Monday, February 28, 2005
Sunday, February 27, 2005
The $1,000 first place award went to UC Davis freshman John Cooney, who did some nice work about global warming using simple black and white and a soundbyte from The Postal Service, pop group du jour. Incidently, The Postal Service was involved in a minor governmental scuffle about a year ago after the U.S. Postal Service sent a cease-and-desist letter over the use of the name. A band member was quoted in Pitchfork as saying, "I'm sure if it were up to [John] Ashcroft bands like the Dead Kennedys, Bush, Anthrax, the Presidents Of The United States Of America, and classic '80s indie outlet I.R.S. would have to pack it up, too. It just goes to illustrate the misplaced priorities of this administration." Both sides struck a stupid, if you ask me, bargain, but hey . . . whatever. Let me get back on point before this turns into a rant (although I do love the idea of Ashcroft taking on the Dead Kennedys. Wouldn't that be a hoot but only if Jello Biafra were still a member. Remember when he ran for president? He's got chutzpuh!)
Second place was a tie between Columbian artist Ana Torres's entry on genocide and an ode to global citizenship by Roman Sandoval of Edinboro, Pennsylvania. Last, but definitely not least, check out the anti-deforestation piece turned in by Daniel Meiling from Churchville, New York. It's a dark, yet simple and entertaining affair.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
The Write Stuff: Roll the Dice
Roll the Dice
by Charles Bukowski
if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the
way. this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.
go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or
it could mean freezing on a
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
how much you really want to
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the
and it will be better than
you can imagine.
if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the
and the nights will flame with
do it, do it, do it.
all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
it’s the only good fight
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Which God Are You On, Part II
The Christian Right grabs all the headlines, but I’ve always wondered about the Left. After all, not all of us Jesus freaks revel in gaybashing, opposing a woman’s right to choose, or leading prayers in public schools. A leftist religious political counterpart to such groups as the Family Research Council, the Traditional Values Coalition, and Concerned Women for America should exist, and it sort of does. Sort of.
The Clergy Leadership Network (CLN) is a coalition of liberal and moderate religious leaders who are officially non-partisan but seek to "operate from an expressly religious and expressly partisan point-of-view." Though primarily composed of Protestants, the network boasts Catholics, Jews, and apparently would love to involve Muslims in the quest to “regain the soul of our country.” CLN issues of focus include U.S. foreign policy, civil rights, economic parity, healthcare reform, and environmental protection. The CLN has Section 527 status, which is a newish tax-exempt designation for groups that accept contributions with the explicit intent to influence the "selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to Federal, State, or local public office or office in a political organization, or the election of Presidential electors." The network can’t donate to candidates, but it can raise unlimited funds from donors as long as all income and expenditures are reported to the IRS. It can also run its own television and print ads.
While the advent of such a group bodes well for many people, the fact that the first national liberal religious group has only coalesced now, emphasizes how much liberal Christians have fallen off since the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., or going further back, since the days of Antebellum reform, or, if you wanna get right down to it, since the days of the New Testament. Liberal Christians once defined religious politics as much as the Christian Right has since the 1980s. (For those interested, last March Chicago Public Radio aired a program about the history of the Christian Left.) Nonetheless, the radical arm of Christianity lives.
The Center for Progressive Christianity is less overtly motivated by politics than the CLN, but it does have an interesting slant, which is that "religion doesn't have to be irrelevant, ineffectual, [or] repressive. . . ." In addition to "upholding evangelism as an agent of justice and peace," TCPC promotes social and environmental justice by rejecting privilege and dogma. Formed in 1996 by a retired Episcopalian priest, TCPC alleges itself to be “the most liberal established Christian group within Christianity,” but I suspect that mantle might best belong to the pacifistic / anarchistic Jesus Radicals—social change activists who have tasked themselves with "nothing less than a complete change of allegiance from passively or actively supporting oppression to working for liberation."
I don't know that any of these groups have the muscle yet to take on the momentum of the right's "evangelical revolution," as Jerry Falwell described it when discussing how his newest group, the Faith and Values Coalition, is already preping for the 2008 presidental election. It's not that I doubt the comeback potential of a Christian Left movement—look at the Quakers—but the problem is these new groups seem rather roundabout. I see the heavyweight with the heart to go 15 rounds but lacking the stomach to deliver the knockout punch needed. Maybe it's time to stop turning the other cheek.
Bonus: Quiz on the separation of church and state. You might be surprised.
Monday, February 21, 2005
But Pa, Everybody's Doin' It
The first was sent to me by a concerned citizen/friend who forwarded me an article from CNN/Money entitled, "Have Blog, Lose Your Job?" The gist of the article is that "workers with web logs are everywhere, and they're starting to make corporate America very nervous." I think the whole thing is hilarious and ridiculous, though truth be told, I wish my new employer wasn't aware of my shenanigans. I let it slip during a staff meeting, but I think I'm fairly hidden. If they wanted to find it they could, but I take it as a sign of fiscal health that they're too busy to go there. But apparently, a lot of bloggers are taking their job life in their own hands, even for expressing views that have nothing to do with their accountabilities at work. It's an interesting piece, and I'm eager to watch what happens down the road in terms of free speech and workers' rights, the former of which rarely impinges on the latter and the the latter of which seems nonexistent in these days of employer all-the-workers-you-can-eat grindmills.
All the more reason that the second piece caught my attention. The activist author of "Blogging While Black: An Afro-Netizen's Take on the Next Talking Drum," insists that blogging is a civic responsibility, especially for minorities. He goes so far as to say that "those of us fortunate enough to regularly use the internet and who now have an almost addiction to Google.com, Mapquest.com, eBay.com and Amazon.com, cannot afford to limit ourselves by so gravely under-utilizing the web and the opportunities at hand. We must blog while black. It is not a fad or a luxury; it is our civic responsibility to do so. And to abdicate this duty, is to succumb to the dangerous mythology that blackfolk must wait for our next messenger from above, all the while not realizing that the messenger is at our fingertips and the inviolable message from generations past endures in our hearts and minds. Where the success of all previous grassroots movements has been measured by feet on the ground, the power and effectiveness of blog activism for black folk and other dispossessed communities will be measured by hands on the keyboard."
On the heels of these two came a piece about Jerry Brown, the good 'ol mayor of Oakland, who is gearing up for his next political milestone—a bid for the state attorney general. ¡Que horror! "Brown Blasts into Blogosphere with Swipe at Critics" is a pretty hilarious summation of the hilarity that is Jerry Brown. Check him out at www.jerrybrown.thinkpad.com.
No Peace Until You Rest in It
Somewhere in this morning is a metaphor to be found, but I haven't yet unveiled it. Perhaps you can help me. I awoke to the sound of light rain, which though often soothing, can also be a motivational deterrent, especially if one is planning to run, and further especially, if it's been raining endlessly for days on end. Regardless, I was determined to get my endorphine groove on, so I dressed appropriately and headed down to the corner where my fellow boot campers and running mates assemble. As I was the only one there, I proceeded to stretch while waiting. After a few minutes, I began getting a little nervous about the fact that none of the usual die hards were showing up. Finally, I realized time was a wastin', and I'd just have to go it alone.
Initially, I ran up 18th to Market, which is not particularly far, but it's one of those never ending gradual ascents. My plan was to hang a right and run down the hill back to the park, but I thought I was wussing out, so I crossed Market and zigzagged a bit, aiming for Corona Heights, but something kept whispering in my ear, "Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks." I tried to ignore it but it came on stronger, so I switched direction again, never avoiding any hills or staircases that came my way, including the notorious Vulcan Steps and the new-to-me Pemberton Steps. After that I made a beeline for the peaks. The entire time, the views were stunning and glorious, and I was reminded of how amazing the sky is as dawn emerges from its deep midnight blue to lighter and lighter shades streaked with fiery reds and oranges. The drizzle had stopped, and the sun burst on the scene just as I crested a smallish hill on 20th, only to find my group!
Standing arms akimbo, SF Outdoor Fitness leader Mike G. shouted up toward me, "You on your own now or what?" I received the prodigal daughter greeting all around and then exclaimed proudly that I'd done the peaks on my own. Everyone was amazed that I'd made such excellent time. In fact so was I; running into them was proof that I'd been on foot for less than an hour, which was a surprise to me, especially feeling like I'd just run a marathon. My bubble felt a bit bursted, but I wasn't sure why, and I didn't find out until I got home at 8:26am. Which didn't make sense unless it took me 20 minutes to walk the few blocks from the park. That's when it dawned on me. I checked my cell phone for the real time and discovered my clock was twenty-six minutes ahead, meaning that I was both behind and ahead in my mind, which can be a bit disorienting.
Hunter S. Thompson has passed from this existence, by the way. It made me very sad. It sounds corny, but his work had a profound influence on me when I got hold of a copy of Hell's Angels someone had left at a dumpster. I think I was ten. Next I knew I was diving into Fear and Loathing, both in Las Vegas and On the Campaign Trail. These were eye-opening books for an African black kid growing up in the middle of "if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much" Grand Rapids. I thought to myself, some of these white people do have soul! But seriously, the much ballyhooed "gonzo" style was the first thing I encountered on my own that made me want to be my own person and not just follow a bunch of rules prescribed by a society with which one doesn't always agree. While I remained a well behaved student and not too troublesome daughter, the seeds had been planted. Rest in peace, Doc.
Meanwhile, when I disclosed the folly of my ways, Mike wrote back: "For a moment there, I was considering signing you up for the next Olympics.... Even though you started a little early, your run up Twin Peaks was still amazing. That's a tough route, because you crisscrossed quite a ways ... hitting lots of stairs before you hit Twin Peaks. Congrats!!! See you tomorrow."
That's what he thinks! While I hope not to rest in peace just yet, I do plan to peacefully rest for the rest of the three-day weekend, all remaining 12 hours of it. Let me bask in my meaningless feat of physical glory; as I always say, everybody needs a hobby. ; )
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Which God Are You On? - Part I
How many remember or even know that in 1920 the Brits were the first to carry out intentional and systematic aerial bombing of civilians—in Somalia and Yemen. Or that before gassing the Jews, the Germans carried out mass gassings of Russian prisoners of war in the Ukraine. When Auschwitz was functional, they gassed Communists and Russian intellectuals before turning the showers on the Jews. The reaction to these and other events of the 100-year era has typically been “never again”—that is, until we forget they even happened in the first place.
As part of a generation that didn’t experience a world war and was too young to feel the impact of the Vietnam War or understand the Cold War, it’s the genocides and terrorist acts that hit closest to horrific home. Maybe it’s because when I think about Rwanda or the Holocaust or the Cambodian killing fields, I picture every day, ordinary people with targets on their chests. The same with terrorism. For that reason, I really can’t comprehend the other kind of killing, the kind where the various sides put on uniforms and only shoot at the opposing team. It’s like some weird athletic activity, except if you lose, you lose your life. Truthfully, it seems even more warped than random acts of violence because the random factor can be considered a glitch in the machine, but the rest of it is creepy and weird and now considered collateral.
What did those Royal Air Force pilots think about their entry into history? Did they feel proud? Would they be disappointed to have been replaced by smart bombs? Were the Communists and Russian intellectuals surprised to find themselves stall mates? Did they feel like Johns the Baptist, paving the way for the real martyrs? I turn it this way, I turn it that way, I sense some kind of apparatus that calls into play political vs. cultural identity, and then I get lost. In the U.S., since Reagan (our second born-again president, the first being Jimmy Carter), religious fundamentalism has emerged in the middle of the two identity axes, and certainly there are more than two. Plus identities shift.
Take Christianity. In 1920, Reverend Curtis Lee Laws coined the term “fundamentalism,” describing Presbyterian and Baptist allies in the battle for the fundamentals of the faith, including dogmatic belief in the infallibility of biblical scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, his subsequent atonement for our sins along with the resurrection, and, let’s not forget “the objective reality of his [Christ’s] miracles,” as noted by Karen Armstrong in Battle for God. In other words, fundamentalism grew out of tussles within a given religious community, not between or amongst different religions.
This is important because the religious conservatives who are the core of Christian fundamentalists are different from the evangelicals who had their genesis post-WWII. Douglas Linder writes: “The early 1920s found social patterns in chaos. Traditionalists, the older Victorians worried that everything valuable was ending. Younger modernists no longer asked whether society would approve of their behavior, only whether their behavior met the approval of their intellect. Intellectual experimentation flourished. Americans danced to the sound of the Jazz Age, showed their contempt for alcoholic prohibition, debated abstract art and Freudian theories. In a response to the new social patterns set in motion by modernism, a wave of revivalism developed, becoming especially strong in the American South. Who would dominate American culture—the modernists or the traditionalists?”
It’s 2005, and I think the question has yet to be answered. While it’s true that the fundamentalists were separatists, who, after losing the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925, kept a low profile, they’ve been raising a hoary head in recent decades.
The evangelists, however, have always subscribed to what evangelist Bob Jones called “the duty of saving souls in this rotten civilization [which] demands some degree of cooperation with other Christians, whatever their beliefs.” First came the founding of a public lobby, the National Association of Evangelicals, in 1942. During the 1950s, televangelists of the Rex Humbard, Benny Hinn, and Oral Roberts ilk sprouted, not to mention Billy Graham—who provided spiritual counseling to many U.S. presidents. Jerry Falwell, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and other movement leaders began forming politically motivated organizations in the 1970s, after Roe v. Wade got under their skin. Like the Biblical Jeremiah of the Old Testament, they were bound to foment moral reform in order to quell the anticipated cataclysmic consequences of such a morally bankrupt people as they judged us to be. These groups did well, scoring victories such as crushing the Equal Rights Amendment for women. They even held a “Washington for Jesus” rally in the Washington Mall during Reagan’s reign; hundreds of thousands turned out. It's no coincidence that during Reagan’s reign “good vs. evil” became the markers of postwar politics, something that our third born-again president, Dubya, has co-opted in the war against so-called evil-doers.
The religious right continues to gain electoral power, perhaps making good on Pat Buchanan’s 1992 Republican national convention pronouncement of an impending religious war within the United States: “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.” Remember in Poltergeist when the little girl points to the tv and announces, “It’s heeere”? So too, political Christianity. What, me worry about radical Islam? No, it’s those shifting identities, under whose influence this century might surpass the last in violent history. It’s not a contest I want to handicap.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Quest for Life: Day 11
What we do is still a bit mysterious to me, but that's partly what keeps me engaged. Retained executive search. Retained is the good kind; contingency is the bad kind. I work for the good guys, though poachers we may be! It’s a fascinating industry, though. I’ll share more as I learn it.
Meanwhile, for the first time in the longest, I am filled with not simply the desire, but the need to learn more about the profession and about how I can add value to my firm. See how I keep using "we" and "our?" I've bought in already. It's oddly disconcerting, but I'm just going with it. I am also feeling like I not only need but want a mentor. Yah, the admission is making my head spin, too. The trouble is, I haven't yet figured out how to go about doing that. One step will certainly involve joining a professional group, the most obvious one being the Special Library Association. The SLA has three divisions in particular that should be relevant to my latest "career:" Biomedical & Life Sciences, Pharmaceutical & Health Technology, and Solo Librarians. Just to keep you confused, I am not a Librarian, and please don't call me one. Some of my best friends are Librarians, and I totally respect the profession, but it's not what I am. What I am is a Research Associate. Not too snazzy of a title, but hey, I have a cubicle office—with a door.
There are exec search associations, too, but they’re more for firms as a whole rather than individuals. What’s interesting for me is that I’m the only one who does what I do at the firm, which is why my wishlist includes somebody to bounce off of professionally (but platonically).
I could babble on about how wonderful everything is, except there is one thing that threatens my new world already, and it isn’t the mac, though truth be told I'm still not diggin' the Apple. Nope, it’s the telephones, and, specifically, that I’ve been asked to answer them. Supposedly this is temporary, until they hire an Admin. And I was asked not told. I agreed for two reasons. One is that even though I was asked, we all know that when your new employer asks you to do something, you sorta gotta do it. Pitching in. Team effort. Whatever helps the company. Rah, rah, rah. But the other reason is that it will help me get my finger on the pulse of our business—what kind of calls come in, how different personalities in the office deal with things, etc. But I really do hope this doesn’t remain a part of my accountabilities for long. I’ve already been in consultation with my buddy Six, strategizing a reverse psychology that will make them want me off the phones without it weighing against me. I will not invoke this plan unless necessary.
Meanwhile, the world marches onward, and I find it impossible to keep up with current events though, for your sake as well as mine, I am trying. Otherwise we’re all stuck with my little diatribes, and trust me, I know the nutritional value’s been getting a little weak. But I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in the toils of a worker's life.
Take the very hard working Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark and hip hop artist nee entrepreneur Missy Elliott, who have been scuffling in court over a royal crest. Can’t we all just get along? And I hear Wal-Mart has closed a store in Quebec to keep its employees from unionizing; the official story is that the store is unprofitable. Then there's Walter Scheib, the White House Chef who was fired by the First Lady. This is kind of old news, but I’ve been working damn it. I love this quote, though: “How you serve 240 people and have them not think it's another rubber-chicken-circuit dinner, that's the job.” And here I am traumatized by the telephone. I even read that 42% of U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists surveyed say they’ve been forced to downplay or even cover up their findings about the risk of endangered species lest they themselves become endangered species.
All this and rain. Rain drops keep falling on my head, and people with umbrellas keep making me hate people with umbrellas. Nowadays you’ve got people with what I swear are table umbrellas, hogging the whole damn sidewalk, in addition to all the people who open their wet umbrellas while standing near you so all the water sprays in your face, the people who can’t walk and hold an umbrella at the same time so they nearly poke your eyes out as they meander around, the people who stand near you while waiting for the light to change so that the rain drips from their umbrella down your collar. Oh my my. Ten minutes of all that at lunch time, and I'm eager to get back to my desk. They have traffic school for violaters, and they should have umbrella school. It's time to get tough on umbrellas.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Hollow Point (Brought to You by Hallmark)
"The only thing pain can wring from a soul that has abandoned resistance and from a mind that has lost its hate is sorrow."
—Yi Munyol: Han Pyongt’ae
Our Twisted Hero
The woman hands me a loaded gun, and I'm touched, instantly, as if she's given me a bouquet of roses or the keys to a Mercedes. We're sitting in the middle of her bed, an island surrounded by a sea of books and papers and stuff. Bracing myself for the tidal wave that doesn't come, I close my eyes, squeezing them tight, finger on the trigger, hoping the signals don't cross in my mind so that I'm squeezing the trigger and poking my eye with the free hand. "Please don't fire it," she says turgidly, and I laugh. I've got it now; I can do anything I want.
Which of us is more mad—the one in temporary possession or the one who handed it to her, knowing full well that we always return to the scenes of our crimes? I picture Bonny & Clyde, Badlands, Thelma & Louise, and all the other two-against-an-existential-world-of-nothingness flicks. "There's always tomorrow," she says, filling me with a tantalizing fear, the kind marketed by amusement park owners and drug dealers. Hefting the weight of the tiny relic a moment longer, I smile and hand it back, surmising that it’s all about trust. Telling her so, she ejects the cartridge and hands me one of the two hollow point bullets contained therein. A souvenir she calls it. I call it love. Either one can save your life or rip through your heart, but you’re luckiest just to be grazed.
She’s been unlucky several times, and now she’s dead inside. Me, I’m only unlucky now that I’m in love with her. I guess it fits, though. We’re both crazy, but I’m just crazy in love whereas she’s mad and wants revenge. Because I’m smitten, I’m gonna help her. So here we go—out to kill Cupid.
I tried explaining to her that Cupid is an imaginary construct like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but she asked me why he doesn’t appear at shopping malls with long lines of children. I thought she was joking, so I snickered, but when I noted the look on her face I quickly pretended it was just a tickle in my throat. She poured me a glass of water, and then we sat at the table where she laid out her plan.
"I figure all it will take is one good shot."
"How do you know Cupid’s a ‘he?’" Even if he’s a boy, everybody knows Cupid’s just a child with wings.
"Because only a man would do the things he’s done," she replies, muttering "that sadistic bastard," under her breath. She’s polishing the gun as we’re talking, which starts scaring me more than the conversation itself. She talks about a guy in her neighborhood who dresses in wings on the weekends sometimes. He’s just a rave kid, but she says "no, that’s what he wants us to think." She proceeds to name the number of times she’s sighted him and soon after, something in her life has gone awry. ". . . and then there’s the time I saw him at Bryer’s, when I was waiting for Janelle, who was 40 minutes late. He said ‘hi’ to me and then she finally showed up—with Tara—and dumped me on the spot." My skepticism about his involvement only makes her more adamant. To her, this guy’s no devil with horns. He’s a clever, twisted angel. As she speaks, I watch her caressing the metal and find myself wishing like hell she’d shine me up instead. "The idea is to kill him and end all this nonsense for good but seeing as how we’ve only got one bullet now, it may be alright just to scare him off." I smile briefly, fingering the ammunition in my pocket. This is still a game to me, but it feels important to play along.
"And how are we supposed to lure this mythic creature?"
"Easy," she utters wryly. "We set a trap." I’m beginning to realize the girl has no sense of humor.
"You and me. We’re a team, right?"
To discover you’re just a caricature in someone else’s plot has gotta be painful to some egos. Not mine though—at least not yet. I remember reading in my high school Humanities class that we’re all actors on a stage and immediately taking it for granted that I was off-off-Broadway, which affords one certain liberties. It’s not about how to make the audience cackle or cry so much as it is about suppressing any desire to hit it big so that somebody else can play you, fucking up your lines and generally mucking up your life. If your life is destined to be fucked or mucked you may as well do it yourself. That’s liberty, Macbeth be damned.
I want this girl. No matter how illogical or odious her mind is, it’s a beautiful one. I’ll stop at nothing, I think to myself. At that moment I feel a pinch that causes me to clutch at my chest. She peers at me suspiciously. "You said you’re my friend. That makes us a team, right?" Later that night as I ready myself for bed, I notice the tiniest bead of red on my white shirt. Stripping, I scan my chest in the mirror, finding a bit of dried blood just beneath my breast, minuscule, as if I’d gotten a paper cut there.
This plan of hers has me wigged. For days I avoid her, knowing that the man she thinks is Cupid is just a man. She explained her rationale to me, but it only set me thinking about myself and how all the lovers I’ve had have been like balloons. I’m the delighted child with a fistful of string. But one by one something happens to them all. Whoops, one slipped out of the hand and another is sagging, having lost too much air, and BAM!, that one’s just exploded. Like a firearm. You lose a few and that makes the last one all the more valuable. You clutch at it, maybe even try to tie it around your wrist. You get focused on that one last balloon to the exclusion of everything else. Not even cotton candy or the promise of a bigger, better balloon can make you let go. Yet next thing you know the string entwined within the confines of your tight fist is just that—a bit of string with absolutely nothing on the end of it.
Well, I’m not letting any of that stuff get me down. I’m an adult now. I’ve got choices, and I know what comes next. Even if I have no choice in the "who," if it’s always gotta come up empty, maybe I can at least decide the how, where, and when. It’s not like after that last merry-go-round of love I said to myself, "Next chick I fall for is gonna be crazy." No, I never wanted that. What’s wrong with casual fun, romance, and a little affection? As I dine on last night’s leftovers, I realize my infatuation with her is like a pizza with all the wrong toppings, delivered several hours after the speedy guarantee. When you’re starved what are you most likely to do: send it back and continue eating dry cereal out the box or convince yourself it’s exactly what you ordered and tastes divine?
She rushes up to me on the street, flushed and out of breath. She wants to know where I’ve been. Frankly, I don’t know. Since the night she handed me that .22, I had realized that there might be as much wrong with me as with her. But matters of the heart are tricky.
I found myself dialing her number at random hours only to hang up before she or her voice mail picked up. I’d accidently walk 20 blocks out of my way just so I’d pass by her apartment or the corner store she frequents just so I could maybe catch a glimpse of her, but I didn’t want her to see me. Upon hearing her voice on my machine, I was torn between amorousness and horror, especially because the growing anger in her voice was astonishing.
She thought I was avoiding her and wasn’t a true friend. It wasn’t that at all. I was in love with her but wasn’t sure that killing for her was such a good idea. After all, 15-to-life is hardly much of a honeymoon. Nor would be frying in the electric chair instead of on the beach. No, this girl had a plan, and I was part of it, and she was for real. She seemed a little obsessive-compulsive in that genius sort of way. I’d hoped maybe she’d find another obsession—like me, for instance. Aside from that, my only hope was that she’d come to her senses and realize there is no Cupid we can see. He just hovers in the invisibly rarified air.
Still, here she is now, full of excitement. "You can explain yourself later," she grants me. Grabbing my hands, she peers deeply into my eyes, and I feel penetrated in every way so that my knees nearly give in. With the next word out of her mouth, I swear I almost see the beating of wings, like a hummingbird but bigger. "Babe..."
"Yes," I shimmer.
"We’ve got him. This is it. He’s a goner."
I come back to my senses. "He?" I am confused, my heart quickens. Maybe she is saying that she’s over it. Maybe her delirium has relinquished the notion altogether. Maybe I can be her next obsession.
"Yes, meet me in the alley just like we talked about." She’s jazzed. If only that gleam in her eye was truly for me. "Midnight, kay? And wear something appropriate." She smiles and laughs. What a sorry excuse for a joke. Gently shaking me she repeats, "Okay?" I’m slow to speak, causing her to deflate momentarily. "Where’ve you been anyway?" I’ve got to respond because the silence is filled with the deafening sound of flapping. But I can’t speak because I’m crushed by the decibels, so she says "Never mind," and I’m crushed again. "Midnight?"
"‘Round ‘bout, yah." I smile cherubically. Angels and devils are sometimes one and the same.
The witching hour. It’s raining. Dress appropriately, I get it now. A slicker. That’s what I love about her. She can predict the future. I think back to the plan we discussed what seems like a bittersweet youth ago, but I put it out of my mind. "It’s all good, though," I repeat to myself as I look around my place for what I seem to know will be the last time for this lifetime. We’re in love. I am.
I glide down the streets smiling to myself. I know everybody isn’t going to understand this, but it’s just that the highs are so very high, and the lows don’t scare me from up here. The loosed balloon’s just a speck on the horizon; as it climbs higher I trail with it. I enter the corridor, treading carefully on the shiny, wet cobblestone. This could be very romantic. I start to weep, though I’m not sure whether it’s because of the beauty or the suffering. I lean against the cool brick at my back and bear the weight of my quixotic dreams, getting far enough lost that I don’t hear the footsteps that dead end at my own feet.
She pulls my hood off and nuzzles my neck for a moment before resheathing me. This tenderness is the first gift since the copper-plated bullet. Warm, I shiver. Her arm slips underneath mine, placing cold metal in my hand. I shudder. "It’s like those new cameras—just point and click." I whip around, teeth chattering, chest to burst, but before I can say one word, she purrs, "shhh," one finger over my lips. I kiss it eyes closed. At long last we are courting.
A noise midway down the alley severs us. There, a figure clutching a sodden pair of wings is fumbling with a door key. A light flashes on, and for one second I see the guy’s face illuminated. As if expelled from a cannon, "Hey, Asshole!" fires past my ears. In silhouette, he turns, and my confused mind records the next several moments in slo-mo.
Shoving me from behind, she demands, "Now!" And I just do it. Partly because she said so. And though later I try to claim there was no malice aforethought, I guess the overriding thought in my head at that moment was a questioning: Why am I in this kind of love and not another? At that moment, I hate Cupid too.
My arm rises. I see it as if it’s someone else’s. I close my eyes, squeezing them tight, finger on the trigger, hoping the signals don’t cross in my mind. I laugh. I’ve got it now; I can do anything I want. Which of us is more mad—the one in temporary possession or the one who handed it to her, knowing full well that we always return to the scenes of our crimes. I picture Bonny & Clyde. "There’s always tomorrow," she says. To make sure, I blow her away. Close range.
The newspapers all clamor that I got off too easy. Nobody can figure it out. They speculate some kind of squabble between the two of us, but they don’t get it. The only witness has never more than greeted us and doesn’t even know us by name. In his police report, he insisted that initially I pointed the gun at him, but the only thing that matters is where it was pointing in the end. The one thing they all agree upon is that I’m crazy.
Now begins the arduous task of trying to explain myself to the white-coats running the show. I tell them Cupid was the god of love in Roman mythology, but we put an end to it, and we should be thanked. They argue the Roman gods, though popular in poetry and art, weren’t real. I explain patiently that I wasn’t a believer either—at first. Attempting to prove my folly, a doctor who reminds me of my grandfather reads me a bit of Ovid:
"Cupid's there, quiver reversed, bow broken,
Holding a burnt-out torch.
See how sadly he walks, poor child, wings drooping,
How he beats at his bared breast,
How the tears rain down on his hair, now lying all tangled
About his throat, and his mouth's a loud O of grief."
"And that is how she looked when I shot her." I say. That is how she looked.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
When "Gone Phishing" Spells Trouble for You
Given that I haven’t made any recent attempts to access my account, I immediately wondered who had. A bit disturbed, I immediately tried to call the customer service number, which lo and behold gives the following recording: “Call 1-800-918-TALK, that’s 1-800-918 T-A-L-K, just 69 cents per minute.” (This is the point where in the movie version of my life, the film score will emit a duhn duhn duhn).
Dear Washington Mutual Customer:
For your security, the profile that you are using to access Washington Mutual Online Banking has been locked because of too many failed login attempts. You can unlock this profile online by selecting an option below:
Unlock your profile with:
My ATM/Visa Check Card number and PIN
Other personal information (SSN, Date of Birth, Account #, etc)
We regret any inconvenience this may cause you.
Washington Mutual Account Review Department.
Need help? Use "Site Helper" or call customer service at 1.800.788.7888.
Please do not "Reply" to this Alert.
©2005 Washington Mutual Financial Group. All rights reserved.
Now I knew that the message is bogus not in that someone else had attempted to access my account, but in that someone is trying to get me to release my personal information. Fortunately I hadn’t clicked on any of the given links, but I did scroll over them to reveal their destination, which turned out to be the third confirmation of a fraudulent message. The hyperlinks for “unlocking your profile” were to www.lynn-sanders.com/login.personal.wamu/unlock/SignOnError.php.
Who’s Lynn Sanders? The bank president? The same perverse curiosity that found the 69 cents per minute to be too much to follow up was given the go ahead to find out what’s behind http://www.lynn-sanders.com/. Unsurprisingly, nothing. My browser wouldn’t go there.
So, I give you these details in order to offer a first time warning for some and a reminder for others, of a practice known as phishing (pronounced fishing) that has nothing to do with driving around the country in a vintage 60s Volkswagen van, doused in patchouli and incense, making friendship bracelets to sell at the next Phish show, which I hear is no longer possible anymore. Darn. Anyway, the kind of phishing my experience illustrates is a type of Internet fraud whereby some clever bastards spoof legitimate web sites in order to get the gullible, naïve, ill-informed, distracted, or unlucky to hand over the keys to their financial identities. I had heard of it but have taken it only vaguely seriously until now because I’ve only ever received messages to entities with which I have no relationship such as Citibank. I don’t have an account with Citibank so whenever I get a message regarding problems with my Citibank account, I automatically know it’s a fake. But this one has taught me to be a little more savvy.
Several groups are taking this quite seriously, including the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NWC3). They have partnered to create the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, whose mission is “to address fraud committed over the Internet. For victims of Internet fraud, IFCC provides a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of a suspected criminal or civil violation. For law enforcement and regulatory agencies at all levels, IFCC offers a central repository for complaints related to Internet fraud, works to quantify fraud patterns, and provides timely statistical data of current fraud trends.” Unfortunately, when I tried to submit my complaint, the system was down.
No worries. The Anti-Phishing Working Group is also “committed to wiping out Internet scams and fraud” and offers worthwhile consumer advice on how to avoid phishing scams. It’s a good idea to forward your bogus email to them; of course, the email address they give contains a typo so it bounces. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org not .com.
The Federal Trade Commission also accepts notification of unsolicited commercial emails, which is their sanitized name for this public menace. Forward any malicious emails to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, though I’ve read that the former email address bounces a lot.
And of course, contact the institution being spoofed. If, by chance, you realize belatedly that you have given out info that you shouldn’t have, contact all of your financial institutions as soon as possible. When forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email and keep the header information intact. Remember, it's a mad world. You gotta protect yourself before you wreck yourself.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Viability? Here’s the reality. Dean is a bit like Santa Claus to me. Sometimes I believe in him, and other times I want to. When he first entered the national political scene, I was very excited. I got fired up! Then, just before “they” decided to take him down, I got fed up with him and jumped ship. You can call me a waffler, though it’s not true. However, when all was said and done, I wished that the Dems had put him in the ring with the ‘Shrub. Even if we’d lost, we’d have lost good, by running a real candidate, by which I mean someone cut and dry different from the status quo. I could have been proud of that kind of a loss.
In a couple days, Dean will probably be voted the head of the Democratic National Committee, spinning the party's wheel. Dean is an admirable fellow to stay loyal to the crew that mutinied on him. Yet I feel as if he’s falling into a trap. As admiral, he’ll be shuffling lots of paper, wheelin’ and dealin’ for money (which he’s damn good at) and basically handling a plethora of administrative tasks. Affecting policy? Fuhget about it. Won’t be no time between all that money and donors, donors and money, merry-go-round.
Dean should be a rat like me, and dive off a party boat that's got the turning radius of the Titanic. Let it sink to its watery grave.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
I've been hibernating;
trying to spare my fellows,
but it's impossible.
The raging river.
The half empty rafts.
A closet full of clothes
never to be worn again.
I have a sister again, she said.
I am a lion. (moon)
I am a scorpion. (rising)
I am the hunter hunted. (sun)
I am not yet born. (childish)
I am the hot petulant tear
who needs to be reminded
that one can only go it alone.
The universe's atoms and mine
scattered like a tray of marbles tipped
me vs. me
winning and losing
at the same time.
Why blog? Because I’m a secret narcissist. Secret’s out, I guess. Yesterday I received this message from a friend:
So, we recently subscribed us to Netflix, and among the first of the DVDs we received from our list was Bowling for Columbine. It crashed (surface damage) 1 hr 20 minutes into it (and heck, we needed a break by that point anyway), so we flipped it and watched the special features.
And there's footage of Michael Moore speaking in Denver six months after the release of the film. During his speech, he tries to get the audience fired up on phoning their congressmen in support of some upcoming "gun loophole legislation." Not many people raise their hands to commit to making a phone call.
It prompted quite a conversation between us about activism, and what it takes, mentally, for someone to switch over from inactive to activism. Personally, when I'm outraged about something, when I'm really frustrated with some political or economic policy or event, I want to talk about it. I rant about it. But that's it. And I'm thinking lots of folks are like me. The Internet is full of weblogs written by politically outraged people who otherwise aren't doing much.
It seems to me that there are several possible responses to political/economic outrage:
1. doing nothing
2. talking, writing, weblogging about it
3. the structured response (i.e. phoning a congressman when instructed to do so; writing a letter to protest an injustice when provided an address and an example letter by your local chapter of Amnesty International)
4. creating your own custom response (e.g. organizing a protest rally; throwing a pie at Bill Gates, or eggs at the U.S. President's limousine)
So, my question:
Is it typically a linear progression from 1 to 4? Or do people go directly from inaction to #4? And what does it take, mentally, to switch over to #4? Does someone inclined to activism mentally personalize political and economic policies and events differently than someone inclined to #2?
I just thought you might have some insight.
Well, this friend of mine poses an interesting question, and one upon which I said I’d think on. Having done so, my initial response is that politicization it’s probably like the process of grief, with a range of known or common phases. Some people experience all of them in a common particular order while others go through very few or possibly none or maybe stay stuck in one phase forever.
I think about my own experiences. I’ve always been an angry letter writer, but for years my satisfaction came in the writing not the delivering. So even to this day, I have one particular letter I wrote in response to an article in The South End, Wayne State University's student paper. The article was a ridiculous piece equating gay rights with “special” rights. Aach, special rights. The foundation upon which it was written was super sketchy and to this day it’s the response of which I’m most proud—but I never mailed it to the paper.
I also remember an incident that to this day still sticks in my craw. I had gone to visit my parents for the weekend, and my mother drove me to the Greyhound station for my return trip. She wanted to put my ticket on her credit card, but when I went to the ticket counter they said that she would have to come to the counter to sign for it. That much was understandable, but, as I explained, it was very difficult for my mom to get in and out of the car due to physical weakness caused by a congenital illness that was becoming symptomatic. I asked if the ticket person could instead accompany me to the parking lot where my mother was waiting in the car. I could draw the story out but the short of it, is that she refused and so did the manager whom I eventually requested to see. It was mid-afternoon in Grand Rapids, Michigan (not exactly known for serious crime like carjacking or kidnapping), no other customers were in line, and the car and my mother were visible from the ticket counter. It couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from the tiny station’s front door. But they wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t policy. I was asked, “if she can’t get out of the car, then how did she get in it?” I have never come so close to decking somebody. I was absolutely incensed and outraged at their stupid bureaucracy and lack of compassion. After lunging at the woman behind the counter, I went out to the car where to my surprise—and my mom’s and my aunt’s—I burst into tears. To be honest I don’t remember how the situation was resolved, though my aunt admonished me gently, saying that I needed to be strong for my mom. The entire bus ride, I scratched out the most scathing the letter. I was determined that not only would both the ticket clerk and her manager be reprimanded, but I was going to send a copy of my letter to the Grand Rapids Press, hopefully inspiring the firing of both people. But as always, the act of writing was all I needed to move on with my life. I never mailed the letters though I felt guilty for not doing so.
To say the impact of the Internet on protests of any size, shape, or form, has been enormous is a tremendous understatement. If you want to march, you can find other marchers. If you want to turn your back on the president’s inauguration, you can do it en masse with others who’ve found out about it and signed up. So many prewritten letters and petitions circulate that one may start to wonder if they’re truly effective. Still, the Internet has opened the door to the perception that I, as an individual, can make a difference. From there it has been a relatively easy jump for me to actually get out there and march or leaflet for a cause or phone bank for an issue or candidate, especially because I live in the Bay Area, which has a rich heritage of activism as long as you can stand all the patchouli. (Many times I cannot.)
Yah, I’ve marched. I’ve marched up and down San Francisco. Marched to voice opposition to the Iraqi occupation/war. Marched against Bush’s victory in 2000. Marched in the annual dyke march. Marched in support of Palestine. My flat feet have gotten flatter, making the rounds around City Hall and through the streets of San Francisco. And my fingers need respite from all the petitions and letters emailed and forwarded—or deleted when I become overwhelmed by my inbox. I’ve even attended a Ruckus training. I also try to keep myself informed even though the task is daunting. I can’t tell you how many newsletters and bulletin board digests I receive on a daily basis; if I hadn’t worn glasses before, I’m sure I’d be seeking out ocular therapy wherever it’s doled out.
But try as I may, only rarely can I escape what Joe Bageant calls “the politics of the comfort zone.” Talking, writing, blogging, being told what to write or say or do and doing it or creating one’s own response—it all feels like the first thing on my friend’s list, i.e., doing nothing. For that, I feel guilty and immensely so. The only time I feel like I am having an impact on the social ills we face is when I volunteer my time and physical presence—not just marching or writing a check, but actually doing something whether delivering meals to the needy, mentoring an adult learning to read, sitting through emergency response trainings so that when the next big quake hits, maybe I’ll be able to useful.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with donating to charities or doing whatever suits you—something is better than nothing. Yet, I agree with those whose sentiments are similar to Bageant’s. It’s damn difficult to become radicalized if the raison d’être isn’t shoved hard in your face—like 9/11. I remember writing at the time that I would gladly take up arms to protect my country. Well, that was then. Not all of us are born Che Guevara, and even Ernesto himself wasn’t born Che. He only became who he was after he’d forced himself to experience the world the way his brethren did. I think that’s what it takes for most people to move beyond letter writing or egging Bill Gates. Though I’d always felt sympathy for homeless people, I never preached against homelessness as strongly as I did when I nearly became homeless myself. You stand up for yourself and others when you have something to protect, something to lose, even if that something is only the ability to look yourself in the eye when facing a mirror.
You tell me. Does someone inclined to activism mentally personalize political and economic policies and events differently than someone inclined to sit back and let others sort things out? Additionally, to experience the richness of life must we live as if life is dependent upon our actions?
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Quest for Life: Day 1
"But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine."
—Antonine de Exupéry
The Little Prince
Well, I'll be damned—I liked it. People were nice to me. They bought me flowers—gorgeous tulips that bloomed before my eyes—and the Managing Director took me out for a bravo lunch. We did it royal: I had Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Satsuma Sweet Potato & Apple Puree, Asparagus, Baby Carrots, and Wild Huckleberry Sauce.
I have an office. It's a cubicle office, but it's an office. My last office was the restroom, and I had to share it. This one is mine alone. It's a fishbowl cubicle office, but it's an office. With a door that shuts. I have a G4 imac desktop with those silly looking crystal orb speakers. I am told that I will learn to love my Apple; I am ready, polish in hand.
Better yet, I have a real door that I can close any time I want. Since it's a cube with windows I can look out, and they can see in—it's a fishbowl. I sit right across the hall from one of the Managing Partners. I can see him at his desk, and he can see me. I can catch a view of the bay through his window from my desk. As great a view as it is, it's even greater that I can close my door, just like he can close his, and he'll have to knock on my door just like I will knock on his.
Everyone has a Herman Miller Aeron chair except for me. I just have a regular old office chair. But I have a door. That closes. Not eveyone has that.
Despite the fact that it's a cubicle, it's amazing how much the door means to me. I haven't used it yet, but I can, and I will. I want to be a good (i.e. happy) worker bee. I mean it sincerely. I even prayed during my walk to work. Please oh please oh my pretty, let me learn the ways of contentedness.
Yes, I'm pleased to report that I would deem what happened today a success: personal humanity preserved (so far). Yeah! Regardless, who can blame me, cynic from birth, for keeping them fingers crossed, as if warding off vampires. I have not yet been tamed.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Misim of an Unlit Fire
The much maligned Mr. Rogers. I remember watching his show and not digging it all that much, but it was tv and back then there wasn't much I would shy away from. Hated the Partridge Family but watched it anyway. My favorites were more along the lines of the Brady Bunch, My Three Sons, that show with Buffy and Jody, and the piece de resistance—Gilligan's Island. Forget the endless remakes and reunion movies. The original show was precious.
So is having a job. Those who know me best will scoff. Oh yes, I remember the aftermath of that big interview I granted in Winter 2000 - 2001:
Well that interview seems a lifetime ago. I'm not retracting any comments previously made; but I will say that a lot has happened since then, and I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to make my 9 to 5 as vital to me as my 5 to 9—aside from just paying the bills. It will be a challenge, one my intuitive counselor says is not supposed to be my primary challenge in this lifetime. Well, I already found out that my dream job was the kind that produces a cold sweat, so I'm over that delusion.
Super Ego: Let's get back to your work status. You have some pretty unorthodox ideas about the notion of working for a living.
BrokenGirl: I have never understood what's so unorthodox about one admiting that she or he doesn't like to work. I simply have never found meaning in the culture of business. Of greater importance to me are values such as love, integrity, freedom … and connecting them with the activities of every day life. Things like, in the words of my illustrious friend Bill, "the perfect kiss, beer and cigarettes, or putting on a clean pair of underwear!"
Super Ego: (surprised) Do you smoke?
Super Ego: Why don't you work?
BrokenGirl: I was laid off, okay! It's not a crime, or rather the crime was committed against me, and I am thankful. These past few months have been absolutely glorious. For one thing, they allow me to spend this time with you. (pauses). Look, I have liked very few of the jobs I've held. Either I didn't like the people I worked for or with or I didn't see the point of getting up in the morning to shuffle paper, you know. I'm a dreamer at heart. That's how God made me. I don't see why I shouldn't be left to dream.
Super Ego: What happens to society if dreamers only dream and never commit to anything?
BrokenGirl: Dreams are important. Inner work is more important than outer work sometimes. Sure, yes, somebody's gotta take out the trash, somebody has to run the energy plant, somebody's gotta arrest the poachers, but how we can we expect God's reality to become evident to us when we've superglued blinders to our faces? . . . And as far as the work thing goes, um, I wish I could find stewardship on the job, i.e. a job in which I felt fulfilled because my contributions have meaning to the company or business or organization, which in turn does something good for society.
Super Ego: How about nonprofit work?
BrokenGirl: I knew you'd ask that…. Unfortunately I have bills to pay. Nonprofit is called that for a reason. I need to make some cash.
Super Ego: How about starting a company?
BrokenGirl: I'm not driven enough. We tend to enjoy the things we do best. I'm good at fucking around. I like it.
Super Ego: That makes you sound very immature.
BrokenGirl: (shrugs shoulders)
Super Ego: Do you agree? Disagree? You don't care?
BrokenGirl: I don't care. There's a lot to life. There's a lot to living. There's a lot of pain in the world. We have the luxury of living in a free country, which means you're free to believe whatever you want. You think I'm immature? Why talk you out if it, especially if it turns out to be the truth?
Super Ego: You like to play devil's advocate with yourself.
BrokenGirl: You know what? I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm a water sign and a fire sign. How fucked up is that? I'm constantly dousing myself… I made a tape once, sad blues on one side and happy blues on the other. The "sad" side was called "the pessi-" and the happy side was "the opti-."
Super Ego: (smiling) Is that code for something?
BrokenGirl: (smiles) You could say that. Misim of an unlit fire.
I just don't want to be like the guy they found sweeping after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. His job was to sweep in front of a particular office building, which is what he was doing when the quake struck. He was knocked down as everything crumbled around him. When the volatile earth finally quieted, he surveyed the landscape and found nothing but rubble around him. Then he found his broom and began sweeping in front of the heap that had once been the office. The rescuers were astonished when they found him in an area where almost nobody had survived and futher amazed to see him vigorously working the broom. When they asked him what he was doing, he told them he was a sweeper. He was just doing his job.
I don't wanna be that guy. Nothing against the broom—I actually love sweeping—but f--- the chains. I start my new job tomorrow, and I really will go forth with the mindset that it's precious. But I will also have memorized my cheat('s) sheet:
How to Live for One's Self:
1. reasonable faith over blind mind (intuition trumps thought)
2. never expect validation (plunder onward)
Quest for life, here I come. I'll keep you posted.