Monday, April 30, 2012

Academia and the intellectual life

This time last year, I thought I wanted to go to grad school. I was studying philosophy and culture theory and feminist theory for the first time in any depth, and I was in love. As I am still. My desire to read fiction has been shockingly low for the past year or so, just because I've been stumbling into so much compelling and urgent-feeling nonfiction.

Really what I think I want, though, is to have a life full of learning and theory-making and hard thinking and books and intellectual conversations and letters, an intellectuality never partitioned from daily life, from creativity or love or politics. And  I can see so much more clearly after a few months out of undergrad that these things do not belong solely to academia. Or even primarily to academia. To have learned how to read dense writing, and to have rigorous-thinking friends, that goes a pretty long and beautiful way.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Male dominance is a continuum

I learned that a professor from my alma mater has been charged with possession of child pornography.

Two of my college friends and I were visiting. That same weekend, we were sitting down with homemade drinks to read aloud from some ultra-conservative Christian books on gender and marriage — for a laugh, you know, because we were all raised in conservative evangelical Christianity and came to feminism together.

One of us brought up the child porn scandal again. I forget who. And it reminded me very suddenly that the books we were passing around were not harmless.

By the be more precise: it was aggravated child pornography. I had to look that up — it means the victimized children were under the age of thirteen. According to the news coverage, many of them "appeared" to be younger than five.

So: There are men who take pleasure, in the plainest sense, in materials that document the rape of small children. Many of them, apparently. And most of them aren't psychopaths living in their mothers' basements; some of them are model Christian men who teach child development classes at Christian colleges.

And here we have these books about how women need to suppress their opinions more and obey their husbands more and learn to be happy with what men want. Yeah. Male dominance is a continuum, and all of it is ghastly once you've seen it as such, seen the extremes and made the connections. (And the extremes are so common! So common!) It's a dead serious matter when millions of my fellow Christians wholeheartedly believe that men need more power. All these horrors, crimes of dehumanization and dominance, perpetrated almost exclusively by men, and yet here are all these ordinary people saying, men need more power, women and children aren't submitting enough...

No. No.

I do not believe the rape of children for male entertainment will end until men as a class lose a great deal of their power, because men as a class hold a number of powers that women are not permitted to have, as well as a number of powers that no one should be permitted to have.

Patriarchy is a continuum.

Courage: we must make the connections, now.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The twenty-third cake

This was my birthday cake. I baked it. My mother frosted it. I far prefer the look and taste of imperfect, homemade-from-scratch layer cakes. Lumpily adorable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"I Remember," by Anne Sexton

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On blogging / Against compartmentalization

I wonder sometimes what this site is. It's not my journal, but it's not unlike a journal. I would never want to say that it's about me, so I resist calling it a personal blog.

But it is all personal. My intellectual pursuits, my artistic pursuits, they are no less personal than my emotional life or my relationships with family and friends. These things are not even distinct from each other. What I do and what I think and what I make, who and what I love, where I go, what I see, what I's a big wild soul-party of connection and mutual influence and engagement. It's kinda dialectical. Grounded theory.

I proceed from myself and my life. Always. Who doesn't? What other starting point is there?

It might be tidier, to my mind, if I could compartmentalize in my blogging life. Here's where I talk about my daily life, here's where I get to be a feminist, here's where I talk about embodiment and eating and mental health things... 

But it's impossible. Any divisions I made would be false and unsatisfying. So I'm not drawing any lines — except for the one between what I can write publicly about without facing significant, negative, not-worth-it consequences for my offline life, and what I can't.

Because as my "About" page used to say, this space is not only "about" the unity of experience, emotion, intellect, and creativity that I find in my days, it's also one of my tools for clarifying that unity. Which is to say, precisely as I need and like it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Second simplicities

No, upon consideration I see

both doubt and faith are simple:

Between the pages of
the book of Numbers,
I press three plum blossoms.

Friday, April 6, 2012

On April 6th, 2012

The moon is full;
Christians observe the crucifixion and death of Jesus;
my favorite Sydneysider turns eighteen;
I turn twenty-three.

Tokens of your love and affection may be sent in the form of tea, mix CDs, stories, feminism, poetry, or postcards.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I made a list of personal "should" voices

You should know exactly what to do in a given social situation.

You should constantly be taking better, more original, more interesting photos.

You should be desired, and hopefully even chased after.

You should be really good at everything you do, and you should do everything that is "good." (Perfectly rounded, master-of-all-trades.)

You should be too strong and smart to be affected by manipulation or unfair treatment.

You should maintain an "aesthetically pleasing" figure and a "fit"-seeming weight, but without dieting or relapsing.

You should never offend or shock your parents, or do anything to earn their disappointment — but you should also never compromise yourself. 

You should always be able to will or reason yourself out of being afraid.

Your hair should always look just right.

You should be liked by every "worthwhile" person.

You should be a dazzling host.

You should have just the right, albeit minimalist, wardrobe.

You should not take "too long" to process or get over tough stuff.

You should not be "too" affected by anything.

You should always be consistent and/or self-aware.

You should be able to live anywhere and thrive in every way.


They're kind of outrageous, once I actually notice them. Try it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When I Banged My Head on the Door

When I banged my head on the door, I screamed,
"My head, my head," and I screamed, "Door, door,"
and I didn't scream "Mama" and I didn't scream "God."
And I didn't prophesy a world at the End of Days
where there will be no more heads and doors.

When you stroked my head, I whispered,
"My head, my head," and I whispered, "Your hand, your hand,"
and I didn't whisper "Mama" or "God."
And I didn't have miraculous visions
of hands stroking heads in the heavens
as they split wide open.

Whatever I scream or say or whisper is only
to console myself: My head, my head.
Door, door. Your hand, your hand.

– Yehuda Amichai

Monday, April 2, 2012

The sun moving north again


My current temp job will continue through early May. And then — I would like to leave this hemisphere by summer solstice.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Read in March 2012

1. Heist Society, by Ally Carter
This was fun. Thanks, Erin.

2. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
This gave me a very useful concept, that of Resistance, but I didn't care for his voice or the parts where he waxes metaphysical / quasi-spiritual in these oh-so Romantic directions.

3. Live or Die, by Anne Sexton
This was appropriately opened by the following Author's Note:
“To begin with, I have placed these poems (1962-1966) in the order in which they were written with all due apologies for the fact that they read like a fever chart for a bad case of melancholy. But I thought the order of their creation might be of interest to some readers, and as AndrĂ© Gide wrote in his journal, ‘Despite every resolution of optimist, melancholy occasionally wins out: man has decidedly botched up the planet.’”

4. The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai, ed. and trans. Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell
This is a book that I am happy to own. Genius at times. Sorrowful, philosophical, concerned with the mundane, rich with images. I put my Christian upbringing and education to good use catching the biblical allusions that pepper the long poems.

5. Pleiades, by Sui Solitaire
This was heavy with adolescent romantic angst. I liked the last twenty or so pages the best. These missives from Sui's past were interesting partly because I know her now, didn't know here then, but know from her blog some of the context for these writings. Her ear is excellent, and some of these have a distinct spoken-word feeling. Reading this was an oasis in my work day.