as consciousness is harnessed to scat singing by mrm

Last night I watched Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, a casually unkind movie. I did not enjoy almost any of it; notable exceptions being Steve Coogan's dreams, and the scene, midway through, where he and Rob Brydon are scat singing as their massive SUV blazes through the English countryside. That was transcendent. 

Incomparably better spent is time with the second volume of Susan Sontag's journals, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh, Journals & Notebooks 1964-1980:

"Mailer says he wants his writings to change the consciousness of his time. So did DH L[awrence], obviously.

I don't want mine to–at least not in terms of any particular point of view or vision or message which I'm trying to put across.

I'm not.

The texts are objects. I want them to affect readers–but in any number of possible ways. There is no one right way to experience what I've written.

I'm not 'saying something.' I'm allowing 'something' to have a voice, an independent existence (an existence independent of me).

I think, truly think, in only two situations:
at the typewriter or when writing in these notebooks (monologues)
talking to someone else (dialogue)
I don't really think–just have sensations, or broken fragments of ideas, when I am alone without a means to write, or not writing–or not talking.

I write–and talk–in order to find out what I think.

But that doesn't mean 'I' 'really' 'think' that. It only means that is my-thought-when-writing (or when-talking). If I'd written another day, or in another conversation, 'I' might have 'thought' differently."

- 1965 

grander and more dramatic by mrm

Still watching Girls? Spoilers, spoilers everywhere and not a drop to drink. K, you've been warned.

I finished watching season two of Girls. Well, that show certainly reminds me of bad decisions I have made in the past. So much so that it is uncomfortable to watch at times but, onward we move.

The only line of Hannah's writing that we've gotten to see on screen is, "A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance," but the season ends with the girls isolated from one another and generally in the arms of men. I strongly suspect, however, that it is the character Hannah who is betraying her ideals rather than the writer Lena Dunham. 

Hannah's (male) editor has just criticized her as being Jane Austen-esque, has made disparaging remarks about the "boring" stuff she's writing about female friendship, has in fact told her, "If you're not getting fucked right now, make it up." We know that Hannah doesn't handle criticism of her writing well, since *cough cough* last time someone tried, she accused him of homophobia (unrelated) and dumped him. So it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to imagine that part of what's going on in her anxiety-riddled head is a fear that her editor (who is also one of her literary heroes) is right, that she needs to have a man and/or be writing about a man to be truly interesting. And so she reaches out to Adam desperately, without first deciding "if he's the greatest person in the world or the worst," something she'd previously acknowledged she needed to spend some time sorting out (easily the wisest thing the character has ever said). Just a few episodes ago, Hannah was afraid Adam would break down her door. Now she thinks it sounds like salvation. We know something's wrong.

What I'm saying is: I don't believe this ending. I mean, I don't believe it as a "happy" ending. I think what Dunham is doing is pretty complicated: Presenting us with all the trappings of a happy ending, but with enough history and enough subtext that we all feel uncomfortable, mistrustful, and unsatisfied.

the saddest poem in San Francisco by mrm

Biking to work this morning, I passed a Muni bus going the opposite direction. The screen on the front of the bus said: "MUNI TURNS 100"* and then as I passed it, the screen changed to say, "OUT OF SERVICE."

If only it could have been like this.
*I am paraphrasing. It may have said, "100 Years of Muni," but I think you see my poem.

princesses v. pandas by mrm

"I used to think that the interesting issue was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not? Our current royal family doesn’t have the difficulties in breeding that pandas do, but pandas and royal persons alike are expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment. But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at? Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage."

– Hilary Mantel, in this article

Also, stop what you're doing and go read Wolf Hall. Then we can talk about it! Thanks!

how it fits by mrm

This afternoon I was at Davies Symphony Hall, viewing a performance by organist Chelsea Chen. She was wearing an asymmetrical dress with only one shoulder strap. The organ is a big instrument, and requires a lot of movement to play: the lifting and pulling and crossing over of arms, the swinging of legs and tapping of feet. I thought of the small tests I run in fitting rooms, lifting my knees, sitting and standing repeatedly, trying to gauge whether a skirt or dress will be easy to bike in. I wonder what strange fitting room contortions professional organists go through, stretching and bending in tiny spaces, trying to see if the fabric will tear here or chafe there, before purchasing a dress for performance.

the epiphany itself by mrm

"This was again very dumb because Frau H. failed to perceive the true meaning of the epiphany that had come unto her, which was not, as Frau H. thought, that she had been chosen to bring the beauty of dust to the world, but rather that she, Frau H., was just as whole, as profound, and as valuable, as the epiphany itself."

– Stephan Sprenger, "Dust," trans. from German by Dustin Lovett, Best European Fiction 2011

someone else's thoughts about George Orwell by mrm

"You used to be bullied and sat last in class, but now you break windows with the eagerness a brick has for glass."

"In addition to social connections of a pragmatic or idealistic kind, there is a third way of understanding the relations of individuals to the state. It was first demonstrated, as far as I can calculate, by Socrates, when he refused to avoid his death penalty and escape Athens. We need to see society as an extension of ourselves, an invisible part of our anatomy that assists us every day without dominating us and that, like our own arms and legs, we tend when injured, and whose welfare we consider at all times. The relation resembles that of a violinist to his instrument – useful but more than something useful, cared for like an esteemed friend. If such a part of us fails, we do not discard it for a peg leg, nor are we fired from our job because we cannot play hopscotch. We may be a disposable member of the symphony, but our violin is us to us. The relation is sometimes – oh dear – called love."

– William H. Glass, "Double Vision: George Orwell's contradictions," Harper's, October 2012

jury duty by mrm

At first, she felt prepared. Even sophisticated. Ah yes, I am someone who reports for jury duty with my coffee in a thermos. No need to try to dash across the street, in the spittle-like rain, to wait in line for a cup of too-hot brown water, then scramble to arrive on time. 

She opened the thermos and coffee splashed everywhere, on the table, on her skirt. Undeterred, she took out some tissues and began sopping it up from the tabletop. She got a stain-remover pen out of her purse and applied it to her skirt. I am prepared for this contingency, she thought, I am someone who is ready, I am someone who has a plan, even when the coffee thermos has a leak.  

After all, she thought, it's not as thought I knew it had a leak. I borrowed it this morning. I do not own a coffee thermos. I'm someone who has a borrowed coffee thermos. I'm someone who has borrowed a leaky coffee thermos. I'm someone who knows the kind of people who own leaky coffee thermoses and lend them out willy-nilly. I'm someone who is already so used to the possibility of spilling and making a mess – did this stain my skirt? no way!! – that I'm already prepared to clean up the mess I know I'll eventually make. And yes it's true I forgot to clean out my purse before I came and I had to go outside in the rain and hide my Swiss Army knife under a bush and I just have to hope it'll still be there later because I'm not, of course I'm not allowed to bring it in the building and yes it said that in the jury summons but I forgot, I simply forgot until I was standing in line for the metal detector and by then it was too late, although it's true that even when I realized it was too late, I refused to accept it, and when my bag had gone through the scanner and set off all the alarms and they asked me nicely was there a knife or anything in my bag I tried to bluff, I tried suggesting it might have been my key chain, my wine bottle opener which I'd also forgotten to take out of my bag, my bike multi-tool, and, no? Well, oh, dear, how embarrassing, I forgot about my pocket knife, I'm so sorry and now it's under a bush, if it's even still there, if someone hasn't found it already, it's probably rusting, it's probably gone.

I am someone who is accustomed to dealing with my own incompetence.

a crisis of language by mrm

" 'False statements' were useful but mostly superfluous because a peculiar system of regulation left much of the actual regulation to market participants. Rules about 'disclosure,' which specified that an investor be kept informed of any 'material' information having to do with a company's finances, meant that disclosures in a financial report could be buried in the footnotes and, with some clever wording, made sufficiently dull to ensure that they would rarely be seen as red flags . . . All this would merit the word 'monstrous,' except the adjective implies an element of excitement and drama, whereas this is a system that thrives on abstraction and boredom. According to the conventions of this system, the footnotes are more important than the main body of the text. Sentences are crafted so as not to be read. Language should confound rather than communicate. These conventions operate completely counter to those of narrative as we know it. To fixate on 'human nature,' . . . is a sentimental fallacy; it presumes that the problem is not structural dysfunction, the truly tangled web of politics and money, but individual hubris – villains who threaten an established order, a benign status quo."
– Jennifer Szalai, "The Banality of Avarice: Why the financial industry never had to lie," Harper's, February 2012

we're all going to die by mrm

There were a lot of things I enjoyed about Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman. This is merely one of them:

"Personally, I like the fact that we're going to die. There's nothing more exhilarating than waking up every morning and going, "WOW! THIS IS IT! THIS IS REALLY IT!" It focuses the mind wonderfully. It makes you love vividly, work intensely, and realize that, in the scheme of things, you really don't have time to sit on the sofa in your undies watching Homes Under the Hammer.

Death is not a release, but an incentive. The more focused you are on your death, the more righteously you live your life. My traditional closing-time rant – after the one where I cry that they closed that amazing chippy on Tollington Road, the one that did the pickled eggs – is that humans still believe in an afterlife. I genuinely think it's the biggest philosophical problem the earth faces. Even avowedly nonreligious people think they'll be meeting up with nana and their dead dog, Crackers, when they finally keel over. Everyone thinks they're getting a harp.

But believing in an afterlife totally negates your current existence. It's like an insidious and destabilizing mental illness. Underneath every day – every action, every word – you think it doesn't really matter if you screw up this time around because you can sort it all out in paradise. You make it up with your parents and become a better person and lose that final 14 pounds in heaven. And learn how to speak French. You'll have time, after all! It's eternity! And you'll have wings, and it'll be sunny! So, really, who cares what you do now? This is really just some lackluster waiting room you're going to be in for only 20 minutes, during which you will have no wings at all and are forced to walk around, on your feet, like pigs do.

If we wonder why people are so apathetic and casual about every eminently avoidable horror in the world – famine, war, disease, the seas gradually turning piss-yellow and filling with ring-pulls and shattered fax machines – it's right there. Heaven. The biggest waste of our time we ever invented, outside of jigsaws."

music makes the people come together by mrm

I saw Fiona Apple in concert Saturday night at the Fox theater in Oakland. I've loved her music for so many years that she'd long since acquired a kind of far-away-ness in my mind which meant, somehow, it hadn't occurred to me that someday, I might see her perform. 

When her new album came out, "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do," I did a flip. Fiona Apple's lyricism, her smart yet raw emotional language, her often catchy, haunting, aggressive melodies and incredible vocal control shoot an arrow the size of Cupid's Span straight through my heart, every time. 

So, housemates John & Kristin & I BARTed over to Oakland to see the concert. We had tickets for standing room, at the front. I was happy about this. I like going to concerts when I can see the facial expressions of the performers. I am not excited by massive crowds, with giant screens projecting the show for the people in the back. If I am paying for a live performance, I want to experience some physical closeness, some sense of reading a real person. I was happy to be standing. Fiona Apple's music isn't stuff I dance to, really, but I figured at least I'd get to see her play the piano. Neat. 

She ran onstage with a painting of her dog I recognized from the photo accompanying this New York Times interview, which she flat on the piano, parallel to it, and did not interact with for the remainder of the show. When we'd entered the Fox, there had been signs warning about strobe lights. At a Fiona Apple show? I'd wondered aloud. It was true. This was a very rock n' roll Fiona Apple. That was fine. I actually quite enjoyed the lighting design, although some of the guitar solos were a bit too much for me. I would have preferred longer solos of Fiona on piano. Still, I wasn't really there to complain, I was there to be mesmerized and have a big emotional experience. And to some extent, so was the rest of the crowd. To some extent, but in a different way than I was. A way than was drunker, shoutier, pushier, and far more raucous than mine. Now, I know that I cannot dictate how people behave at concerts. But just for fun, I'm going to pretend I can. Ok? So here we go:
Rules for Concert Behavior
  1. Put away your damn cell phone. Yes, I know: This is an incredible experience, and you want to remember it forever, which is why you're using the shitty, low-quality camera on your cell phone to take bouncy, shaky video that you'll no doubt later upload to YouTube. Let me take this opportunity to tell you I don't care. Your cell phone is getting in the way of my incredible experience. It is a little glowing box in my line of vision, and it is filling me with rage. Put it away before I smack your hand and confiscate your phone. Thank you.
  2. Shut up and stop singing. I know all the words too! I love this singer/band! That's why I bought a ticket, to hear them sing their songs. Not to hear you sing them, shouting, screaming in my ear. You are not a good singer, actually. Please stop. Also, all of you sing-screaming at the same time like this makes me think we're at a fascist rally. It's creepy/scary. Let's all be quiet and listen to the beautiful music together, ok? (Note: I am fine with you singing under your breath, softly. But not so loud, please, as though you are trying to drown out the artist we are all here to see. And not in my ear.)
  3. No shouting at the singer. This is so rude. This is like the rule that (maybe) your parents taught you about interrupting people: Don't do it! For example, when Fiona Apple is singing a beautiful song, and it's a soft, gentle, sad part, her voice low and full of an ache that, for a moment, we all share, we all feel pulling at the base of our spines and the soles of our feet, this is not a good time to get together with your two BFFs and shout in unison, "WE LOVE YOU, FIONA!" because that is rude. She is showing you her art, and you are shouting at her. That is a bad kind of love. Go sit in the corner and think about how to be a better, more supportive, more respectful lover. Corollary: No song requests! The artist has a set list. They will play the songs they want to play. Now stop shouting.
  4. Stop talking. This is so obvious, I can't believe I have to say it. But really? Stop talking. Go outside or something. Jeez. Sure, sometimes there are logistics to sort out. But if you are catching up on the gossip or whatever, at least move yourself out of the front area which is largely populated by people who are excited to be where they are, experiencing what is happening.
Hey, that's it! Only four rules! Basically, they could all be summed up under one rule: Enjoy yourself, but not at the expense of other people. Which I tend to think of as a good life-rule. Apparently, though, there are a lot of people out there who disagree with me.
In the end, it was one of the most isolating concert experiences I've had. I was in a place with so many people, and we were all watching the same performance, and I would even say we were all enjoying it, but the ways in which we were enjoying it, in which we wanted to experience it, were so different. Am I the problem? Should I just sit at home in my bedroom listening to music in private? If I hadn't so many other, positive concert experiences, experiences of joy and dancing and connectivity, I would unreservedly think the problem was me. But here, I don't know. There was a disconnect so engulfing, between how her music makes me feel and how it made so many other people feel Saturday night, and I don't think it can be explained away by alcohol and/or drugs alone. I'm not interested in making the case that I understand or appreciate her music "better" because of the way I wanted to experience the concert, and I am glad she has so many fans. I am especially glad there are so many dude-y looking dudes in polo shirts who know all the words to her songs, her songs that to me are so emotional, and so female. Way to confound my expectations of you, dudes! Now if we are ever drunk together and waiting for a bus in North Beach and I somehow feel obliged to make conversation, I will ask you about Fiona Apple!

I suppose what I am trying to get at is that all of this brought home for me the intensely private nature of experiencing art. Duh, I know; but I'd never had it hit me in quite this way before. I was really happy to have gone, but at the end of the evening, I felt alone. The next day, I sang her songs in the shower and then listened to "Extraordinary Machine" and it felt just as real and near and impossible as always.

Do you have any Rules for Concert Behavior you would like to add? You may submit them here for the committee's consideration.

the rest is noise by mrm

"Probably, the young Reiter answered himself, music would just be noise, noise like crumpled pages, noise like burned books. 
 At this point the conductor raised a hand and said or rather whispered confidentially:
'Don't speak of burned books, my dear young man.'
To which Hans responded:
'Everything is a burned book, my dear maestro. Music, the tenth dimension, the fourth dimension, cradles, the production of bullets and rifles, Westerns: all burned books.'
'What are you talking about?' asked the director.
'I was just stating my opinion,' said Hans.
'An opinion like any other,' said Halder, doing his best to end the conversation on a humorous note, one that would leave them all on good terms, he and the conductor and Hans and the conductor, 'a typically adolescent pronouncement.'
'No, no, no,' said the conductor, 'what do you mean by Westerns?'
'Cowboy novels,' said Hans.
The declaration seemed to relieve the director, who, after exchanging a few friendly words with them, soon took his leave. Later, he would tell their hostess that Halder and the Japanese man seemed like decent people, but Halder's young friend was a time bomb, no question about it: an untrained, powerful mind, irrational, illogical, capable of exploding at the moment least expected. Which was untrue."

2666, Roberto Bolaño

the fuel for the fire by mrm

I'm wrapping up this month of feminist blogging, my friends, and I want to begin by saying thank you. I've never had so many readers*, so much feedback, or so much encouragement as I've received over the past month. I'm really honored, and also really excited to hear that so many people are interested in talking more about feminism. Hooray! Researching new feminist work, connecting on and offline, receiving submissions from friends – this has been such an inspiring and invigorating month for me. Thank you all for reading and participating and sharing.

My final offering is one of my favorite feminist things in the world, and definitely my favorite publication; in fact, it's just one of my favorite things in the world: bitch magazine is what keeps me going. In this weird and sometimes depressing world of patriarchy and apathy, bitch is an endlessly delightful source of insight, critique, and irreverence. In addition to the magazine, they produce a podcast, host various blogs, and sell some cool gear. They cover so many things, and they do it so well. I've been a subscriber for probably about a decade now – wow, I just realized that – and they're one of the only causes I donate money to every month. They're a nonprofit and I'm happy to give them my money because I need them in my life.

bitch is having a subscription drive right now. Here's my pitch, folks: Of course, I really encourage you all to suscribe. And in honor of all the loyal reading that's been going on this month, I will sponsor a subscription for the first person who writes me.** And just to clarify: By "sponsor," I mean I will buy you a one-year subscription. For reals. I'll be excited to! (I'd totally love to buy one for each of you, but I can't afford it, ok? So first come, first serve.) 

*According to my analytics, the average number of monthly viewers on this blog hovers comfortably around 200. For March, it skyrocketed to 450. Wow. Thank you.
**Sorry internationals: U.S. residents only. Otherwise I also have to deal with shipping fees. Sorry.

smokin' in the boys room by mrm

Just the name – Good Ol' Girls – made me laugh. It's pretty straight forward:
"Progressive women on the rise like you are busy: You are a professional, an activist, a friend, a lover and maybe a mother. How do you get connected without your calendar self-destructing in protest? 
You join Good Ol’ Girls — where you can meet women you would never meet just by joining a professional association or volunteering. Good Ol’ Girls is where savvy, progressive women, across sectors and backgrounds, open doors professionally and socially for each other. 
With member-driven educational and social opportunities and a vibrant listserv, Good Ol’ Girls is how women get in the know."
Amen, sister. And as long as we're talking about women supporting each other, let's throw in a plug for WIN-WIN. (Yes, that's the Women INvesting in Women INitiative. Cute names today, I know.) Again, they do exactly what you'd expect them to do, with a name like that. A project of the Calvert Foundation, they "evaluate prospective borrowers for their suitability for an investment based on a number of criteria, including their financial performance and operating history. Calvert Foundation has developed flexible criteria targeting prospective borrowers that engage in women’s economic development. WIN-WIN portfolio organizations and projects will offer products and services that primarily serve and/or empower women; will invest in women-owned or women-led businesses; and will support women entrepreneurs and female-headed households." Don't worry, fellas: They'll take your money, too.

What kinds of projects do they fund? According to the site, "[e]xamples include organizations that provide health care and child care to low-income women; women-run non-profit businesses that have a mission to serve other women; loan funds that invest in women’s entrepreneurship and small businesses; and women-oriented cooperatives."

Pretty cool stuff!

float like a butterfly by mrm

Many of you may already be familiar with the website Feministing.* I offer it to you all as a site of feminist aggregation. Woohoo! Check it out any time, especially as the month of feminist blogging is soon to draw to a close. But I'd especially like to direct your attention to Feministing's comments policy, which I only wish could be extended more widely across the internet. And life, actually, while we're at it:

"There is enough hate and oppression out there in the real world – we don’t need any extra of it here! While we can’t guarantee a completely safe space on Feministing, we can strive for an accountable space. And though we love differences of opinion, there’s a way to disagree respectfully and thoughtfully. We expect civility, respect, and patience for your fellow readers and for this space – please remember that we are all here to grow and learn from each other.
What isn’t tolerated (and if you’re unsure, err on the side of caution):
- Blaming the victim
- Fat-shaming
- Racist, sexist, ageist, transphobic, sizeist, ableist, homophobic commentary
- Plain malice (i.e. comments that don’t further the dialogue, but instead just harshly imply to writer that they need to educate themselves or that they are stupid) and personal attacks. Even if most of your comment is constructive, if the last line is “so thanks for that, asshole” we will probably not post it.
- Dismissal, silencing (i.e. anything along lines of “Ehh, i don’t think that matters too much” or “This isn’t an issue”)
- Questioning the feminist validity of a topic or post (i.e. Why do you care about this? You should really care about x, y, z because its more important)
- Derailing: Anything way off topic or leads the discussion in a completely different and unproductive from the original post"
A good intro to civil discourse. If only that was also an internet value... 

*When read aloud, it sounds like both "feminist sting" and "feminist-ing," both cool. Fun!

do you trust me? by mrm

I just found out about this, but I already really like it: Men Who Trust Women. As my non-U.S.-based readers may or may not already be aware, there's been a lot of shameful, sexist, back-peddling talk and action lately around women's reproduction freedom. This website was formed to start to address that, or more specifically, to help broaden the conversation: 
"There aren’t a lot of women’s voices in this conversation, and that needs to change. But there also aren’t a lot of pro-choice men speaking out. We aren’t hearing from enough men who trust women. That needs to change, too. Luckily, there are a lot of pro-choice men in America. These men believe that women are capable of making their own choices about what happens to their own bodies. These men believe that no man, whether he’s a politician, a priest, or a partner, knows what’s best for a woman better than she does. These men are appalled at the way that the national conversation about women’s healthcare has been dominated by anti-choice men. Men who trust women are a group that is ever-growing, but largely invisible. It’s time to end that invisibility."
Chloe Angyal is the creator of the website, and I find it very interesting (and cool) that a woman and self-identified feminist is creating a space to encourage male feminist allies to talk about why they trust women. And I'm intrigued that she's building this campaign around the issue of "trust." At this point, you may be wondering (and fairly so): Why provide a space for men to talk, rather than one to encourage women to do so? To this, Angyal responds "Men Who Trust Women is a tumblr where men who believe that bodily autonomy is every woman’s right can share their stories. It’s not about speaking instead of women, or on behalf of women, but alongside them and in support of them."

I confess, I didn't get quite the feedback I was hoping for when I posted about men and feminism in mid-March (although props to Dom for a thoughtful and articulate response!). But this is for real. This is for everybody. I need you. Here's my call to action, people: If you're a man, and you're reading this, and you trust women, submit a story. If you're a woman and you're reading this, share it with at least one man you care about and encourage him to submit. And then just spend some time reading the site. There are some gorgeous, heartfelt, articulate posts on their.

gentlemen ladies by mrm

Ok, so I know I talked about fashion earlier this month, but I have to bring it up again, because if I was made of money, I would buy so many clothes from Marimacho. (And hey, I'm not criticizing them for charging for their craft, their goods are high-quality and tailored. It's just out of my thrift-store based price range.) See if this promo copy doesn't make you drool: "Marimacho is a masculine clothing line for cis women and transmasculine bodies. We design in-house, manufacture locally and distribute our entire line via our website. Our primary focus is fit. We make classic masculine garments with narrower armholes and necklines, shorter sleeve lengths, more bust room, etc. In this way, we offer cis women, trans men and gender queer folks the same standards of fit and style available in mainstream menswear. Marimacho is dedicated to creating classic masculine fashion that empowers people of all genders." Check out their hot, hot shop, their fun and boi-filled blog, and spread the word to your dapper-dressing female-bodied friends.  

Also, isn't the couple who runs it absolutely the cutest? Geez.