is a tiptorn, a torn tip from the lower right-hand side of paper that once existed in a blue three-ring binder. I carried that binder around during the year of shoulder chips lost and never retrieved. On the paper, thin blue lines, furrowed atrophies of academia. And written atop their two-dimensional planes:
“I, the undersigned….”
An adhockery of legalese, did I ever write that way, think that way…?
“do hereby swear…”
Swear to what? Swear to be eternally fickle and changing. Sorry. Swear to love you right now and remain true to the light by which I loved, and not the mode of transfer. Loyalty. Swear to millisecondly realize something new, see it up freshly like a drugged up patdown, strive for everything feasible within the framework of this me, this…
“to renounce the dominant patriarchal
Oh, little buttercup, oh round and yellow reflection on the buttside of a butter-loving chin. How glowy, how we glow. The darling rampage of excitement…
“and write like Cixous for our upcoming paper…”
And below it: names, names, names. All those who swore to try. When I showed Bill the contract, he told me that only dp and I upheld the contract.
Although I failed miserably. When I look back on that paper, I’m embarrassed, but I’m also fond because it was my first (among the continuing many) attempt to unite thought and form, and I wasn’t sure how, so it’s hugely contrived and transparent as simple sin. I think it wasn’t until Beasley’s class where the idea of “meditation” came my way that I actually started on this path I now strive to walk: fitting ideas over stories like installation art, not just the must of story repetition, the already spoken, but the search for new home, new ways, new loves.
And so, I held this contract, the buttercup moment I passed around the class after I read an author whose words romped around somewhere inside of me.
Sitting next to her, I start the tonguetied moment…
Ani Difranco:…simply by noting. Noting is a solid place to begin when talking awks.
see the little song bird unable to make a sound
even though she follows her words from town to town
we both have gardens of songs and maybe it's okay
that i am speechless because i picked you this bouquet
Note: something within visitors maintains a distance. I wonder idly how I’d act if I ever had the opportunity to meet a crew of over-eager kids who have come to meet me, drink coffee, eat cookies, for various reasons. I imagine myself as I already am as a teacher: over-energetic and bounce. Prancing. But the two famous artists I have met have both been silent and withdrawn. Something in the process of forming under their skincrusts and I find it like guessing an ocean from blank surface current. A face that is passive, half-lowered lids, no smile, waiting. The internal sigh: what? And of course, there will never be enough time for me to settle, for this heart that thumps when I talk to a simple teacher, to slow and articulate, to mount that confidence, that assertive and well-spoken me, to emerge.
Inside my backpack, I carry the three-year old contract I’ve signed, framed and brought to show her young artists who will go somewhere…
And she begins by dismaying me.
An eager chap in a pinstripe suit asks her who her favorite artists are, and as silly as it is, I imagine her speaking names I should write down out of surprise… but the forerunner of escriture feminine lists the following: Montaigne, Russo, Proust, Shakespeare, Milton, Homer, Beethoven, and ‘even’ Thelonius Monk among others. She does not mention a single female name, not one (although she later mentions Lispector twice, my beloved Lispector), because I keep waiting and noting, noting and waiting, and in the back of my mind: this is the woman who launched the first PhD in women’s studies in France. Not that I find flaw with her list, but…
I was dismayed. Waiting for something more? Something unheard?
And so I took refuge in noting. Her hair close cropped, almost nappy at the roots, lidded dark brown eyes… the lids grooved by wrinkles, not lazy ones—those wrinkles that sag about eyes and cast down her stare—but brillopad rough. Her skin is olive and slightly exotic, something about it speaks of ancestors not French, but Middle Eastern. Algiers is her birthplace, and before listing the canonical litany, she speaks about her maternal family’s side: Jewish women who had long since known the ideas she fixed with words. She sluffs off her earlier work that way: as if her first fist theories weren’t something she invented, nothing that should have been unexpected, but rather something that pre-existed unarticulated from a line of powerful Jewish women scholars and then arrived at the academy. And upon seeing women, scholars, people on the streets, “who didn’t even know they had a body” erupted spoken from Medusa snake lips. Commonsense, my darlings, is the undercurrent of what she is saying, and I wonder if it’s in defense of the essentialist feminism perceived to have lost its function in a society such as ours. She mentions several times that her earlier ideas are “old and outdated” for our current situation. That female place not an issue anymore. That women know they have bodies.
Yes, but they know it because women like Cixous still write. It is not an intuitive process yet, I want to tell her, and saying that it is “an old issue” is forgetting the hundreds of people in America and beyond for whom it is new to have an orgasm, to love themselves, to run fingers across their thigh just for the pleasure of silk. But she claims her early writing for places like Japan, where she says her older ideas are still “new” because Japan is like a Westernized country in the 70s.
I feel something very very quiet in me.
Likewise, I don’t interrupt and tell her what I think, all the bouquets in my head: that the amazing thing about what she used to write, and what she still writes, is not just what she said, although that’s smart too, but the way in which she says. And that, my dear, is not a thing of the past.
Cixous:I heard another teacher recently say something along the lines of past-abnegation, the denial of the forces that are still so very strong and always impending down. The insinuation that the “personal essay” has more sway in academia nowadays than does the traditional format, and maybe that’s true on high, but why are there so many people who sign contracts like… “I the undersigned,…” who then write like they don’t know how to play an idea into form?
Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst—burst with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up in frames and sold for a stinking fortune. And I, too, said nothing, showed nothing; I didn’t open my mouth, I didn’t repaint my half of the world. I was ashamed. I was afraid, and I swallowed my shame and my fear. I said to myself: You are mad! What’s the meaning of these waves, these floods, these outbursts? Where is the ebullient, infinite woman who, immersed as she was in her naiveté, kept in the dark about herself, led into self-disdain…hasn’t been ashamed of her strength?
It’s not impossible, and this is what nourishes life—a love that has no commerce with the apprehensive desire that provides against the lack and stultifies the strange; a love that rejoices in the exchange that multiplies.
Laugh of Medusa
Form/Thought isn’t accepted yet, and people haven’t a clue how to do it. I struggle with it: how to structure word, sentence, live birth, paragraph, page… what I’m thinking / others are thinking? How to build something constructed of the natural and recycled fabrics of memory, tinker toys, imagination, dialogue?
And dare we call Japan like us in the seventies?
Some of this catches up with me when she starts talking about how art/artists are always ahead of their times and that’s what defines art (Great Art, it almost seemed she is saying… am I hearing Jeannette Winterson, Eliot, Kant again?), and then people “catch up” with art and it no longer seems so fresh.
I’m spend some time being glad that I’m in the Time class because I am at least able to form a question that post-lecture will morph: is she placing the concept of art and great art in the arena of linear progression and a modernity constantly struggling to “race after” (she used these words) the brilliant futures created prematurely in the minds of artists? Now I can say: If this is what you are saying, I disagree with you, Cixous. Maybe I'm developing words to put explain what I feel intuitively in reaction to the idea of the fixture of greatness (not in defense of crap, but in defense of the unknown). Here’s what I feel: the concept of Great Art is woghash, and my saying this takes absolutely nothing away from the great and amazed respect, passion, love and hitherto unspoke bouquets I feel for those artists who have fashioned wor(l)ds incredible incredible, including Cixous herself.
I don’t feel that art is “ahead” of its time, but that it is inextricably imbedded, created, in and from time. Art does not exist on the vertical… it does not race ahead and leave everything else behind struggling to catch up. Art mainly exists on the horizontal: each piece, whether bad or good, resides in parallel to a many-life, and what art does is open many-life up to many other lives. Art threshes the field horizontally and vertically. It gives us infinity to perceive the present and infinity perceive the past/future.
One great artwork might help us envision an alternate history. Another might give us today from within an exoskeleton. Another… the creation of histoimagination revealed. Not Great Art, but vast openings. Fields for the frolic. Utopias re/created and distopias re/visited.
What is amazing about art is this capacity to unfasten time, memory, stasis, hatred, confusion. It can close little off. Art can unnarrow our lives, unfix it from a thin band of future, which we will catch up to someday. There is no “aha, but of course this was bound to be perceived as art and theory tomorrow,” but there is one world in which we all step through a threshold or follow the path blazed by others or are pushed over a ledge through openings that happen to coincide—either through initial rupture or contingent connections—with art that has also opened that direction. Therefore Great Art is simply a name for the artwork through which we have, in some form or life or imagining or love, gone.
But this does not make a piece of art just better. Better makes a world full of more simultaneous openings. Better leaves more room for every voice to be a calling.
Cixous tells us that in the meeting that “some people think they are called, but they are not. This is the way it unfortunately works. I have a son who is a great mathematician, and I look at him sometimes like an odd species. He has been called by the language of mathematics, and I would be mistaken to believe I was called in the same way. Sometimes you take on the voice, but that does not mean you’ve been called.”
And I think… called where? Called by whom? Called by which? Is there not a language for us all? If language is therapy, like she also says, then why would some have access to the analysis and not others? If the first thing to give the homeless, the downtrodden, the starving on the street is a paper and pencil, as she also says, then who is to say that the path inscribed on that paper, the smallest squiggle, is not a great opening to a world we cannot travel to?
Cixous, Cixous, mon petite Jew, do I misunderstand you?
I retreat dismayed, my flowers hidden in misunderstanding, in confusion. Buttercups, a field for you.
I keep note: a thin body, sharp and angled like sparrow crossed with raptor. A nose horizontal that suddenly crashes down into thin lips over teeth, incisors slightly jutting. She wears multitudes of fabrics, draperies, gold twined through with green and brown, lacy undershirt that dazzles and a tweedlike coat like a scholar judge. Around her neck, a brown scarf and above her eyes, two plucked and drawn lines mirroring the eyeliner she marks out beyond her lids – two extra slants of paint reaching, too precise for garish, too prominent for average.
I keep note: a thin body, a small space of bandy leg jutting out of brown fabricked pants. A white space of leg with a singular small freckle on the right calf. She drinks something, tea perhaps, keeps the cup in her left hand and uses the right for intellectual aeronautics. A napkin poised on the lap that miraculously forms. At times she leans forward, her face cast downwards, slipping to a floor plane we’re not sitting on, and I sense a grief welling up in her. She mentions Derrida, a beloved, and her voice descends and falls. A pure articulation of loss.
She fills in pauses within sentences, gaps between ledges, with a softly slide ecetera, ecetera. Only ever two, they rush like breath between closing teeth. ecetera, ecetera.
I think there is the instinct to believe that philosophies must be clear, unilateral, and without internal opposition. This is clearly not true of Cixous. As I argue with her in my head, and yet accept that maybe there isn’t enough time, because some of what she says is cliché…
“The world is a school. Everything is a school, if you use it right.”
And some is intriguing, perhaps more so because only a clifftip an awkward ten-person “meet & greet” can only find the time to walk off but not rappel. And shit, here I am sitting right next to the women, and all I can do is chuckle irritatingly when she says that art is “half-science, half-sport,” but I can’t speak the reason I’m chuckling: because both races and science follow such rigid rules for such defined purposes, and I never thought of art as either…nor did I ever see her art this way. Rules bound within, true, the rules of word always to be bent outward, but the goal: a ribbon to slice across? But this I don’t say, and I don’t ask questions, and I don’t give her the gift of the buttercup-contract, because I suddenly am not sure if she would feel the same gentle and tender humor I feel when I see it. I don’t know if she would laugh sweetly about all the contradictions and contractions within such a small scrap of promisepaper.
I start to think that maybe it’s me who perceives that particular paper as a world once existing, and always existing, always, virtual and hopeful. As long as someone has this idea pinned to a corkboard, as long as someone believes, as I do, that great great things will come from the names on a most innocent of classroom balderdash.
And towards the very end of our conversation—the long conversation within which I drift off into my head because I feel no access to words, and thus have to maneuver conversations within—a teacher asks Cixous for some “strategy”: how might one survive the current state of academia as a thinker and theorist.
And my heart sinks with the question (because I what I want to ask her, but never do, because of speechless speechless: how does she work theory and story together? By what processes does she think on the page? Or off? Does she intuitively grasp something in her writing and understand it later, or does she form a soft-shell of idea over which she slides a tale? Does she every feel the large leap between brain and heart, between intellect and expression, or did her form/thought always fit together so well?), and my heart hums with her answer:
“Well, to start, it should never be about survival. That is a given. You will survive, but you can survive anywhere.
But then it could be forcing yourself to it, getting through the situation, in which case maybe you should be doing something else. Because you shouldn’t have to brutalize yourself.
But then—if you are asking about how to thrive, how to make it well: the answer is friends. It is simple, but the friends is important, you form a group or a partnership, and you…”
And in her answer (which I’m sure I’ve bastardized) is the idea of connection and excitement, of joy and contract, of the meeting of languages and exchange of loyalties… and I love her for it. I love her simply // strongly for the theory we share: friendship is the way to move past survival, past making yourself do it, and into the rush, the gift, the transference of betterthanwe-thoughts…
I realize now that another time, another place, I would give this woman a gift, but that it would be more than an contract that means so much to me. It would take work to give to this woman, and I am sad, because a grief wraps over her and I would like to think it simple really—-a smile, my hand, some wiggling words dashed like dots across a page—-but I don’t think it is this time, I just don’t feel it is. The contract is a virtual I take part in, because they are names I hold, and the idea is bigger here not there… but if I could give that motion to her, I would.
Cixous, Cixous, mon petite Jew. She is so brilliant and dazzling, a perambulatory teller of spiral. She has no thesis, no starting point exactly. She does not go to the podium, but begins with sweet and simple thanks, bending over the table and leaning on a pile of papers she has wrapped in a home-made cloth and tied to be untied, to be spoken and read.
She starts gentle voiced, there are few peaks and few freefalls, but slight emphasis sometimes appear surprisingly. It is hard to follow her, hard to understand where she will go. She gives a lecture on cities and homes and the words that form our consciousness of homes. She talks about leave-taking and death, the mourning for all that falls away, the mourning for the fact that we can never know the thing, we can only ever know that which is translated.
Something Mark Doty wrote in Writer’s Chronicle: “Why did I experience my book as betrayal? The lives of other people are unknowable. Period. I wouldn’t go as far as a poet colleague of mine who says that “representation is murder,” but I would acknowledge that to represent is to maim” (17).
Something Cixous said: Everything is translation. The only thing that is not translation is death, which is the death of translation. But we have no choice not to translate, there is nothing else.
But she also called translation “translaying” as if both she and Doty see the reading of the other as a potential act of violence, with the only other option—death.
And Cixous plays with words all over the place, writes them up on the board and rearranges letters so as to excavate cities from within city names because “every city” she has lived in “has three names. Is three cities.” And she talks about the way we translate place and the place is the body and the place is a land. The city is something to both fear and love.
[Not Actually Finished]
this shit cracks me up
Sunday, October 09, 2005
The night of her exodus floods with dragonflies. Their bittibat wings crack-snap the hot evening, aligning air into bursts of small release and tumble. Stars sweat and blur against the vacuumous backdrop, and in the distance, Sahere can see only the promise of hills she knows, a sky singed black from cobalt.
A small light flutters in the window of her home on the left, her father reading, his arm pushed against a raw cedar desk, glasses pushed askew by his hand. His lips will be moving in order to catch up to the running ink. Outside, grasses and poppies, red heartbursts, the hum of an empty second, a blank standstill of time, an immobile frame holding chickadees as they chirp-chip into nests where eggs will soon warm their round bottoms.
Coming in from her thought-stalk, Sahere runs into a dragonfly, or it runs into her, and she feels its honed paws bounce off her and an armored body fall into spiral. She holds out her hands and catches the dragonfly as it rebounds, catches it upside down and grudging. Its wings scratch along her palm and she thinks of the fortuneteller who said the rivers of Sahere’s hand spoke only of source, and not of estuary.
“What source?” she asked the fortuneteller, who didn’t ever smile.
The fortuneteller’s head tilted up and accepting eyes looked through a hole ripped into the lid of her tent. The sky outside a damp grey, cool, and Sahere could see nothing followed by a thin slice as a crow passed quickly through nothing. The fortuneteller asked Sahere if she had ever heard of adbhuta, and Sahere said no, still looking at the grey against ragged tear, long threads and fabrics dangling.
“This is your source and you walk in it every day.”
“What is adbhuta?” Sahere asked, but received nothing direct.
“Nothing is foretold, nothing is certain.”
At that moment, a flutter in the room with the fortuneteller, a small swishhhhhsha of moth feathers. Sahere heard the sound and it made her laugh, because for her, laughing was the only thing to do while trapped in a tent with an untold future and a baffling source. The old woman’s mouth smiled back and Sahere saw a tooth broken into two, a hairline fault separating dental halves.
“Ah,” Sahere said, “So what do I do?”
“You listen.” The old women’s voice swept out like half-sigh, half-death, the last sound a turtle makes as it basks on a bank under the sun, before it decides to slide into water for a passing fish.
And the memory fades, seven years ago, a fragment set aside from a sweeping rush that disappears in between. And the memory comes back, the fierce beat of a dragonfly trying to right itself in her hands. The sound of a rattle chuckling by firelight. Sahere tilts her ear closer to it and listens. Then she lets the sound go.
Raising her head, her sight crosses disappearing grasses to her father’s light, sees his eyes closing behind his tilted glasses, hears the reeds of his breath blowing. And Sahere knows her adbhuta, goes into the home to kiss her father on the lips, and tells him she's leaving.
Friday, October 07, 2005
formed / belonging
despite every -scope I poured through
rasping for any edge at all
on the pendulous swing of words and tough love
who thought breath stole away?
and language leaves lightly sometimes
so much time spent swimming, underwater divisions
against the belly of earth
who realigned herself daily to rake
me through red and through notime as one of hers
not of people, something molten
primitive and carnal, longing to fall
so many repeated lines in shuttered
space // and now I don't even want to say them
although it still hurts to know I once did
never forget that--
how much was made impossible
and how impossible
should've been forgotten
not because life is easy, and people just slapdown
out of the sky in laps
but because when impossible leaves
effort seems more alive
in workshop today, I shopped for words enough
the idea that response is not asking
too much. try to figure out
how to put a rock on papers
so they don't all blow away away
my teacher, who I speak for but don't speak with
because who trusts artists these days?
tucked her head in her collar, in the rain, in
and asked me if I was excited
and I was, I was, I was, but I was
because worship always echoes lost faith;
they belong together like some kind of mutilated birth
I told my teacher I had spent all week
so my feelings wouldn't get all hurt
I tease myself when I say it that way
but it doesn't stop the wild red in my eyes
lashing ready to not slip somehow
to lose in what has never been a game
on this side of stone
but then, I went and felt new blank soil
and wind through the 17th floor
a building over lake and sail, a small/swift teacher
who already seems to believe, an
owl-cemented rooftop, enshrouded first rain
murking tar and tile, rips in cliffsides
I walked in the rain for an hour afterwards
-while I never cry anymore, there's always a threat-
and felt grief for the faith I lost
for no reason
no reason at all
and felt faith in the grief I lost
for every reason
each and every one
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Two parallel dreams, one directly after the other. For both dreams, it's as if the watcher of images is separate (even if the characters in the dream are me):
1. A series of doorways, thresholds, in a linear row, one after another after another on a white empty infinite background. I walk through these doorways, and the space between each doorway is at first a few feet and then increasingly less. Each time I walk through a doorway, I feel something change. I come out knowing something new, or feeling physically different, or understanding an emotion, etc. As the doorways get closer together, the watcher just gets flashes of change in between opaque thresholds, and because these flashes occur more frequently due to more frequent doorways, the changes grow and the motion speeds up and speeds up and speeds up.
2. Just my body against a white empty infinite background. But then the watcher's vision changes, like gaining a kind of extra radar. And what this radar shows is my body both solid and hollow... as if the ribs form an arched doorway or threshold from what's behind me to what's ahead of me. And through this threshold comes a steady stream--pulled through me as if an intense and undeniable gravity forms, vacuums the stream in, and then propels it out and forward. This stream coming through me is composed of infinite vertical and horizontal planes that curve in towards my spine and then curve out through my ribcage. That is, all of infinite time and space incurves through the singularity of a passage through my body and then fills out infinite again. As the watcher looks closer at the moving stream and flow, all life becomes discernible.
That's it, that's the dream. Why I love my brain for this: I've been struggling to read this fellow, Deluze, who writes about time as it is constructed in cinema & how this construction indicates changing historical philosophies. Really confusing stuff that I wander in and out of understanding. But it seems as if my subconscious is picking up on this and working out visualizations in order to examine my life...and the result has been some incredibly beautiful dreams putting emotions and thoughts to images that explain what it is I'm feeling better than I could have consciously explained it to myself.
That's why I'm admiring my brain today. Anyhow...
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
An Over-Elongated Rationale for Why I Rarely Write Politics
That is: am I apolitical? Or at least, an apolitical writer? The thought was shocking, and made my little heart wilt. I don’t like to think of myself as apolitical or lacking in intelligent perspectives on things…
…but really, it’s not that I’m lacking intelligence there, but that I’m lacking information.
I recently read an article from the New Yorker about a conservative radio pundit who’s pushing blogs as the next big wave of unabashedly subjective media to the masses. The article discussed how conservatives love shouting about liberal media bias, and how they claim that this liberal bias is hidden under the rhetoric of objectivity. Therefore, according to this radio dude (sorry I couldn’t find the article online), the solution was to openly admit your bias (which he seems to have mistaken for subjectivity) and freely talk about issues… what better way than in the blogosphere.
[Random thought I had today while walking down the Art Institute stairs: what’s great about blogs is that they are a public private space. They are a little sidewalk corner that you get to stand and scream whatever the hell you want. You are not inside your apartment screaming with your head shoved into a pillow, but rather you are right on out there defending a little territory of you. And you get to set up the rules of this little public private space. You can market like mad, or have multiple writers, or comment all over the underbellies of other people’s thoughts, or limit your audience by not handing out the address to your little space, or maximize by creating links and important key words and so forth. It is a little fortress where you can keep the gates open, set up kiosks, toss chamber-pot contents out your window, and have festivals. And what you can’t entirely control, although you can modify, is who is going to enter your space. But no matter what, it’s still a space that you get to define and redefine and redefine again without ever truly risking the fall into complete isolation… because it’s a public private space.]
Back to the point: What it felt like this radio pundit was saying—gleaned from some of his quotes—is that we should be free to opinion-monger rather than vigorously and openly search to find as large an understanding of the facts—-both the causes and the current / long-term effects—-as possible.
Which gets at an idea I taught in all my classes that felt like one of the most incredibly important items I could teach a group of students:
The difference between opinion and perspective.
The difference between something that is absolutely unverifiable, completely lodged in the subjective and inaccessible to the public, something that “everybody is entitled to” (sorta like shitting, breathing, eating, a house, etc.), something that can be freely dispersed by anybody with any kind of language capacity – and the perspective, which is just slightly more complex…
“Hey Tommy, you like that candy I gave you?”
“yeahhhhhhh,… gnarrrrrrr,… more,…nerrrrrrrrrerereer, good!”
“Hey, J, what do you think of our President?”
“I think he’s a complete and utter bunghole. I think his IQ is so low I’d probably have to lend him a dictionary to stand on in order to converse. I think he’s a fascist totalitarian who gives American politicians a deep deep stain not unlike all the fascist bungholes who reigned as kings in the past just because they happened to be pulled out of X woman’s crotch, when X woman happened to have fallen into O’ situation which enabled her to wed Y ruler. I.e. Election via simple mathematics and American Dream gravity.”
So, now we have some understanding of the machinations of opinion. And yes, everyone is entitled to one, not because it is some inalienable right protected in our constitution (as most people seem to think…), but because it is completely unavoidable if you happen to have an interest, stake, reaction or curiosity about something. We naturally form opinions, and it happens so goddamn fast that one usually has an opinion the second she encounters something. For example, how long did it take you to react to the question, “what’d you think of that movie” last time you saw one?
So, if opinions are naturally formed (like doo-doo and grey hairs), why the hell should they be given free Arena in journalism? Sure, blogs are places for opinions; that’s one of their quirks – an inherent flexibility of purpose, form, content, and audience. But should they be epicenters for journalism? For politics?
Oooooh, a question with no clear answer, but I will venture the following tentative assertion:
Yes, if that’s what their purpose is.
But the purpose of journalism should never be allowed to fall into the type of subjectivity that it frequently does. Fox News is not more admirable for having unabashedly chosen patriotism over the struggle for an objectivity that never can be achieved, but can at least be distinguished from opinion. Neither were the propaganda machines of any other civilization more admirable for having embraced their “subjective” adoration of all-things-their-way.
Back to the second thing that I teach my students. I teach them what an opinion is--because years of being allowed to write “opinion papers” has warped their conception of exactly what an opinion is--and then I try to teach them the difference between this and a perspective. Woah, you’d think I was trying to convince a bunch of kids that the moon is made of Gouda rather than Swiss.
Perspective: a claim, a subjective standpoint that is based on an analytical assessment of information. It is entirely arguable, and that’s the point. Try arguing with the opinion that “chocolate is the best ice cream.” You can’t argue, you can only opine differently. Whereas perspectives open the field to a series of counter interpretations or merely different interpretations.
For example: Banning gay marriage jeopardizes our constitutionally given rights.
For example: The US has not protected the interests of the lower-class by rushing into Iraq; rather, it has once again sacrificed workers—through both bombings of other countries and the dispatching of soldiers—to the short-term desires of the middle and upper-echelons of the United States.
Arguable, both ways—through inclusion of evidence, counter-evidence, and complicating evidence.
And this is just what is sacrificed when any news station or radio pundit suggests an open embrace of our “subjectivity” (tr. capacity to make opinion) and the denial of “objectivity” (tr. striving for multiplicity), which I think no journalist who is even vaguely familiar with postmodern theory or theories of objectivity truly believes is possible.
It’s just that there are two forms of subjectivity in journalism (maybe more, I’m ranting) and one is opinion—-an enclosed state of solipsistic masturbation and denial of other people’s lived experience—-and the other is perspective—-the acknowledged state of always being a perceiver of information, of there always being a filter, even as there are ways of still hearing and interacting with others rather than just digging in the heals and saying “nyaaaaah, nyaaaaah, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”
I’m not saying that I’m going to change my opinion (although I claim the right as a fickle and irrational being), but that I’m willing to entertain alternate perspectives.
Okay… where this all gets back to in terms of politics… is that in order to have a perspective, I believe, firmly and subjectively believe, that you have to understand something. You have to have researched it, read about it, discussed it, chewed it over, sought out its history, felt it inside you! And, yes, there are varying degrees of expertise. For instance: a) the type of expertise that allows me to feel that I can go out on an anti-war protest, to vote, to speak to others, to write my contemplations of the spaces I walk through, and b) the type of expertise that allows me to feel comfortable writing an article or political commentary on something. Maybe some people feel comfortable pulling stuff out of their asses…
[An aside: Partially out of morbid curiosity, the interest in seeing what is out there and what folks are saying, and partially to defend the line, I do spend some time each week reading blogs from people who I opine are f-ing crazy, like the “anti-feminist,” and who distinctly operate in a political realm that does not represent my interests. Some of this has generated this little rant and made me come to the conclusion that less people should be writing political blog-entries instead of trying to use writing to sort out their twisted little minds.]
…but I don’t. There’s already a proliferation of misinformation without me adding to it. I like to read things that appear to be based on either a) lived experience of the most profound kind – see “Baghdad Burning,” or b) well-researched analysis and information looking at causes within causes and their potentials effects and various interpretations; in short, experts – see “Informed Comment.”
These two types of political blogs speak to me, and also tell me why me not writing politics does not mean that I am apolitical. I mean, I care. Maybe I should talk more, or at least point things out, but I just don’t feel comfortable talking about stuff I’m unclear about. The Meirs entry below is an example. I had a gut reaction… and now that I’ve been reading more about her/Bush, I’m going to stick with it… but I’m not going to add to it, or to make it the focus of my tongue thrusts.
But the truth is, I’m writing this rationale because I feel guilty, and I guess I have something to think about in terms of political involvement in writing. Regardless of my experience that I can only write about what comes, I feel guilty about writing deeply personal things in which I play a major role and the things I see play the other major role. I feel guilty for not revolutionizing the world and fixing all the fucked-up shit that I see.
And I keep thinking about the term: “the personal is political.”
I don’t entirely buy it. Isn’t it just a potential cop-out, a line to draw in the dust about why I’m sticking over here and minding my own business when there’s injustice in this world?
But on another level, I do buy it. I think that the feelings I’m sorting out are the same feelings that plenty of people in this world have to sort out. I think dealing with exclusion, sadness, anger, and also powerful connection, joy, and the sensory, is in a way a great striving towards construction. I have to believe in this, in my voice, and continue to offer what I have to offer while still challenging myself to grow. And what I offer right now is not political brilliance, rhetorical savvy, or theoretical intricacies. I think it’s simply the experience of Being, that’s all. And trying to Be as bravely as I can. How apolitical can that be?
[Okay, you were just completely subjected to my inner guilt-tripping monologue, and the now vocalized rationale for why I’ll never claim to be a Political Mogul.]