Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

26 01 2009

Yeah, much to say. Too tired to say it.

Went as well as a suck-ass experience can go. Amazing movers.

Everything now is in its approximate, if not final, place.

A recap:

Thursday, 2:00, then at 4:00, then Saturday afternoon:


It’s now, what, Monday night? Shit got shifted around, and it’s still a mess, but somewhat less so.

It’s not perfect—the bedroom floor is a bit spongy, and the bathtub is a ski slope (no drunk showering), but there’s plenty of heat and hot water, and best of all it’s MINE MINE MINE.

The joys of dictatorship.

Stupid with stress

21 01 2009

So I’m moving tomorrow.

Ready? Nah. Will be, though.

Have to keep telling myself that. I will be ready I will be ready I will be ready.

All the books are packed. The clothes. (When the hell did I get so many clothes? I don’t like shopping for clothes! And yet, there they are.)

Most of my kitchen stuff is still packed from the last move, so not much to do there. Ditto with rugs and towels and all that miscellaneous crap that I forget about until I have to pack or unpack it.

Have to pack the printer. Various bedroom stuff. Various office stuff. Pull the rubbermaid bins out of the creepy basement, the bike from the back yard, oh, the other bike from the creepy basement.

Easy. Really. Plants—got that.

No problem.

Of course, my sternum has been steadily contracting for a week, so that it is now bunched tight in the middle of my chest. And the movers—yeah, yeah, confirmed the movers, they’ll be here, really they will. Syllabi? I can do that Sunday. Filled out the address change at the Post Office, but my New Yorker, the bank, credit card, other jobs, whatelsewhatelsewhatelse.What if someone breaks into the old apartment and hauls all my stuff away? What if there’s a fire before I get home from work tonight? What if there’s a fire at the new place? Storage unit, don’t forget the storage unit. Credit card—do I have it? What about the cash for the movers’ tips? Do I have a number for a car to take me and the critters to my new place? What about the charger for my cell god knows that battery is shit. Where the hell’s my black agenda? JesusMaryandJoseph I had it Monday it was in the green bag didn’t I transfer it to the blue bag did I pack it where the hell is it it has all my access codes I don’t know my passwords to all my accounts what about the yellow index cards with the access codes where the hell is it did someone steal it did I throw it away ohmygodohmygodohmygod.

Yeah. I’m fine.

You can’t always get what you want. . .

15 01 2009

. . . but sometimes you do.

Yessss, I got the apartment.

What apartment, you ask? Why, the one I looked at in Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn, the one I knew I wanted the moment I walked through it. The 1BR with 3 (THREE!) closets, one of which is a WALK-IN. The one within walking distance of Prospect Park, and a coupla’ blocks off the train. The one I’m moving into next week. The one I chose not to write about so as not to, erm, jinx it. (No, not generally superstitious, but, you know. I took everybody’s luck, too. Just in case.)

So how do you find an apartment in New York City? Assuming you don’t inherit a relative’s place, or have so much money you can simply point and say ‘Want’, you do one of two things:

You go to a broker, prepared to spend 15% of the yearly rent on broker’s fees. Plus another $50 or $100 on credit and background checks. Oh, and have a coupla’ hundred bucks in cash to hold the apartment (refundable if you don’t get the place.)

The rest of us, however, use Craigslist. You pick a category (all apts, all no-fee broker and owner apts, owner apts only), check off the variables (number of BRs, critters, cost, location), and let ‘er rip.

Assuming your search parameters are reasonable (i.e., you’re not looking for a 2BR Manhattan apartment for 800 bucks a month), a lot of apartments will pop up.

Do not be deceived.

Many are re-posts (scroll down the page, and, ohp, there it is again), and a fair number are cons. You’ll know the cons as soon as you receive an e-mail in response: they’ll mention the failed attempts to find a God-fearing broker or agent to take care of their beautiful home, an unexpected return trip to West Africa, and their sincere desire to see you in this apartment. I’ve never taken it further than that, but I assume at some point they’ll want you to send them money, at which point they’ll make the keys available to you. Ha.

Other ads will note that a picture is available, but it’s only a photo of the agent, or of the exterior of the building.

Rooms described as big are not. Closets described as expansive are not. Kitchens described as charming are not. (This is not just a NY thing, I know.)

The agents or owners won’t return your e-mails or your phone calls, or will try to direct you to this other properties they manage, which they know—they know!—will be much better for you.

If you do manage to set up an appointment to see the place, he (almost always a he) will be in a rush, barely tolerating your desire to open closets, click on lights, or check the water pressure in the shower. ‘This is a very good place,’ they’ll say. ‘I’m showing it to two more people tonight, and more tomorrow. If you wait, it’ll be gone.’ He’ll be lying about the first part, but not about the second: if you find a place you like, say you’ll take it immediately.

If you hesitate, he’ll tell you about his other properties, which are likely in worse shape or more expensive than this one.

You’ll look at apartments which frighten you. Yes, frighten: all of the buildings’ windows will be sheathed in rusted, cross-hatched steel, the lights in the hallway won’t work (‘we’ll be fixing those this weekend’), the stairs will be missing a step or two, the cabinets will sag, and you’ll save yourself the trouble of looking too closely at that growth in the bathroom. When you leave the building, you may see someone urinating against the lone tree on the block.

Welcome to East Williamsburg/Bushwick—the hip neighborhood.

But then you find a place—halleluja! Step one, complete. Now, step two. Gather receipts for everything on which you’ve ever spent any money. Dig out the information for every landlord you’ve ever had. Be prepared to show pay stubs and tax returns going back to 1973. Bring passport, X-rays, and DNA sample. And a bank check.

Okay, so that’s a bit exaggerated, but not much. In GradCity, I usually filled out a one-page form, sometimes two-paged, wrote a personal check, and got the keys, all within an hour or two of looking at the place.

For my new place, I first saw the apartment, then set up an appointment with the management company, bringing all of my financial data (including, honestly, my cell phone bills), then, after the records and credit check checked out, made another appointment to hand over a bank check and sign the lease.

This is the lease:

Double-sided, of course.

Then I had to sign additional papers regarding window bars (mandatory if one has young children) and to note the receipt of information about the presence of lead paint in the building (entrance door: yes) and apartment (no).

It’s good to have this material. I will not read it.

So I signed on all of the necessary lines, handed over the check, and made an appointment to pick up the keys on Monday.

Thursday, I move.

Someone yell Timber, take off your hat

14 01 2009

It’s all falling down. Secretly pleased?

Some of us are. Maybe. Partly. Kinda.

I wasn’t in New York in the 1970s, but to talk to some New Yorkers who were, you ‘d think I’d missed the last, best time in the city.

You know, high crime rates. Graffitti everywhere. Distrust and malaise. Son of Sam. Bankruptcy. The good old days.

I’ve only been a New Yorker 2 1/2 years, but even I curse a scrubbed Times Square and the relentless pursuit of money. Still, I won’t claim nostalgia for a time not mine, and I’m skeptical of those who claim that New York a generation and a-half ago was a period of glorious artistic expression, unfettered by high rents or the (art) market. As if the artists and punks back then weren’t all on the hustle.

New York is a hustling town, mean and generous in turn, indulgent of those on the make and unforgiving of those who don’t make it. (Except, of course, when it does forgive. Crazy place.) So underemployed white kids get shoved out of the east Village and the Bowery and into Queens and Brooklyn and somehow this means New York ain’t what it used to be.

No shit. This city ain’t never what it used to be.

Still, amidst my squints and skepticism, I, only half-ashamedly, admit to a secret pleasure at the fall. Yeeeeaaaaaaah, a part of me thinks, now we’re gonna get real! Let it all fall apart!

Silliness. How nice to get on the train at midnight and not have to worry (except once) about robbery or assault. Air conditioned subway cars in August? A lifesaver. And I’d rather stroll by  store windows full of clothes or food or paint cans than those hidden by plywood or graffitti-ed gates.

I love ruin, I do. I thrill to the old and abandoned, the crumbling and fading. But it is an aesthetic thrill, a delight in these old and sad connections to pasts hidden and forgotten. The delight and the sadness are sincere, but limited: I want to enjoy these unreconstructed ruins, not live in them.

As for that secret pleasure? Maybe we’re (or maybe just I’m) high on our finally-unleashed anxiety. Yesss! We get to worry! Fuck that happy talk. . . .

Angst. Back in style.

Sing! Sing! Sing!

11 01 2009

I got sucked  into the speakers yesterday.

I don’t remember the song (something about heartbreak) and was surprised when Jonathan Schwartz credited Betty Buckley as the singer (it didn’t sound like her). But I was caught by all that she gave to the song—that’s what caught me. Yes, she has a lovely voice, but it was the. . . I don’t know, that sense that she scraped away herself and in so doing scraped away the skin of that sad and pretty melody to lay bare nerve and bone.

How could she do that? Where does that come from? When I was (way) younger I wanted nothing more than to sing, to be a singer. That didn’t happen. I have a competent voice—a ‘chorus’ voice—but my lack comes less from technical faults than the inability to inhabit the song with my voice. Oh, I might feel moved, but that feeling doesn’t come through. It’s posing.

Was Buckley posing? I’ll never know, but man, it doesn’t sound like it. Does Patti Smith sound like she’s posing? I remember when I first listened, really listened to Patti Smith—it wasn’t until grad school. Where the fuck was she when I was in high school?! Of course, I had Janis Joplin back then, but Janis was already dead, and Patti was, is, blazingly alive.

Neither Janis nor Patti has classically trained ‘great’ voices, but man, can they sing! Dive into that song and pull off all their clothes and dare us to dive in with them. This is it, they’re telling us. this is all a song can be. Can you follow? Are you brave enough to care?

In my responses to Ainadamar I noted my marvel at Dawn Upshaw and Kelley O’Connor’s passion. Did I mention it was almost as hard to witness as it was wondrous? I was embarrassed, fearful for them. Oh no, I thought, what are you doing? You’re so naked on that stage; you’ll be caught out, alone and exposed!

What could compel them to take such risks?

Perhaps it is because I ask such questions that I get in my own way. Do they see what they do as risky? Perhaps the danger is in not singing, in not throwing oneself into the music; perhaps it is only the embrace of the music which carries them. Perhaps the question is How could they not?

I don’t have it in me—the singing, I mean. Perhaps had I had the Voice (be it Joplin’s or Upshaw’s), I would have lain all other concerns aside to tend to that gift.

Or not. What do I do now with my modest talents? Tend to them, fitfully. Take them seriously, kind of; treat them warily. I protect them. I do not risk them. I do not risk              anything.

God, cops, and, oh, God and cops

8 01 2009

He wouldn’t shake my hand. He said something about ‘respect,’ but it wasn’t clear if he were asking me to respect his wish not to shake my hand, or if he were demonstrating respect for me by not shaking my hand.

I smiled and said ‘Okay’, but, hmmmm, not so okay.

No hand shaking because he’s a man and I’m a woman. A dick, and I get a handshake. No dick, no shake.

So what’s the big deal? He showed me the apartment, didn’t he? He wasn’t unkind or unwilling to deal with me: he simply didn’t want our hands to touch. Different standards of personal boundaries, that’s all.

And on one level, that’s true. I like handshakes, but hugs, not so much. And I certainly don’t want someone feeling me up by way of introduction. Boundaries and preferences.

Perhaps had he not mumbled ‘respect.’ Again, it’s entirely possible that he was demonstrating his respect for me—but I don’t think so. When a man fears my hand, simply because it’s a female hand, I don’t respect that fear. No, I’m not going to force someone to shake my hand—duh, boundaries—but respect that fear of a female touch? Nope.

Oh, but this was about his religion, his relationship to God, and had nothing to do with me. Except that I was there, and I wasn’t feeling particularly respected.

So what do you do in these situations, where respect for the other seems to require a disrespect for oneself? Is there an equitable behavioral solution?

So we don’t shake hands. Perhaps that’s the best we can do.


How many people have been ‘justifiably’ killed by police—i.e., how many victims of disputed deaths (i.e., clearly those not immediately involved in criminal violence) have had their demands for justice unheard because the police were able to claim self-defense—before the advent of mobile technology?

What would have happened to the police officers on trial in the Sean Bell shooting in NYC had someone had video of the events that night? Would anyone have taken Michael Mineo (allegedly injured and sodomized by police in Brooklyn subway station) seriously had video not surfaced which corroborated at least part of his claim against the police? What about what happened to Christopher Long, the Critical Mass bicyclist in Union Square who was charged with assaulting an officer—only to have those charges withdrawn after video clearly showed the officer assaulting the bicyclist? What about all those Republican National Convention protesters freed after film footage effectively erased police justifications for those arrests?

And now, Oscar Grant, the young man shot to death by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police New Year’s day. Would there be a vigorous investigation absent the cell phone video of the shooting? And what of allegations that BART officials sought (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to confiscate any images of the shooting? And police claims that Grant was not cuffed while he was shot—while witnesses dispute this? Perhaps it was an accident, perhaps the officer didn’t mean to shoot Grant. But what the hell was he doing drawing his weapon on an unarmed man on the ground? (And what does it mean for the supposed professionalism of police forces if they kill citizens accidentally?)

I’m not necessarily a fan of the deployment of recording technologies in the public realm. I like my privacy, and while appearing in public does, of course, mean just that—appearing—I think of myself as ‘passing through’: I get to come and go. Recording techs freeze that passage, making permanent what I have always assumed evanescent.

And closed-captioned television (CCTV) as deployed by police and security forces? Nuh-uh. Yes, it’s supposed to make us all safer, help the police catch the bad guys, serve as a deterrent, and hey, it just might. But who the hell is in charge of those nifty CCTV cameras? Who controls that footage? Who decides who has access to it, what is kept, and what is deleted? Is CCTV for the public’s protection—or the police’s?

Still. Video techs in the hands of individual citizens may aid in just the kind open subversion of the security state ideology that’s needed. And no, I don’t think the US is a police state (cf. the bit, below, on Shirin Ebadi and Iran) but the security state ideology, which demands that all other values bow before the shield, is corrosive of an open society. The notion that anything goes as long as one is made secure may—may—make us citizens safer from one another, but it sure as hell doesn’t make us any safer from those security forces.

And it sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with justice.

Justice does need security, and citizens in an open society need a competent—repeat, competent—police force. Citizens with video techs can’t make the  police more competent, but they can at least expose incompetence—and worse.


Shirin Ebadi, kick-ass activist, is coming under even more pressure from the Iranian government.

According to the LA Times, young thugs from the Basiji Militia, which has connections to the Revolutionary Guard, attacked Ebadi’s home and shouted ‘Death to the pen-pushing mercenary.’

(An aside: Death to the pen-pushing mercenary? Really? That’s the best they could do?)

Police were called, did nothing.

Ah, the security state. . . .


Hamas is full of shit, and shits. They’re totalitarian gangsters, providing much-needed basic services to the Palestinians of Gaza in return for using ‘their people’ as shields in their war against Israel.

Hamas leaders may call themselves freedom fighters or the resistance or martyrs for God, but what do they have to offer those they seek to liberate but a more correct (i.e., non-Jewish, non-Israeli) violence, a more correct oppression? They’re mobsters, performing the same ‘services’ for Gazans that Italian, Irish, Russian, Chinese, etc., organized crime syndicates have done for their immigrant communities.

Remember the scene which opens the first Godfather? ‘I believe in America’, the man tells Don Corleone, before he goes on to beg for help in seeking vengeance for his daughter’s rape. The police can do nothing; could the Don help? The man is berated: why didn’t you come to us first? But the Don will help, in exchange for a favor. . . .

The analogy is inexact, but it works well enough: in the absence of trust in the legal authorities, one will turn to whatever enforcers are available. And in the absence of any countervailing authority, those enforcers are as likely to subjugate as protect—will subjugate in the course of protecting—their communities. It’s an illicit version of the security ideology, mirroring claims of the necessity of violence and the suppression of dissent.

So Hamas is a Palestinian mob. Hell, it’s worse than a regular mob, not least because it directly endangers Palestinian civilians by firing rockets and weapons from within civilian areas. Hamas knows Israel will retaliate, will shell and bomb and shoot into neighborhoods and schools and homes and kill Palestinian civilians—deaths which can then be blamed on Israel. But Hamas, too, is at fault.

Note that I say ‘too.’ The Israeli government knows exactly what Hamas is doing, and they point repeatedly to evidence of Hamas’s tactics. But this hardly absolves Israel of responsibility for civilian deaths. To state that ‘Hamas fires rockets at civilians on purpose, and we do so only incidentally’ doesn’t quite wash in the face of hundreds of Palestinian dead and thousands wounded. How many times can you say ‘Oops, sorry’? Or ‘Sorry, but. . .’? No, Palestinian civilians matter as little to the Israelis as they do to Hamas.

I have read (and heard on the radio) a number of comments by Gazans blaming Hamas for the destruction, but that hardly means they love Israel. They are a hostage population, used and abandoned.

So what the hell to do? Even if Israel manages to weaken or even destroy Hamas, then what? What happens to the people of Gaza? To the blockade of the territory and immobilization of the people? What about the Occupied Territories and Jerusalem? There are still the competing claims to the land, competing claims for justice, for security. There is still the intransigence and hostility of most of Israel’s neighboring states.

What a fucking mess. So the Israeli Defense Force wins by pounding Hamas and Hamas wins if it survives the pounding and everyone else loses. Death all around.

. . . . ‘Yes, but whose deaths matter more?’


A re-thought on God, hands, and respect: Opponents of same-sex marriage complain that advocates are trying to force respect for these marriages, and running over any concerns over the sacred nature of matrimony and the moral and social disorder indicated by open same-sex relationships.

I guess I get their distress. To respect same-sex relationships is to disrespect their own beliefs, and themselves. Why should respect only run one way?

Again, in cases where respect for A requires disrespect for B, tolerance may the best one can hope for. I don’t respect your beliefs, and you don’t respect mine, but we’ll recognize that each gets to retain her beliefs.

The difficulty with marriage, of course, is that it involves the law—another discussion. And I don’t want any laws on the proferring or withholding of hands.

Rat bastard

6 01 2009

Brandon Darby is a coward.

Mr. Solidarity-Forever collaborated with the FBI, working as an informant during the Republican National Convention as well as, according to the New York Times, ‘cases not involving the convention. He defended his decision to work with the F.B.I. as “a good moral way to use my time,” saying he wanted to prevent violence during the convention at the Xcel Energy Center.’

Who is Brandon Darby? According to the Times, he’s an organizer from Texas ‘who gained prominence as a member of Common Ground Relief, a group that helped victims of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans.’ According to those who commented in response to his letter on the Independent Media Center website (first link), he’s likely a long-time snitch, informing on ‘fellow’ activists and radicals for at least a couple of years.

According to Darby himself, ‘Though I’ve made and will no doubt continue to make many mistakes in efforts to better our world, I am satisfied with the efforts in which I have participated. Like many of you, I do my best to act in good conscience and to do what I believe to be most helpful to the world. Though my views on how to give of myself have changed substantially over the years, ultimately the motivations behind my choices remain the same. I strongly stand behind my choices in this matter.’

Darby apparently didn’t like the thought of a good protest, by those of ‘pure intentions’, being ruined by those who ‘used the group as cover for intentions that the rest of the group did not agree with or knew nothing about and are now, consequently, having parts of their lives and their peace of mind uprooted over.’

Translation? He didn’t like violence.

I don’t like violence. Once again, I’m with Arendt in standing for politics and positioning violence as the anti-politics. I’m not a pacifist, but I find it difficult to justify violence in an open society. Whatever the problems of the American polity—and there are many—we have the ability to address those problems politically, not criminally or violently. We (whoever the ‘we’ are at the moment) may not win, but rarely are we finally vanquished. We get to act, and to act some more.

Violence works against such action, works against a notion of a gathering together for public action. It seeks to alienate rather than engage, and to separate us from rather than ally ourselve with one another.

And no, I’m not a procedural or deliberative democratic theorist, either, who thinks if we all just talk to one another long enough we’ll all get along. I’m with the agonistes, who see conflict at the center of politics.

Which is precisely why I’m opposed to both to violence and the shitty, underhanded behavior of the so-called protector of the pure:

It is very dangerous when a few individuals engage in or act on a belief system in which they feel they know the real truth and that all others are ignorant and therefore have no right to meet and express their political views.

Additionally, when people act out of anger and hatred, and then claim that their actions were part of a movement or somehow tied into the struggle for social justice only after being caught, it’s damaging to the efforts of those who do give of themselves to better this world. Many people become activists as a result of discovering that others have distorted history and made heroes and assigned intentions to people who really didn’t act to better the world. The practice of placing noble intentions after the fact on actions which did not have noble motivations has no place in a movement for social justice.

This isn’t even coherent. Is he trying to keep intact the innocence of those who would otherwise defend the actions of violence aggressors? Or perhaps I could offer a psychological explanation, and repeat that last sentence Right back atcha, Brandon!

If politics has no place for violence, it has no place for innocence, either. You want to be a political actor? Stand by your actions. No hiding, no pretending, no I-didn’t-know-any-better. There is conflict, and you’re on one side of that conflict. Why on you on that side? In what do you believe? You want social justice? Then you stand up for it first and foremost on your own side.

There are always hangers-on and trouble-makers at any kind of political gathering. Most of the time they’re only annoying, and some of the time they’re dangerous. Confront them. Stand up for your principles and state that those who would use violence are not, in fact, on your side. Hell, go so far as to say that you’ll treat any and all who’d suggest violence as an agent provocateur, the suggestion itself as prima facie evidence of informant status.

Got that, Brandon? You confront these people publicly, you put yourself forward—you take the risk—with the idea that you will get others to join you. That is politics. It’s not easy, and you will be opposed, but you know what? The conflict will at least occur in the open, and by attempting to draw others in, you have a shot at deepening both politics in general and the commitment to social justice in particular. You take a risk, and you take responsibility, and you invite every other person at that gathering to take the same risks and responsibilities, and give each of them the chance to act.

But no. You had to play Big Daddy Protector, foreclosing the possibilities that your fellow activists could, in fact, take care of themselves and, perhaps, grow politically. You robbed them of their chance to act.

That’s the real shame of your informant activities—that’s what makes you a rat bastard.

As for the rest, well, is it ironic or unsurprising that a man who says it is ‘My sincere hope is that the entire matter results in better understanding for everyone’ ran to the F-fucking-BI! rather than engage in this ‘discussion’ when it mattered. That’s what makes you a coward.

Movin’ on up

4 01 2009

Let the great apartment hunt of 2009 begin!

Yes, it’s official. I will ONCE AGAIN be moving. Lessee, that’ll be 1, 2, 3, 4, ah, my 5th move in 2 1/2 years. I’m about on the same schedule in NYC as my first years in GradCity.

I’m also almost twice as old and have more than twice as much shit. And I don’t have grad school friends who are willing to move me in exchange for 1) pizza and 2) a willingness to help them move. Which means movers. . . .

Sigh. Actually, I’m going to try something new, this time around. My last couple of attempts at both finding and moving into an apartment have been terrifically stressful—which made no sense to me, given how many (25? 30?) times I’ve moved. There’s nothing new to this: get boxes, pack boxes, find movers, move, unpack boxes. Simple.

But the last search left my stomach muscles bunched and the move itself led to a brain-crushing migraine that let up only slightly over the following few days. I would like to avoid that.

So this time around, I’m going to avoid all mention of the search and the move, treat it as just another set of tasks for the month. Hey, I don’t mention trips to the grocery store, do I? Making the bed? (Okay, so I bitch about grading and laundry and the cat box, but. . . pssshhhhht, let it go, all right? Allow me to pretend that I greet each day with equanimity—please?) Yes, I understand that talking things out can lessen the emotion around those things. I don’t understand how that works, but I know that, sometimes, it does.

But not always. My transition into my current apartment was difficult: however straightforward my roommate and I thought we had been with one another, it was clear that what each heard was not necessarily what each had said. This was upsetting to me, and I mentioned to a few people how unreasonable I thought she was being. Then I reconsidered: well, she probably thinks I’m being unreasonable, too. So I stopped discussing it, saying only that it wasn’t a good fit. The situation was tense enough; why feed it?

And then, at some point, things eased. Yes, behavioral changes on each of our parts were key, but I don’t know that I would have been prepared to accept those changes had I not stopped fulminating against her.

Similarly, in grad school: my adviser and I were not a good fit. Oh, at one point, I took too much pleasure in the thought of leaping over his desk and strangling him with his tie, but once I settled down, I turned my attention from him to the dissertation. He was polite, I was polite, and I got through my defense.

And the lesson is? I don’t have a damned lesson. Sometimes it helps to talk, sometimes it doesn’t. I couldn’t shut up about the last move, and had a miserable time, so this time, I’ll try the opposite.

In a few weeks, I’ll let you know how—if—it worked.

Targets and stray arrows

3 01 2009

The Dawn Chorus linked to this story in the (Australian) Courier-Mail, ‘Economic decline sees return of 1950s housewife.’ An (apparent) DIY sensibility toward food and clothing = housewifery!

That’s right, girls and boys, any turning away from corporate culture means a return to those mystical 1950s gender roles. After all, MEN certainly couldn’t be interested in gardening, cooking, or sewing, could they?

After all, the poll embedded in the story asks: Where should a woman’s place be?

Possible answers: In the home; in the workplace; both; wherever she wants.

Ha. Now, about man’s place. . . .


C.’s blog is finally up and running. I’d been nagging and trying not to nag her into getting this sucker going, not least because I’m looking forward to our conversations and arguments.

Check it out. I’m expecting brilliance. (But no pressure, C.)


Reconnected with an old friend/colleague from my FelineCity days. Ct. works at a university in Ontario, and writes on nationalism (among other matters).

It is directly a result of her arguments in favor of some versions of nationalism that has caused me to rethink my absolutist stance against it. I’m still a skeptic, but Ct.’s observations that nationalism isn’t always exclusionary or aggressive (and that, sometimes, even when it is, it has its purposes) has intruded in and unsettled my thoughts over the years.

So I’m glad she’s back. A friend who can calmly unsettle you is a good thing!


I never read blogs before I started writing my own. I have my regulars now (some of which—the political ones, natch—send me into a ditch screaming), but I still poke around, looking for something to catch me.

Admittedly, this is partly out of self-interest: I’d like it if others would be willing to be caught by me.

But it’s not all calculation, given that I find sites I truly enjoy. Mo at The DailySnark cracks me up, and I’ve just started reading bandnerdtx.

Should I overreach and say that this approach justifies my avidity for messiness? That a mix of motives can itself increase hybridity, leading one ever further into. . . .

Okay, okay, I’ll save me huffin’ an’ puffin’ fer another day.


Struck by silence. Still in the midst of Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain, and he makes much of both silence and forgetting. (They are not, of course, the same thing, and the holding of one’s tongue can, in some circumstances, lead to the preservation of memory. But I’ll save that for another time.)

I tend to think well of silence, seeing it (among other things) as a refuge from authority. I’m a terrible liar, but even I, of the endless words, knows how—and when—to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes silence is the only defense one has.

Of course, silence can also be self-defeating. Silence while in a therapist’s office, for example, tends to work against the purpose of therapy. Still, my determination to hold my tongue did lead me quickly to end one budding therapeutic relationship:

I was in college, self-destructive, and, uh, encouraged by the dean’s office at BigTenU to seek therapy. So I saw one person, N., who I quite liked but couldn’t afford. She recommended J., a resident. It was not a good match. J. had a very clear sense of how therapy should work, and that included the iron-clad rule that the client start every session. Not a word from her until I spoke. And when she did speak, she tended to repeat what I just said. So I became less and less willing to speak. I would sit silently five, ten, minutes, watching her shift in her seat, in full-concentration mode, waiting. By the last session (four or five, I think), I said nothing for almost thirty minutes. I looked at the plant.

Did I mention that she was recording the session to discuss later with her supervisor?

I returned to N. and worked with her. I was a terrible client, alternately trying to help and sabotaging my self, but I did talk.

Anyway. Silence can work as self-preservation, as I think it did with J., but I would also use it as, if not precisely a weapon, then a shield, in therapy with both N. and K. These were good therapists, and I did myself no favors in withholding information from them. Even so, N. and K. were smart enough not to get into a battle of wills with me about it: they knew the silence was for me to overcome.

Of course, authority figures often consider silence as a threat. Why not profess one’s allegiances—unless you have something to hide? Some dictators are more than happy with silence—keep the populace scared and alone—but others hear treason in the quiet. I’m about to start reading Orlando Figes’s The Whisperers, about life in the Stalinist USSR. I have a hunch Stalin feared everything.

Her body trembles with the effort to last

1 01 2009

Emma Bee Bernstein, 23, killed herself.

I didn’t know Emma, didn’t know anything about her until Courtney Martin ran an obit for her at Feministing.

All I could think, upon reading the obit, was, Awww, Jesus.

This is how I know I’m over my own folie a deux with suicide. Before, when I heard or read that someone had killed themselves, I’d be envious. Ah, I’d think, so they managed what I could not. But this time, all I could think was, Awww, Jesus.

Twenty-three. One lifetime. She could plausibly have had three more lifetimes, but chose not to.

What do you say to someone? There’s so much to live for. . . You’re so young. . . Things’ll get better. Not necessarily. Even if you believe it, she won’t.

Would it help to say, There’s no point to life. Live anyway.?

Live anyway. Through it all, live anyway.