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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Please, do yourself a favor and go peruse the stunning collection of slime-mold photographs in Myriorama’s flickr set.

I’m meditating on beauty today: ukiyo-e, empherality, scale, tenderness.

 

Why are homecomings always leave-takings?

 

(Thanks, Meghatron, for the beautiful slime molds.)

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This morning’s coffee conversation centered on rape. In particular, mass rape as a tactic of war. Discussion veered toward rape prevention, rape counseling, the whole cultural constellation of psychologies, techniques and frameworks for processing rape, as individuals and in communities. I said something strident, something like, “If your program for dealing with rape does not include training in streetfighting for women, I am not listening to you.” And I’m not. There is an obvious response, readily at hand: prepare women for the possibility of rape. Prepare them by teaching them ‘effective negotiation.’ How to say ‘no.’ How to recognize when saying it isn’t going to suffice. How to make ‘no’ a reality: delivering a warning shot. And when a warning shot does not suffice, how to fight a rapist. How to fight with everything you’ve got. There are ways to reduce or eliminate the usual discrepancies in physical power between rapists and their targets. Eye-gouges, testicle attacks…use your imagination or your experience to illustrate. If you are training women in how to fight, I will listen to your therapeutic suggestions. If you’re not, then I respectfully decline to listen.

A woman in South Africa invented a device that is sold as a rape-preventative. It is worn in the vagina. It assaults any intruding penis with painful spikes. Now, I wouldn’t classify this as a preventative measure, rather, it is a punishment device. And punishment is an appropriate response to rape. On what moral grounds could one possibly deny that?

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Thinking about the accidental confluence of genes that renders a particular phenotype, a particular face. In the process of a recent Security Screening at JFK, an airport officer told me, comfortingly, that  I was “easy to read.” I hope he’s wrong, but I know what he means: I have a lucky face. It’s one of my superpowers: the appearance of openness. Simple face, complex intentions. My open face helps to make my existence easier. Chance encounters are often cordial; bargaining often goes in my favor; strangers often exhibit small kindnesses when I need them. I know that this is a privilege – not everyone is treated so gently, so consistently, by their fellow humans.

I know a few stunningly beautiful women, people with overwhelming sexual magnetism. I’m glad to have been spared their burden: I see how they are hounded and pestered every place they go. A face is obligatory, an unremitting responsibility. I can imagine having a different face, a face-to-launch-a-thousand-ships – I think I would shrink from the expectations borne of such an appearance. I imagine ways to deprive the world, to subtract opportunities for presumption. I would like the option of unlearning arts learned in girlhood: I would like to discard the intention to control my face, regulate my expression, hold my mouth properly, reveal little, restrain the exposure of teeth. I imagine facelessness, not needing to practice lying with a false smile, deriding with an arched eyebrow, producing moues of feigned disappointment. A truly open face: the face concealed.

I imagine wearing niqab, gliding facelessly through grocery stores, security checkpoints, crowds boarding the train, a panel of dark mesh obscuring even (especially!) the eyes. I imagine being indescribable, appearing on surveillance videos and in police reports as a black-cloaked mass of indeterminate composition. An unreadable sigil. I imagine the complexity and grace of a highly refined gestural vocabulary. Veiling as the discipline of blindness: a blindness which constricts, certainly, but which also re-concentrates, sharpens, opens. I imagine the motions of the hands, the carriage of the spine and shoulders, becoming specific and intense. As intense as the way a blind man listens, as intense as his concentration when he touches with his preternaturally sensitive fingerpads. Would our faces, veiled, grow innocent and unfettered? Would they unlearn deception, while our hands took over the duty? I imagine the moments of unveiling, beholding the unpracticed face, the unmediated, naked face, the face unaccustomed to being observed. Would that innocence be a form of freedom?

 

(Thanks to Al’Izzatullilah for the photograph.)

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SEED Magazine (tagline: Science Is Culture) does a once-in-a-while feature called Workbench that reveals the tools and techniques used by working scientists. This edition visits an urban bug-collector who studies how biodiversity is affected by human alterations to the environment. He’s got a bunch of neat jury-rigged gadgets that will appeal to your DIY spirit.

http://queertoday.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2057108%3ABlogPost%3A22270

After spending an enchanted evening among a selection of superstarz from CEU’s Gender Studies department, I was feeling a bit invigorated about queer activism.  And what a nice surprise to wake up after a night of charming conversation, full of laughs and iconoclasm, and find that someone has written a screed that beautifully encapsulates the spirit of the previous evening.

Honestly, LGBTQ rhetoric has been tiring me lately. The whole preoccupation with marriage in the ‘mainstream’ of LGBTQ organizations leaves me cold. To state the obvious, even STRAIGHT people are getting sick of the institution of marriage! Check out the alarmist rhetoric from Biblenews.com: “…the population of unmarried women will soon surpass the number of married women.  This indicates a rejection of the Divine Institution of Marriage by the population.” It certainly does. Not only that: “Children living with only one parent has increased from 9% in 1960 to 30% (29.52%) in 2005.  Of those 83% of the children live with the mother.  This is creating a society of bastards. (Note to self: Society of Bastards….band name? Dot org?) In my Northwest corner of the homeland, the phenomenon is particularly pronounced. Statistically, it’s unavoidable: people don’t really feel like gettin’ hitched lately.

Because it’s a bad deal. Archaic, oppressive, etc., etc. I understand the real necessity to advocate for equal civil rights. YES: we should have equality under the law. But there’s more than one way to achieve equality. You can increase the rights of the underclassed. OR, you can decrease the right of the overclass. I would be much more excited about a movement to ABOLISH marriage – not the ritual, not the contractual gravity, not the churchy bits. But let’s abolish the special civil privileges (tax breaks, etc.) that are conferred upon the married. Why should insurance benefits, for example, depend on any particular domestic arrangement? If you, as an employee, have the benefit of extending your insurance to cover one other person, it should be YOUR choice who that person is. Your spouse, sure, or your mom, your kid brother, your uninsured best friend, your cosplay companion, whatevs.

So, note to my beloved gays: YOU ARE FABULOUS. Don’t sell yourselves out! Do you REALLY want monogamy and diapers and picket fences? Is that what all the fierce Stonewall queens were kicking pig-ass for? I think not. Fuck tolerance; fuck assimilation. You are an aesthetic and sexual ELITE. YOU made bath-houses, and park sex, and playparties, YOU took your liberty without permission, YOU made a new world within the shell of the old tired mainstream one. That’s something to be celebrated and revered. That’s power. Power is NOT trading your sexual revolution for middle-class security.

Anyway. Read the blogpost linked above – it’s concise and excellent. And it makes me want to join hands on the front lines in a way that no equal marriage amendment ever could.

 

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http://www.ediblegeography.com/the-last-town-on-earth-an-interview-with-thomas-mullen/

Now that I’m symptom-free and have successfully crossed the membrane into olde Europa, I feel confident(ish) sharing about my recent quarantine anxieties. So, um, I had swine flu. Don’t believe the hype: it is unpleasant and certainly not to be scoffed at, but really, not much more dangerous, apparently, than a ‘normal’ influenza. It’s unusual for its rapid intercontinental spread, and for its failure to adhere to the regularly scheduled flu ‘season,’ which begins in mid- to late-autumn. I had it when the weather was still all summery with blazing sunshine, and it knocked me over for a couple of days. During that time, I was unable to remain conscious for for than a few hours, I had a high fever, and my body ached in a dispiriting preview of arthritis – every joint was creaky and painful, but the pain did not, unfortunately, give me the old-timer’s ability to predict the weather. After that, no other symptoms but a persistent chest cough and generalized exhaustion.

Not too bad, all things considered. Except that I was planning to travel to Austria. I read a bunch of interwebs and got my head all full of Gattaca-like visions: Passport Kontrol would include a sophisticated bioscan, and when I walked through the metal detector, my slightly-feverish body would be illuminated in alarming red on an imaging screen. Thereafter I would be shoved into a plastic biohazard suit, surrounded by stormtroopers with menacing-sounding breathing apparatuses, hustled into a starkly-lit white room, probed with painful silver needles and alien probosci, and have a large red ‘X’ painted across my forehead with indelible, photo-luminescent paint. After the administration of a strong paralytic that would render my body limp and useless while my mind remained acutely conscious, I would be subjected to extraordinary rendition in a modified butcher’s truck with human bloodstains on the filthy floor. And then awake to find myself nameless and without documents in some quarantine camp for lepers.

It didn’t quite play out like that. The border guard at Charles de Gaulle barely glanced at my precious American passport. It was 5 am; the customs officials weren’t even on duty yet; I passed unmolested through the nothing-to-declare door and into the chill pre-dawn air of Freedom. (Don’t think for a moment that I had left it to chance, however – Dr. Feelgood had provided me with a powerful combination of cough suppressants and industrial-strength fever reducers before the journey. BTW, who knew you could get a vicodin scrip for a COUGH?)

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been thinking a bit about the concept of quarantine. Edible Geography is sponsoring a cultural ‘workshop’ on quarantine: participants read texts and create artworks and discussion on the matter. The website has a lovely reading list that might interest you. Especially if you’ve been feeling a little peaked lately.

http://www.ediblegeography.com/landscapes-of-quarantine-studio-participants-announced/

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I made this little book as a gift for a friend. It’s a portrait without a face; a portrait of an artist through photographs of his living space. There’s not much of a preview at the website because, well, the self-publishing outfit I used wants to make money. But if you’re feeling rich and like surprises and want to support amateur photography as sentimental talisman, then, by all means, go ahead and buy the book. And if you don’t want to buy it, I’ll show you my copy. I rather like how it turned out: a little creepy, a little Zen, a little phenomenological, a little fetishistic…my friend has great stuff in his house. Take a look.

(Note – clicking the photo will just enlarge it; click the blurb.com link above to see the book webpage…)

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