Last night I gave a talk on Eastern Washington University’s Riverpoint campus about literary and photographic representations of diversity in a small town called San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. I described how the archeological research performed by the local priest was broadcasted nationally and internationally, thereby defining the town by the work of the father. I also tried to show how, despite the priest’s efforts to give the indigenous population an identity more complex than their classification as second-class citizens and indians, the attention on the archeological discoveries of the region eclipsed the diverse, contemporary stories of the local people.
While the story of San Pedro is a good case study for diversity, I think the most provocative question of the evening was, “what is diversity?” The literature of Eastern’s Diversity week promoted a standard definition of the word. The two most prominently advertised events were a World Cup Soccer Tournament and a presentation by the keynote speaker, Dr. Caprice D. Hollins, who was the Director of Equity, Race, and Learning Support for Seattle Public Schools. Diversity, according to the advertisements, is cultural and racial distinctiveness.
However, the woman who asked “what is diversity?” at my presentation talked about it in terms of gender, access, socio-economic class, age, life experience, and worldviews, essentially any factor that significantly impacts the way an individual inhabits this world. Perhaps one of the inhibitors of diversity on our college campuses is our definition of diversity. It may be that the best thing we can do to celebrate diversity is to amplify our definition of the word. Diversity is all differences, not just those related to geography or ethnicity. It is differences in opinions, religions, political affiliations, physical build and ability, and brain chemistry. Perhaps all of these varieties of uniqueness, when acknowledged and valued, can be assets and agents of growth and change on a college campus.
I recently came across some interesting facts in a critically acclaimed science journal.
Okay, I was reading just a regular article.
All right, I was reading the IMDB trivia facts for the film “Armageddon.”
The internet, in all it’s infinite horrors, somehow led me to this page. I’ve never seen Armageddon, but now I sort of want to because the trivia revealed a fascinating fact I had never considered: NASA has detailed procedures for if an astronaut loses their shit in space.
Of course they would.
Why should this surprise me? They are the ultimate boy scouts, prepared for everything.
And here’s something that also shouldn’t surprise me: The procedure involves duct tape.
Of course it would.
The wrists and ankles of the “crazed” astronaut should be bound with duct tape and then tied down with a bungee cord. Last thing you want bouncing off the walls is a crazed astronaut. If necessary, tranquilizers will be administered either by pill or injection.
This information was made especially public after that lady astronaut strapped on a diaper and drove thousands of miles to try and maybe murder another lady who was possible competition for another astronaut. It’s like I always say, mo shuttle launches mo problems. Read more »
A view of the French countryside from a mountainous village.
Traveling abroad will make you brave in ways you never thought you’d be. I won’t eat salad, strawberries, or shrimp, but today I tried foie gras, fig bread, and scallops. I’ve been known to wake people up in the middle of the night to have them come kill spiders for me, but I’ve personally dispatched a few dozen since being here (there was a hatching in my bathroom). I don’t like even hugging people I’m not close to, but I didn’t flinch through eight rounds of cheek kissing (faire la bise), even though two of the people I was meeting were boys in their late teens. (It was a large family; apparently in France you get big financial incentives for having three or more children.)
In other ways, traveling abroad will make you a coward. Everything makes me nervous. I practice the most basic phrases in my head three or four times before attempting to say them, and I still sometimes chicken out and ask if they speak English. Never before have I realized how much English makes me comfortable, how much I depend on being able to speak and understand easily.
I haven’t done any writing yet since arriving. Truth be told, I haven’t written regularly in a while. Every time I try, I reread it and hate it. I think, if it bores me, it will certainly bore others. I’m hoping a change of scenery will help with what I can only describe as a mix of writers block and low writing self-esteem. I saw Carcassonne yesterday, and the Mediterranean, and there were a few moments, while my feet were in the water, or while I was walking the walls of the city, when I thought I might have something to say, something worthwhile. I haven’t tried writing it yet, though. There’s a part of me that wonders why I should stay inside writing when there’s a whole country out there to explore.
So far, these emotions have been battling it out. I’m not sure yet which will win, who I’ll be: a confident explorer who laughs off her language (and culture) mistakes, or a scared introvert who stays home writing and eating pizza. Time will tell. I’ve got twenty-four days left.
I knew a guy who used to try to steal my memories—meaning that he would talk about something we did together a long time ago and how great it was. Except he wasn’t there that time, or many times, when I was living in a different part of the country and did whatever it was he remembered. Anything I told him was up for grabs. He’d reinvent my past with himself as a main character. I could not tell if his memory was poor and had no defense for an intrusion of my stories or perhaps he was trying to plant memories, which is, as it turns out, rather easy. Here’s how:
- Misinform When You Can
You may start by asking a suggestive question: “Did you see that man’s gun?” This trick works by adding information to complete a description—we saw the man, and according to this question, he had a gun; ergo, he had a gun. This type of memory-planting is a favorite of Law and Order. Also works well for gaslighting.
- Inflate Imagination
Imagining an event from long ago increases the belief the event occurred. If you remember to a younger sibling, say, the time he left a stuffed animal at the diner and cried so hard we had turn around the car and drive an hour back to get it, he’ll start to imagine the event and believe it happened.
But you can also tap into adult confusions—something as mundane as thinking about paying the gas bill may make you believe that you did. Read more »
Save me, Hurley
The Mega Millions lottery in North Carolina has reached $475,000,000. Some of my coworkers started a pool for tickets. I bought my own, separate from the pool. While in line at the Quik Mart, I couldn’t help but sing, “If I had a million dollars I could buy your love.” If I had a million dollars, I would buy a billboard on I-40 & paint a short poem across the space, or maybe I would just put my favorite line from a Terrance Hayes poem, “Enough sky and a trail.” I would buy a treadmill & then I would take it to a field & destroy it like that scene in Office Space. If I had a million dollars, I would pay off my brother’s student loans, but not my own. All that money & yet, I would still feel the happiest on an open road in my 2007 Dodge Caliber, all the windows down. I still wouldn’t call my father. If I had a million dollars I would fly to Russia specifically to Moscow, because it’s Moscow. I still wouldn’t send birthday cards on time, if at all. I would hope the money wasn’t cursed like Hurley was cursed with 1.56 million dollars on the show Lost. Like Hurley, I would hope the money wouldn’t drive me insane or drive away everyone close to me.
Check out this cool design project, where a designer hand-lettered the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, similar to the infamous video clip/music video precursor featuring Dylan holding up cards with the lyrics on them, as written by himself, Allen Ginsberg and others.
The designer/artist Leandro Senna says of the project:
Inspired by Bob Dylan’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ video, where he flips cards with the lyrics as the song plays, I decided to recreate those cards with handmade type. I ended up doing all the lyrics, and not just some of the words, as Dylan did.
There are 66 cards done in one month during my spare time using only pencil, black tint pens and brushes. The challenge was not to use the computer, no retouching was allowed. Getting a letter wrong meant starting the page over. There are some intentional misspellings and puns on the original song video, so I tried to keep that in a certain way.
Here’s the link to see closeup photos of each individual card, and here’s the link to see the video of these cards flipped through with the song overlaid. Which cards are your favorites?
And of course, if you need a fix, here’s the original video clip with Dylan.
I like to imagine they were collecting my grandmother’s memories. It was New Year’s Eve and I was walking home from whatever party I’d gone to — I don’t really remember it well. I was walking home and I heard a clatter from the dumpster to my right and there, frozen and staring back at me, were two racoons. We stood there for a while. The neighborhood was silent. The racoons held objects in their paws. When I got home I simply wrote in my journal: ran into a couple racoons at the dumpster. Maybe they have grandma.
I don’t remember this past New Year’s Eve very well. I know someone lit illegal fireworks in the street. I know someone had me eat a certain number of grapes since it’s supposed to be good luck in Spain. I think.
And it’s not that I’d had too much to drink. It’s just that a lot of my memories blur together. They blend and fade and soon I’m holding them like a broken-in pair of Levis and I have no idea where I got them in the first place. I don’t remember a lot of my childhood. Friends remind me of shared events that are completely absent from my memory. I know I’ve traveled to different countries, been to endless museums, but I could not tell you stories from these adventures. Read more »
Seriously, what was this movie about? All I remember was that the air conditioner kills himself at the start of the movie.
In my dreams/daydreams/wandering thoughts, I often find myself in situations where a gang member/werewolf/ex-boyfriend/Republican attacks and I have to defend myself and all the people in whatever room/hallway/beach I happen to be in.
So I kick some ass. With all the fake ghetto karate skills and magical powers I am willing to attribute to my dream self. I save babies from burning buildings. I defend my colleagues and friends from armies of invading aliens.
I am awesome. In my dreams, that is.
The sad truth is, however, in reality I live in a cave. I see a handsy drunk man coming my way, and I hide in the bathroom and sit fully clothed on the toilet for a good five minutes. An old lady tells me that I’m getting fat and will never get married, and I laugh awkwardly and wait until I get home to tell off the ghost of her in front of my cats.
The truth is, most days I’m not even certain what my voice sounds like, and the last time someone did mildly attack me, I cried. Read more »
The Kokinshu (ca. 905 AD) was a collection of Japanese tanka, or short poems, that sought to return poetry to the public sphere. The poems demonstrate the change of seasons and the arcs of love affairs, celebrations and goodbyes, and travel. Many are crisp, witty, and poignant today.
There’s a tendency for the poems to the treat the subject within the temporal context, in the passing of time. A moment of glimpsed beauty may read like an “I Saw You” advertisement in the weekly alternative paper, where someone made eye contact at the supermarket seeks out a similar moment in the classifieds—it’s a moment packed with potential but ultimately lost to the speaker.
The only way to hold onto that moment is to recreate it in text, forever hinting at the opportunity. Ancient Japanese poetry concerned itself with the social context of poetry rather than the social subjects. Only in the late ninth century, when the Kokinshu poems were being written did poetry go from being a “social gesture,” bound to the moment of its creation, to an art form.
In this way, the poems remind me of photography. What breaks a photograph out of being bound to its moment of creation, especially now that everyone has a camera in a pocket or purse? How often do we frame shots that will be greater than “social gestures,” records of where we are, who we are with, or what we are consuming uploaded to our Facebook timelines? Read more »
the other day me & a whole bunch of other nerds waited in line outside a movie theater so we could sit in very uncomfortable chairs for a sold-out double feature (one of which films was shot on 16mm film ten years ago & was readily available via streaming, dvd, etc.) and listen to the films’ creator talk about what he’d made. if i could summarize in a single reason why we would do such a thing, i would say it’s all shane carruth’s fault.
i imagine that the reason most of us were in line that day was because we’d seen primer (shane carruth’s first film, and half of this double feature), and had been collectively holding our huge nerd breath waiting for him to release another movie. if you haven’t seen primer, i honestly cannot recommend it enough. in fact, i love it so much that, for those of you who care first & foremost about plot surprises, i’m going to “ruin” it for you: the main characters build a time machine. and you might be surprised by how far you go into that 77-minute film before that little fact is revealed. but primer is about time travelling in much the same way that moby-dick is about whale hunting.
Read more »