The present is always acceptable. Period. The city teems with shacks, poor people, dust, violence, and music booming out of open doorways. Women wear lipstick, children scurry past wearing clean clothes, buses rumble down the street spewing black exhaust, and the hours of the day slide by and it is life and it is normal and people cling to it one and all and it is good, good enough to make a life out of and to cherish. The stories float over the city, stories of murders, of executions, of rapes, robberies, stories of men protesting, stories of women holding vigils. At the bridge linking Juarez and El Paso, a memorial stands to murdered and vanished women, pink ribbons fluttering in the breeze, each ribbon bearing the name of a soul lost to life. And yet, each day, men huddle at the base of the memorial hawking newspapers, and cars line up to cross and the little tower of pink ribbons becomes invisible. I stand there, I stare at it, and I still cannot see it. It is not part of the city, it is part of an effort to imagine a different city and this effort is ignored because the present is acceptable. Period.
Everyone knows the facts and yet the facts slip from everyone’s hands. Walk a hundred feet from a body on the pavement - the blood puddled around the skull - and it never happened, the young girls smile, the traffic zooms past without slowing, the city beats on and on, and the dead no longer exist and soon the memory of the dead will be a rare bit of fact polished and cherished by the family and ignored or forgotten by everyone else. This is a survival tactic and it crosses all class lines. This is the fruit of living without history. This is the result of amnesia in television, radio, and print. This is the sweet drug that comes from fantasy. The authorities are real. The police enforce the laws. The courts function. The army protects. The streetlights sweep evil from the night. There is a consensus here to believe the unbelievable, to insist that things are normal - the government is in charge, the incidents, should they even come to notice, are accidents, little imperfections in the tapestry that is life and this tapestry is sound and beautiful to both the eye and to the hand as it strokes the elaborate weave of lives that make up the city.
It took me a long time to accept that the present is always acceptable. Period.”
I don’t think is completely on point, but it is an idea that bears consideration, and if you take that skull and those few hundred feet as metaphorical or just representative of larger things, the whole thing becomes rather chilling.
“There’s this mistaken idea in a lot of heroic stories that the oppressive evil villains can’t afford to kill the rebellious hero because they can’t risk turning them into a martyr. But that’s not how oppressive evil villains — or oppressive evil systems — work. They can kill without making martyrs because everyone they kill they also actively disgrace.
Thus when Ferguson, Missouri, police arrested the wrong Henry Davis then beat him bloody in a jail cell, they had to consequently thuggify him. They denied him his status as an innocent victim by charging him with a crime — four counts of property damage, because when one police officer kicked him in the head, his blood splattered onto four officers’ uniforms.
That’s a bitterly flimsy pretext for criminalizing Mr. Davis, but that’s what’s so disgraceful about this process of disgrace-ing. It doesn’t matter how flimsy or dishonest the pretext may be, it works and will keep working just as long as most people — most white people, that is — are eager to participate in the disgrace-ing and the thuggifying of innocent victims.
He “resisted arrest,” he didn’t do what he was told as quickly as he should have, he may have shoved someone, he smoked a joint, he flirted with a white girl, he broke the Sabbath and disturbed the peace. … Those are all the same thing.
One thing that’s particularly frustrating to me, as a Christian, is that it seems so many of my fellow white Christians love to imagine that they would stand beside Longinus on Calvary, saying, “Truly this man was a son of God.” Yet at the same time they’re unwilling to look upon the slain body of Michael Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or Oscar Grant, and say the same thing.”—Slacktivist - “Innocent? He was a violent thug — a vandal who threatened to tear down a House of God” (via imathers)
Can’t remember whether or not Fred Clarke is auto-reblog but if he isn’t he is now
From “Strange Case” by Craig O’Hara, Confirmation 100:
"INTERVIEW WITH THE TUMOR
Author: We’re here with the tumor inside Edgar Beehive’s lung. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Tumor: Thanks for having me.
A: So, what was it made you start mutating like this?
T: Well, like so many things in life, it’s really hard to tell.
A: I guess what I’m asking is: Did you wake up one day and decide to mutate or was it something that just came about naturally?
T: Who knows? I mean, how did you become a writer? How did the sun become the sun? How do we know why anything does what it does?
A: I became a writer because I don’t have any other marketable skills. The sun became the sun because that’s all a ball of hydrogen can do. But you had a choice. You could have become a normal lung cell like the others, yet you didn’t. Why?”
reblogging myself because i made reference to this in a conversation with someone, which is to say that it remains strikingly relevant to life
where Zod is explaining to Superman that his (Zod’s) purpose in life, down to his very DNA, is to protect the people of Krypton. even if that means genociding earth he will, and indeed must, do what he can. But Superman sliced his ship in half with his laser eyes and with the ship went the birthing chamber and with the birthing chamber went all the would-be Kryptonians, and Zod warned Superman before he did this that if he pulled his laser eyes stunt that there would be no more Kryptonians, that would be it. and Superman made his choice and the ship went kablooey. I get why Superman made the choice that he did, I really do, and if such a choice has a right answer his was probably the right one. but Supes, man, you just ended a people. try to look like you give a toot:
please ignore the attention-grabbing headline; i went into this with my hackles raised but this article, which is apparently adapted from a forthcoming book about teacher education, is terrific, must-read if you’re interested in math education or ed reform issues. it approaches the issue from several angles, taking classroom, research, and historical perspectives, and gives each of those its due. this was the most interesting bit to me:
In the 1970s and the 1980s, cognitive scientists studied a population known as the unschooled, people with little or no formal education. Observing workers at a Baltimore dairy factory in the ‘80s, the psychologist Sylvia Scribner noted that even basic tasks required an extensive amount of math. For instance, many of the workers charged with loading quarts and gallons of milk into crates had no more than a sixth-grade education. But they were able to do math, in order to assemble their loads efficiently, that was “equivalent to shifting between different base systems of numbers.” Throughout these mental calculations, errors were “virtually nonexistent.” And yet when these workers were out sick and the dairy’s better-educated office workers filled in for them, productivity declined.
The unschooled may have been more capable of complex math than people who were specifically taught it, but in the context of school, they were stymied by math they already knew. Studies of children in Brazil, who helped support their families by roaming the streets selling roasted peanuts and coconuts, showed that the children routinely solved complex problems in their heads to calculate a bill or make change. When cognitive scientists presented the children with the very same problem, however, this time with pen and paper, they stumbled. A 12-year-old boy who accurately computed the price of four coconuts at 35 cruzeiros each was later given the problem on paper. Incorrectly using the multiplication method he was taught in school, he came up with the wrong answer. Similarly, when Scribner gave her dairy workers tests using the language of math class, their scores averaged around 64 percent. The cognitive-science research suggested a startling cause of Americans’ innumeracy: school.
“if in that moment / it is clear that in our entire, graceless rage / it is what we have, and all along, / most yearned for, / then let us be spared by that which has the power to spare us / the knowledge that it is too late / to disclaim anger, find the will / for love and tenderness, beg / for pardon”—
again and again and again
John Engels, “For the lately dead” The Kenyon Review, Autumn 1984. (via sorryeveryone)
I lay on the cream shag carpet with my brother
and argue what a kobold is, and is not. I am nine.
Behind the oblong dresser in the basement
is a white stub of chalk with a wolf spider
crouching on it. It does not know I am about to pick it up.
When I am twenty-one, I clutch a cold ten dollar bill.
The gas attendant has a gold tooth.
Says, what are you all dressed up for, missy.
I smooth the gray wool of my bridge coat.
A bell chimes and my shoulder blades flinch.
I cannot see the snowflakes melting into my cuffs.
No eyes watch my body shuffle back to the car
across the ice, no witnesses.
Years later, a lover’s shadow traipses diagonally
across the floor of the limehouse. He’s just told me
he didn’t fall in love with me. The moon in splinters
across stack piles of buildings. I open his refrigerator,
gulp milk from a glass bottle.
There is nothing left for me to do.
My brother has been dead for nine years. A kobold:
a kind of sprite with thin, ivy-colored arms.
See, he is not here to dispute this.
This is what I think when the lover asks why I am
so quiet. My body shaped like a C at the foot of his bed.
My fingers coiled in blankets. Thick and coconut white.
I miss everything.
“Sleeplessness has become a public-health concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control: around fifty to seventy million American adults have some kind of sleep disorder;…
Somebody finally coined a word for MY LIFE.
(If I could take a pill to never sleep and suffer no side effects from doing so, I’d do it in a heartbeat (whereas I’d never do the same w/r/t food). But I know the most basic reason I put off going to bed: lying there *waiting* to go to sleep really is a Nabokovian indignity, even if you don’t have insomnia and it’s only 10 or 15 minutes. So I stay up until I fall down, and then I don’t have to suffer the 15 minutes of boredom.
When I go for good, that’s how I want to go as well — so tuckered out that I just let go; no time or brain cycles for boredom or regret.)
I have been telling people for years that I would skip sleep if I could, and most people look at me funny when I do so. Also, this may be part of why I was Morning Owl today.
Agree with all of the above. I don’t sleep well, so it tends to not matter how much or how little sleep I get; I never feel rested. But with a big enough sleep deficit I still see declines in cognitive tasks, so I know I still need sleep. As a result I have come to deeply resent the act of sleeping. Big downsides to not getting it, but no reward for doing so.
does being male make relating to literature easier? a lot of the time i end up feeling sort of alienated by near-universal use of male pronouns...
Short answer: being male makes most things easier. That said, literature works both ways, because sometimes I find dude perspectives alienating and resent the implication that I should see myself in them. I appreciate you bringing this up, it’ll make me more cognizant of the speaker in my own work, and whether or not I’m being inclusive. But in defense of Dunn and a thousand other dudes, for a lot of people poetry is a pretty intensely personal thing, and their perspective is the only one they have. Thinking more about it, maybe I don’t have any real right to aim for a more universal perspective. This is tricky stuff!
I’ve actually been trying to formulate a post about reading women authors and beyond that, seeking out women authors operating in women-controlled spaces. It’s not ready yet, but suffice it to say fellas if you are a regular reader and you cannot name lady authors you like, you should fix that!
Anyhow, I’m assuming this came in response to the last bit of poetry I posted, so with that in mind here are some female poets whose work I have liked:
Breyer’s version of events, revealed in court records, is that he was drafted and that the mayor of his village told him he had to go. Even though he was assigned to the Death’s Head guard battalion at Auschwitz, he said, he refused to kill anyone, so he served as a perimeter guard, far from the killing. He says he never shepherded prisoners from the trains to the gas chambers. [….] “That’s one of the oldest defenses,” said Aaron Breitbart, a senior researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “The perimeter-guard defense, and the baker defense: ‘Yes, I was there, but I was a baker.’ … It seems as though everybody is a perimeter guard when they’re finally caught. Well, not everybody who is caught could have been a perimeter guard.”
Expressed as a percentage, how much less culpable is the perimeter guard than the train -> gas chamber shepherd? If this cannot be expressed as a percentage, why is that, and what does this tell us about perimeter guards? About ourselves?
"He didn’t seem like what history says a Nazi should be like," [neighbor] Ken Perkins said. "He just seemed like an ordinary person who wasn’t hiding anything."
Bill & I spend some time considering the afterlife in the back half of this week’s podcast, and I wanted to return to something that is mentioned briefly but not really explored: Hell, and specifically the idea that hell is not biblically justified. For this I draw heavily on the work of Fred Clark, who blogs as Slacktivist and whose work I have always loved. His post on Hell goes through the three places in the bible most closely supporting the popular conception of hell, and why those passages don’t actually support it. But more than that:
These three passages aren’t the only basis for the belief in Hell as eternal fiery torment, but they provide the strongest evidence to support the idea. And as you can see, this evidence is not really that strong. These passages certainly don’t provide any sort of basis for the idea that Hell ought to be a central or essential core belief that shapes our faith, or our concept of God, or our concept of one another or of the meaning of our lives. That’s not what these stories are about.
That’s not what our story is about.
This, to me, is an even more fascinating notion. Not just that hell isn’t supported by the bible, but that if the bible’s description of a just, loving god is accurate then hell (as conceived of full of pitchforks and fire and the like) not just doesn’t exist, but it can’t. Another evangelical blogger put together a long list of arguments (ethical, theological and biblical) against hell but the core of the idea is that because human sin is finite, infinite punishment cannot be ethically justified, eternal damnation leaves no room for salvation or redemption or love (all of which are kinda the point), and lastly any person good enough to get into heaven would possess enough empathy for others (even sinners) that they would be violently ill at the thought of other people being tortured for eternity.
All of that makes a whole bunch of sense to me, and it’s a fun idea in and of its own sake, but the more I think about it the more I wonder how hell got to be such a big idea in the first place. I mean, sweet mercy, why didn’t anyone say anything?
“Hollywood, that is to say, Los Angeles, is not, of course, a city, and its sinister forces are very oblique. There’s no public transportation system whatever, so the people drive around as though they were living in Des Moines, and it has all the rest of the disadvantages of a small town, only filled with displaced persons. On the other hand, life there has an engaging surrealist quality, an almost exciting grotesqueness.
The cultural scene there in general is sped up, sort of concentrated. Southern California is a mecca for all manner of freakishness, beginning on the most middle-class level — hot-dog stands in the shape of a hot dog. If you go there, you’ll immediately see a carnival, Disneyland aspect that is different from any other place in America.”—
ps that “no public transportation” thing is such a “i so don’t give a shit about people who aren’t like me, including but not limited to poor people and people of color” tell it is is just absurd, absurd i tell you
pps it has been brought to my attention that this quote is 40+ years old and so that makes me less I’M GOING TO COMMIT ULTRA MEGA MASS HOMICIDE about it but people still say things very close to that and they are still refusing to accept that the millions of people in this city who take the bus totally exist
“The Board of Directors of American Apparel, Inc. today voted to replace Dov Charney as Chairman and notified him of its intent to terminate his employment as President and CEO for cause. It is expected that the termination will be effective following a 30-day cure period required under the terms of Mr. Charney’s employment agreement.”—
“How many accidents multiplied / to create your hands. How many times did your / fathers dig their hands into the earth only to / pull them back with stones and blisters? Think / of all the diseases you managed to avoid or the punches / pulled from your soft jawbone.”—David Harrity, “Fathom” The Los Angeles Review, Volume 6 Fall 2009 (via sorryeveryone)
final grade is posted, revealing I escaped getting a C by the exact number of points that weren’t counted on the final. riding to my last final someone takes a sharp right in front of me and I avoid crashing into them by about two feet.
all the punches pulled, again and again and again.
Few truly believe that these restrictions are rooted in a desire to make abortion safer for women. Instead, they are plainly designed to frustrate efforts to get an abortion at all. Perhaps this makes some sense if your aim is to protect families and preserve the sanctity of life. Yet it seems odd that groups that claim to be pro-life are so often antagonistic to efforts to help women avoid unintended pregnancies in the first place. Many still cling to discredited abstinence-only programmes and claims that the “the hook-up culture is the culture of death”.
how many? are they the same people passing the restrictions? how do we know? they sure seem like the same people, in my larger conception of tribes and the opinions those tribes hold, but the more I think about it the more flimsy that seems.
part of this is on me (I am too lazy to look really hard for comprehensive surveys and similar) but I think this is also about how articles about this sort of thing are written. to put it broadly: no one ever seems to ask people directly about the things they are wiling to imply in later paragraphs. basically, any and all arguments that include “aren’t these the same people who” seem to me to be more and more suspicious.
this is one of my fave stories of the last few years.
this isn’t just a great story, it’s one of those ones that’s really important in terms of trying to understand how and why it works. in my bookmarks it’s tagged both “beer” and “new_yorker” and it is always well worth reading whenever I am pondering either.
“Walt Whitman I confess / I’ve never read your poems // except at gunpoint / Walt Whitman I confess // I’ve never been at gunpoint / except in dreams // Walt Whitman I confess / I’ve never slept // Walt Whitman I love your breadth / your body of work & your texts”—Michael Loughran, “Night Songs” Tin House, Vol 6 #1, Fall 2004
If you preach a violent, hateful ideology—“those people over there aren’t even human, they are the cause of your problems, and they deserve to be hurt, Something Must Be Done”—and then respond to someone taking that ideology to its logical conclusion by doing murderous violence to the people you’ve vilified with “Oh, but that person is crazy!” and distancing yourself:
1. Sure, you’re maligning people with mental illness and participating in a culture that does them harm, but also,
2. at best you’re tacitly admitting that you don’t really believe the vile nonsense you spew, that only someone with a tenuous grasp on consensus reality would believe what you’re saying is literally fact rather than rhetorical-effect insincere hatemongering,
3. and at worst you’re saying, well, there’s a time and a place for murder, and this one was off-schedule.
And either way, I hope the rest of your life is wasps.
point number two is particularly interesting to me, and for a great many groups the question “how would this group be acting if they thought the things they said were true” is a fascinating one
So Dear Wendy Dear Becky Dear Lisa Dear Liza let’s tell ourselves a bedtime story. One where the bears gather at the shore and just stare at the ocean with this look in their eyes that says we are going to swallow the fuck out of you and the moon comes down because the ocean is going crazy with terror and the bears look at the moon and the moon looks at the bears and there we are in the background, with our hands on the plunger and a sincere desire to effect a powerful and lasting change on the direction of our lives, to eat more roughage, to exercise regularly, to attempt to live in a manner that does not profane grace, basically we want the kind of lives that can be seen from space, but listen: fuck all of that. Because right now we are going to go and eat a mountain, and then fuck that mountain, and then go to bed like no one has ever gone to bed before, because we are alive and that’s that. End of story. Get happy.