“Solving” the Poverty and “Secret Millionare”

I’m sitting around enjoying my Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed some quality (ahem) reality show America’s Next Top Model: Cycle 2.0 (with boyz!!), but I was all caught up, so there was only one episode. And I had a sleeping roommate on me, so I was too limited in my movement* to read articles, so I began exploring Hulu in search of other great shows (previous contenders have included House Hunters, but also Holidate, whose contract with Hulu has sadly expired). I had heard of Shark Tank and was sort of curious about it, since I’m getting to be a bit more interested in start ups, start up culture and the mechanics behind investment in them. Perhaps this show is a good way to explore that, even though it’s still reality. It was interesting, and I discovered that I MUST FIND THESE SWEET BALLZ, but there was also only one episode. Hulu recommended to me a show I had not heard of, ABC’s Secret Millionaire. So I watched the first episode.

I’m so conflicted. Continue reading

Spring Breakers: Insane, or Brilliant? [SPOILERS!!]

Tonight I got to play with Gypsy (improv group) at The Magnet for the Rundown, which was great fun, if not really amazing, and then after some shuffling of plans, ended up randomly seeing Spring Breakers, one of the new films James Franco is in. I’d listened to the Slate Culture Gabfest discussion of the film, and it kind of made me curious. And I’m actually super glad I saw it. And even more glad that I listened to their discussion of it before seeing it, because I feel like this is not a movie you should walk in blind to.

So first of all, I just want to describe the feel–flashy, lots of bright and obnoxious colors, fluorescent lights, and boobs and butts galore. So many bikinis. The opening scene is just girls shaking their butts and naked breasts with alcohol being sprayed all over them in the ocean and on the sand. And it was such a strange combination of titillating and yet really creepily not sexy at all. Like, it was too ostentatious to be really sexually appealing.

After stealing money from a local restaurant with a water gun and sledgehammer, the ladies go to St. Petersburg, FL to see a world different than what they’re used to. And meet Alien, Franco’s character, who is really into money and guns. And also shorts and cologne, much like this guy.

My favorite scene in the movie, and the moment I really started to believe this film is seriously satire was when three of the girls, dressed in one piece swim suits with generously cut out sides, ridiculous pink masks, sweat pants with “DTF” (Down To Fuck, for anyone not familiar with this phrase) printed on the butts, gently carrying AK-47s, stood around a gorgeous white baby grand piano at Alien’s house, by the pool, with an incredible ocean view. They ask him to play a sensitive song, and he proceeds to play (and sing) Britney Spears’ (an “angel on Earth, according to Alien) “Everytime.” This is perhaps the weirdest scene I’ve ever seen in a movie. The screenshot is used for one of the posters:

Spring Breakers, movie poster


Strange. Also a key that the movie is really not supposed to be taken seriously, in my opinion.

Subsequently, one of the girls gets shot in the arm by Alien’s enemy/childhood best friend. She goes home, and the other two girls seek revenge; Alien gets killed in the process, while the girls go on a shooting spree, leaving many of the gang the enemy is a part of, including him, dead. And then they go back to school.

There was lots of gratuitous violence/showing off of guns & cash, and MANY shots of boobs and butts, which were entirely unavoidable, sometimes boobs taking up the ENTIRE SCREEN. But my take is that that’s sort of the point. The film feels (and I don’t know how to explain this really, or why it is exactly) sexual, but in a dirty, creepy way, as I say. It feels like it’s forcing you to be turned on, if that makes sense? But like, not in a fun way. In a forceful, violent way. And through that violence, for lack of a better phrase, the film jolts you into recognizing how unfulfilling these things are, and how demoralizing the concept of spring break can be. Repetition is used throughout the film and creates sort of a strange alternate universe, particularly Alien saying, “Sprang braake 4eva.” It’s eery. The whole movie is. But I kind of loved it.


I went to see Emily Bazelon speak yesterday with Dave Cullen (who wrote Columbine) at the New America Foundation about her new book, Sticks and Stoneswhich I have been listening to on Audible (<3!).

I never really thought I’d be particularly interested in bullying, but I really really appreciate Emily’s nuanced take on the issue, as Dave pointed out last night. She focuses primarily on the case of Phoebe Prince, a girl who committed suicide after suffering from depression for years and dealing with some harassment from classmates, who were then charged with crimes basically claiming that they had led to her suicide. Emily focuses mostly on the importance of teaching kids empathy, and how bullying primarily comes out of kids just not being empathetic to the particular kid they’re bullying. Which is really interesting, and while I’ve not been terribly interested in understanding bullying, I’ve always been fascinated by empathy, especially because I have been obnoxiously highly empathetic (one of the most extreme stories about this is coming home crying to my mom in first grade that another kid was being picked on by the teacher). I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m too empathetic, if it’s a way to escape what I personally am feeling. Regardless, I guess it’s made me not a bully. And interested in class and oppression, which are things I’m so so very happy to be interested in. My emotional investment in social justice is certainly rooted in my empathy. And though it can be exhausting and overwhelming at times, I wouldn’t give that up.

I’d definitely recommend the book–Emily is a great writer (you can also find her on MY FAVORITE THING EVER, the Slate Political Gabfest), and as I say, really treats the subject incredibly eloquently. I really can’t express enough love for the Gabfest–they are so so so awesome. And I definitely make it a point to see, hear or read Emily, David Plotz, or John Dickerson whenever I can.

Also, got my hair cut tonight. Yay!

Photo Apr 04, 8 32 51 PM

The Price of Sex

My feminist staple, Jezebel, has a take on a study that was discussed on Salon about how the price of sex is decreasing. The Jezebel article is a personal take on it, arguing that all this marriage advice is pretty useless–just anxiety-producing.  Agreed.  I am pretty disturbed by this article, though, for its encouraging commoditization of sex, particularly for men.  Salon interviews the author of a study from the University of Texas at Austin, Mark Regnerus.  Regnerus explains that sex has become “cheaper” for men–he claims that because men will pay for sex, either with other men or women, but women won’t, that means it’s more “expensive” than sex that women look for.  Though this is a pretty logical conclusion economically, sex is a little different than other physical commodities, and thus, I would argue, should be treated differently (much like health care–though that’s another post).  Sex is not a zero sum game.  If I have sex with one person, it doesn’t mean I don’t necessarily want to have sex with someone else.  Even immediately after.  It’s not like if the first guy gets it, the second doesn’t.  They could BOTH get it.  Or neither.  Very different from an apple, which if I eat, is gone.  No one else can eat that apple.  So that’s the first fallacy to me.  Plus, I would argue that men don’t really pay for sex.  They pay for something else.  They pay for faux vulnerability.  The ability to be intimate with someone without having to mess with cultural norms, and without the possibility of pain.  I’ve heard it said that men pay not for sex, but for the woman to leave (hah, hah, right??!).  I’ve also heard that men pay not for sex, but to eschew any possibility of getting rejected.  I think there is something to be made of the fact that women can get whatever they’re looking for that includes sex for free, while men are willing to pay for it.  Though I also might argue that a lot of times, both men and women are confused about what they want–thinking they want more or less from the context of sex than they really do.  But that is cultural.

So I have a problem with the main crux of the claim that sex is something that can be understood as a marketplace like any other good or commodity.  But let’s work with that.  Let’s say that it is.  Regnerus continues to explain how the sex market works by pointing out that “theoretically, if sex is valuable to her then she’s not going to trade it away to just some crummy man.”  Which may be true theoretically.  But what if sex isn’t valuable to her? What if she enjoys it, and it is something she freely gives?  What then??  Regnerus also explains that “we report that 35 percent of men’s relationships are reported to have become sexual within two weeks; and 48 percent become sexual within a month. That gives you an indication that it doesn’t take long for men to access sex, so it must not be all that valuable, right? That’s how we get an indirect sense of the price of sex.”  HOLD UP!  If you don’t wait for longer into the relationship to have sex, it is less valuable??  Here’s where I start to get really pissed.  Why would you WAIT to do something that is a)not disappearing and b)NOT valuable?  If I had access to an infinite supply of, hm, let’s say, delicious chocolate cake that would not make me fat, WHY would I let it sit on my counter for 3 months, or a year or two ([until I’d had a chance to marry it and make sure only I could eat it, right?? ;-)] to have a piece?  What world does this make sense in?

Oh, right.  One where women have “sex” to “give” to men.

But then, Regnerus continues on to explain if “sex was the highest possible cost. You’d see women never having sex with anyone until a man commits to marry her — that’s the most expensive thing you can charge.”  And here’s where he begins to limit the role of men.  Why is marriage always about trapping a man?  Men benefit more physically, emotionally, and more recently, financially (which the article mentions–it begins by pointing out that women have a smaller pool of “eligible” men from which to draw because more women than men and now attaining higher levels of education).  Why is there this myth that women somehow need to get married? I suppose you could argue that they actually are so harmed by marriage (again–physical health, emotional health, and financially) that we must convince them that they will be better off if they’re legally partnered, but ugh.  I’m so stuck on this–“[marriage is] the most expensive thing you can charge” for sex.  As if marriage somehow benefits women.  HOW does marriage protect you?  What benefit is conveyed by marriage that it warrants being some huge payment for the sex that women evidently don’t want to just give away?

Regnerus also seems to think that slut-shaming is the way to “increase” the price of sex–he claims that “it used to be women would shame each other for selling low.”  Maybe if sex were something to auction off.  I suppose this whole argument assumes monogamy.  And Regnerus points out that women are competing for men and that they do that through “offering” “inexpensive” sex as undergrads.  Ugh.  This reminds me of the article in the NY Times about the shortage of men, which specifically mentions the University of North Carolina, where I went to college.  The argument there is essentially the same, if a hasty generalization as opposed to a ridiculous conclusion from research.  One young woman explains that many of her friends “meet someone and go home for the night and just hope for the best the next morning, ” which begs the question–the best? What is the best? Why must the best mean that you have some sort of a relationship? He’s probably a douche-bag.  The young woman further explains that “Girls feel pressured to do more than they’re comfortable with, to lock it down,” which is utterly disturbing.  I think this is a great qualitative example of how this whole thinking is a self-feeding cycle.

The more women’s attitudes tend toward “giving” sex away instead of making a decision about whether to have sex or not based upon whether they WANT to or not, the more men are able to treat sex with women as commodities.  It isn’t about making sex more expensive.   It’s about looking at sex as a shared experience, instead of an exchange of something tangibly valuable.  It’s about fostering an attitude toward relationships that recognizes them as something that can, of course, be fantastic and worthwhile but stops short of placing them on a pedestal that is unattainable and extremely unrealistic.  Many relationships fail.  Just because you locked some dude down doesn’t mean he’ll stay down.  And why must we promote this idea that men have to be locked down anyway?  Can’t they choose to be in a relationship of their own volition?

Yet, Regnerus offers some advice for women.  He says that “giving it away early gives a great deal of power to him,” so women should restrict sex until later in the relationship.  I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to say.  I have a problem just with the language he uses.  GIVE it away?? Still stuck on this commoditization.  And Regnerus goes on to undermine his own argument, admitting he doesn’t know how much “bargaining power” an individual women has (evidently, we all have to be on board for this restriction of sex for it to “work”).  Women could definitely get “underbid” by their slutty neighbors, or that round-heeled woman at the end of the bar.

What is most disturbing to me is the underlying (and sometimes not so underlying) message that “women…are paying a social price for success,” as the NY Times article states.  The Salon article says this in its own way.  The message, though, is that maybe this success in other areas of life–career especially–isn’t (or shouldn’t) be worth giving up “success” in relationships to women.  The problem to me is that if you just look at sex a little differently, if you just take a relationship off the table as some prize, or something to be exchanged for sex, it changes the picture immensely.  But that requires seeing women as willing participants in sex.  It’s kind of amazing to me that this thinking is as radical as it is.  If you think about it, the reverse implication of this is exactly what Andrea Dworkin argues in Intercourse–that all heterosexual sex is, at some level, rape.  And it’s amazing that while Dworkin is pretty out there, her characterization of heterosexual sex as rape actually is the foundation of the argument that sex is a commodity.  Who would’ve thought?

The interview ends with Regnerus’ explanation that “this is not about getting sex. Women can get sex whenever they want. Post it on Craigslist and you can have it within the hour. This is about getting commitments,” which pretty much sums it up.  Maybe “women are not as successful in relationships as perhaps they once were,” but who defines success?  The sociology research community studying relationships has some work to do, in my opinion.  Regnerus claims he is using a theory that social psychologists have come up with (the one that I am so fond of, that sex is a commodity?).  Herein lies the problem.  There is an entire field of people who are doing research, using interviews with people, to supposedly prove that this market is real.  But I think we also must examine the anthropological aspects of these issues.  What are the reasons women allegedly are so desiring of relationships and commitment? Part of me cannot believe that there is this entire article, and an entire BOOK that Regnerus wrote with his research partner (“Premarital Sex in America,” if you’re interested), and the question is about this marketplace philosophy that never examines the impetus for placing commitment and marriage on such a high pedestal.  I also just really hate the position the commoditization of sex puts men in.  They become takers and wanters of sex, instead of people.  Sex can be a beautiful, fun, pleasurable thing–whether with someone you care deeply about for a lifetime or an evening, or someone you don’t really give a rat’s ass about.  But that’s when it is sharing, not just some kind of exchange.

On a more personal note (and I apologize, this is getting mammoth), I really do want a relationship.  Commitment is important to me, at least to a degree of sharing a life with someone.  However, sexual monogamy is not, to my mind, essential.  I have no idea what my overall relationships will look like.  But I think we need to re-examine a lot of our ideas about what commitment means.  So many marriages are broken up by infidelity when they don’t really have to be.  And while I have some concerns from a public health perspective in regards to sexually transmitted infections, condoms are really very effective (as much as the abstinence only team would like you *not* to believe that).  I think our marriages would be more stable (isn’t that what these people want??!) and our people much more satisfied if we could drop our guard a bit about monogamy.  For more on that, I will not hesitate in recommending Sex At Dawn, by Christopher Ryan, PhD and Cacilda Jetha, MD.  It is one of the most amazing books I have ever read.  Hands down.  Also hilarious. Though non-monogamy is not for everyone, and I’m not sure even if it for me, I think the only way we can get out of a patriarchal culture is by de-commoditizing sex, which can only be done if it is more free.

Racism and Cultural Phenomenon

A few months ago, Alan showed me a video, which I found extremely distasteful and somewhat disturbing that he found funny. But then he followed up with another video that was awesome. Basically, these kids called the Gregory Brothers who are part of Autotune the News, some folks who use this autotune feature that changes vocalization (or any noise, really) to sound more on-pitch used some things from a news clip about an attack on Antoine’s sister in the projects in Georgia. There are a lot of issues here. Antoine and his sister are both poor and black. They speak like they are Southern, poor and black. Antoine is also gay (though I actually did not catch that from the original news piece, but from this other clip. Obvs I am slow in the gaydar department).  And the Gregory Brothers, along with many of the people who subsequently parodied the song, called the Bed Intruder Song, are also white.  There seems to be an inherent question of whether we are laughing at or with Antoine Dodson and his sister.

I want to begin from the beginning of the story.  Antoine’s sister, Kelly Dodson, awoke to find a man who she did not know in bed with her.  She screamed and fought him, and Antoine came into the room and defended her, fighting this intruder.  It seems that the intruder was somewhat insistent and the fight quite physical.  The man left his T-shirt and, according to the interview, his fingerprints, but the whole scene was actually somewhat traumatic, according to Antoine’s interview with NPR.    The event was really effed up and sad.  So let’s just not forget that.  I think it’s important to remember that the whole song and resulting phenomenon is only possible because of an awful thing that happened to Kelly, her 5 year-old daughter (who was in bed with her) and her brother.

What happened after, though, is that the Gregory Brothers used autotune to filter Dodson’s voice and then cut and edited the interview with Dodson, added a beat, and lo & behold–magic.  This song went totally viral (Alan and myself being swallowed up in that mix) and then many people made their OWN versions.  These are the main lyrics:

“He’s climbin’ in your windows
snatchin’ your people up
tryan’ rape your people so
hide yo wife, hide yo kids
and hide yo husband cuz they rapin’ e’reybody out here

You don’t have to come and confess
we lookin’ fo you
we gon’ find you
So you can run & tell that homeboy

We gotch yo t-shirt you done left fingaprints and all you are so dumb
you are really dumb. For real”

There’s some other parts where they talk about how there is obviously a rapist in their neighborhood.  But I think this is sort of a fascinating phenomenon.  On the one hand, there’s some advantage taken of the Dodsons and people are, to some degree at least, laughing at Dodson and how he speaks and looks.  But what happened after all of this is what is amazing.  The Gregory brothers contacted Dodson and asked him if he wanted in on the proceeds from the song.  Dodson agreed, and then bought a house with the money the song made.  This, to me, is where everything changes.  He made an album of other rap songs that he’s selling on iTunes, and he is selling t-shirts, stickershalloween costumes, and various other items.  He is making money off of people making fun of him, and he’s using it to get out of poverty.  It is also clear from some of his interviews that Dodson had to work to get this incident into the news, for people to be aware of it.  He was enraged that his sister had been attacked and actually took action.  And now he is having the time of his life.  So maybe it’s fine.  But we’re also laughing about rape.  I know I’m laughing because I feel helpless.  At least this guy and his family are getting out of the ghetto so they won’t be raped by this “rapist.”  And Antoine did release an App for the iPhone that identifies registered sex offenders within a certain radius of wherever you are.  This may be well-intentioned, but considering that most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows (even pretty well), an app that shows where people how have been not just accused, but also prosecuted for rape can be found is not too helpful to all the date rape victims.

I think some of the fascination with this particular attempted rape is due to the fact that is is so cut & dry.  Clearly, there is a perpetrator who broke into these peoples’ home uninvited and attempted to rape Kelly Dodson.  This story fits perfectly into our society’s idea of “rape.”  So it supports that, and people look for these kinds of stories to be able to define what “rape” is.  Anyway, just some thoughts.  Race, class, sexual power.  All very interesting.

Until it’s safe to have a tea party again….

The title of the post is the caption on a subway advertisement that I spent about 5 full minutes trying to figure out how to take a picture of, but due to the crowded train and creep factor, was unsuccessful. The best part about the ad poster is that it hung directly over a seat that moments before had been occupied by a man with lots of I <3 Jesus buttons, a hat that said “Jesus” and an accompanying button requesting that we stop abortion with the requisite science fictiony fetal photo.

The ad is for a well-advertised storage company. Clearly, they have a liberal edge because in the summer and fall of 2008, they ran a campaign with a headless body that was quite clearly Sarah Palin stating, “What’s more limited–her experience or your closet?”

The tea party ad includes a picture of a tea pot, poured by a body-less hand into a tea cup with saucer. I suppose the inference is that liberals should be so disturbed by the tea party movement that they must store their accoutrements for tea parties until the movement is over (good luck with waiting that one out–I think it’ll be a while). Cute. Though both are pretty heavily political, which I find interesting for a storage company–something decidedly apolitical. I guess people without enough money to afford endless apartments in Manhattan are all liberal??! Strange to bank on that in your advertising, but I get a chuckle out of the ads. So whatever.

Happy Friday!!

Some other fun photos:

(would’ve been great for the seat above that abortion dude)

The Difficulty of Life-Building

I’ve been living in New York for 2 years. It’s been interesting, to say the least. I have lived in 4 apartments, from a couch in a crazy lady’s apartment in Washington Heights to a sweet loft-like fittingly young apartment in Williamsburg, had 4 different jobs, somehow moving closer to something that I actually want to be doing, and seen several friends come and go (some of whom I knew before I moved here, others I met after I’d moved).  It’s been quite the ride, though I am way more excited about the future I have in front of me, because it seems like it could be really awesome.  I have become, to some extent, a New Yorker–almost getting hit by a car and getting pissed instead of scared, not really being surprised when I see men dressed as women, or seeing people behaving in ways that in any other context would be totally inappropriate.  It has been a wonderful place to be to see friends from all over the world, since most everyone has to come through here to go anywhere else.  I’m not sure how much more I will want to live in this city, though I do love hearing all the different languages, seeing people who are so varied, both in terms of their styles, ages and colors.  Sometime I feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole hustle and bustle, but it is an amazing, vibrant city.  Even with the awful smells.

I’ve been reading a lot (and listening some) to some very interesting thoughts on income distribution and politics, perhaps after the whole craziness of the recent election (sorry…I guess I can’t stay off the topic of politics).  I’ve been listening to Paul Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal, which is fascinating and depressing all at the same time.  He essentially argues that conservative politics has created a massive income inequality in the United States over the past 30 years, and he attributes it essentially to racial tensions in our country.   It was written in the summer of 2007, before the Great Recession, as well as prior to Barack Obama’s election, which makes it somewhat dated, though I’m uncertain things have changed any more, really.  Timothy Noah’s incredible and extensive 10-part series looking at income inequality doesn’t look at racism, but after reading his piece and listening to Krugman’s take, it is actually quite amazing to me that it goes essentially unmentioned (there is a section on immigration).  Krugman makes a compelling argument that Conservatives in the US were able to co-opt the majority vote in great part because there was an established difference in income between whites and blacks, and so welfare would have been re-distribution of wealth from rich whites to poor blacks (we’re talking in the 1970s/80s).  Reagan, of course, was an essential component in this transition, and in convincing “normal” Americans that they were better off without government help and they should vote accordingly.  But he used not-so-subtly racist language (welfare queens, etc). It is interesting how much all of this has been appearing, in Slate and the NY Times, so obviously there’s a little liberal bias, but I’ve seen several articles recently about income inequality and its effect.  The most jolting for me, however, was the shorter conclusion piece Noah wrote on Slate which allows much better visualization of the income inequality, and more interestingly, what people BELIEVE the distribution of wealth in the US is and what they think it SHOULD be.  They think it is much more equal than it actually is and they believe ideally it would be even more equal than they believe it is.  These are Americans.  People who keep voting Republican.  Can the effing Democrats grow a backbone already??!  I am pleased that we elected Obama, but I actually think that some of the reason Democrats were so badly bruised is due to them not standing up for progressive values enough.   I’m not sure if I think everything is due to racism, or if it’s quite as strong as Krugman argues.  But I certainly think it’s something to consider.

The United States of Inequality | Timothy Noah [Slate]
Theoretical Egalitarians | Timothy Noah [Slate]
Download “The Conscience of a Liberal” by Paul Krugman [Audible]
Confronting Income Inequality | Robert H. Frank [NY Times]
Our Banana Republic | Nicholas D. Kristof [NY Times]

This Progress

I went to see an exhibit on Valentine’s Day (yesterday) at the behest of my sister, who was in town and wanted to go to this exhibit at the Guggenheim. I knew pretty much zero about it when I arrived to find a long line winding down Central Park West between 89th and 88th. My sister Delacey and her friends, a coworker and his partner, arrived and we waited in the line (I guess I should say “on” line, since it was in New York. I just can’t bring myself to do it…!). Delacey said it was somewhat…strange, but that it was perhaps better that I didn’t know what to expect. An older woman came out while we were waiting “on” line and said we would be disappointed because “There’s nothing in the rotunda. It’s an experience, but disappointing.” Wellll, let me just say, in some delicious irony, this piece has been put on my short list of life-changing art. I haven’t really discussed it in any tangible way up unto this point, but now’s as good a time as any, no? I would write more about the piece(s), This Progress and The Kiss, but there is plenty written about the actual pieces, which I’ll link to. Alas, this is MY blog. So it’s personal, but disappointed is not what I’d say. Hardly.

The End of the Weekend” by Anthony Hecht This is a poem that my High School Senior English teacher gave us to read. The whole year was actually pretty influential for me in terms of actually appreciating literature, but this poem has stuck with me, even six years later. I’m not sure exactly what it was about the poem–it’s a fairly simple poem. I think it really was the way my teacher had us examine the symbolism. I suppose I should explain that until this point, I was extremely cynical about interpretation in literature or poetry–I just thought people wrote things and that it was sort of bullshit to read into them. But this poem is beautiful and haunting, both in its surface reading, and also when dissected a bit. The words Hecht chooses are clearly well-thought out. Intentional. For the first time in my life, I began to believe that some symbolism was truly well-designed and deliberate. I realized that more than anything, the reason I did not believe this about poetry previously was because I hadn’t had the right coaching, and wasn’t reading the right poems. I still think a lot of reading into things is useless, but this was step one in appreciating those pieces that are really meant to be pulled apart and enjoyed like a some kind of very messy, juicy fruit instead of sterile in a glass.

Singer by Jump, Little Children This song is amazing. Raw, beautiful, sexy, dark. Jump, Little Children, for those who know me well, is a group who I feel sort of defines who I am. If you like their music, I’ll probably like you. At least kind of. But this song, more than any of the others, I find enchanting. It’s really sad, and about impermanence, more than anything. Savoring each moment. And while their music and concerts have filled a part of my emotional life that has inspired me to liken them to my “religion” on quite a few occasions, this song is one meant to be listened to, felt. Meant to be present to. Their other music can be background music, but Singer is an experience. The last line is “This song will be over and so will you and me/this song will be over and so will you and me/this song–” and then the music just ends. Powerful.

Tristes Tropiques by Claude Levi-Strauss I read this book as a part of a class Senior year of undergrad called Rituals and Rhetoric by the previous dean of the Religious Studies Department, who was a funny and delightful gentleman, Ruel Tyson. Like that English class in high school with the End of the Weekend, I do give quite a bit of credit to the manner in which this incredible book was taught. Still, it was an experience to read this book, much unlike any other I’ve had reading a book. It’s basically an account by Claude Levi-Strauss, one of the pioneering anthropologists in the Twentieth Century, of his journey to Brazil, the Caribbean and India. But it is not primarily about the places, but rather his internal struggle over how to be an anthropologist, and what that means. He was way before his time in terms of thinking of culture as a construct, not something definitive. And part of what struck me about the book (which I don’t even think I’ve read all of–we just read excerpts for class) was how it defied categorization. Though it is “about” his travels, there is an entire chapter about the difficulty of capturing a sunset, which serves as a fantastic metaphor for anthropology. I still intend to read the whole thing from start to finish, but even having only read what I have, it just struck me as so true.

And now we have come to my most recent discovery of brilliance. Tino Sehgal. I’ve read a few of the articles about his philosophy on art since going to the exhibit. Basically, he feels like there’s enough stuff in the world, and he wants to create pieces that are impermanent. Which is, more than anything, honest. The reality is, going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looking at the pots and statues and rugs and etcetera is only seeing it in its context, at the time. The color is maybe a little different than when people were actually using these items. Paintings are different when they are all together. Context and time are inescapable. Sehgal just admits that, and doesn’t try to run away from it, even embracing it. Some of it is that experiencing the exhibit kind of caught me off guard. I was going to it like any other exhibit I’d been to–like I went to the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA (which is cool, just not mind-blowing or even really particularly thought-provoking). But it was much more impactful than that.

What these things have in common is, I think, pushing me to realize the capabilities of each medium–poetry, songs, books, art. They are all capable of achieving this connection, this rare moment of truth. And I have seen so many other poems, songs, books or art exhibits that have been cool, interesting, maybe even made me think a bit. But these are the ones that stick with me. The ones where I feel a real connection with the person who created each piece of art, like we’re sharing a deep level of understanding and reality, just for a moment. And one thing said in one of the articles by Sehgal about what his point was, more or less, is taking a world that is full of STUFF, which is what artwork generally is, and bringing it back to being about relationships.

Real, raw, haunting, inescapable, enchanting truth.

Making Art Out of An Encounter [New York Times]
You Can’t Hold It, But You Can Own It [New York Times]
In the Naked Museum: Talking, Thinking, Encountering [New York Times]
Art World Drama! Tino Sehgal Calls the New York Times “Crass” [W Magazine]
Tino Sehgal [W Magazine]
How I Made an Artwork Cry [New York Magazine]

Sickness, Disillusionment and Disappointment

This week, unfortunately, can be summarized as sickness, disillusionment and disappointment. So I started feeling sick Wednesday, and it hasn’t gotten much worse–mostly just stuffy nose, a headache, and feeling overall exhausted and icky. Trying to drink lots of tea and still work. Because what I discovered today is that the few 4 days that I THOUGHT I got for vacation after my 3 months of probation, turns out is actually 1 day. So I get one day for the holidays. Yippee!! AND, after that, I can’t take off ANYthing until the end of March (6 months). I think I get some sick days…but nothing other than that. So I’m a little annoyed by that. But I guess that’s just how things go. Good thing I don’t actually care about Christmas.

The disillusionment is a combination of work and seeing “Where The Wild Things Are.” I guess I wasn’t disillusioned by the movie, but it highlighted some of the feelings I’m having about the world. It is a tragic place, where things could work so much more effectively and efficiently, but they don’t because everyone is just so busy doing their own teeny piece, and just cannot see the big picture and how their piece fits into that. And even someone like me, who can see it, does, they usually conclude that it is not worth it to even attempt to overhaul the system. It would be too much work for something that most likely will not happen. The cost in time, effort, and anything else is simply not worth the miniscule possibility that anything at all would change. So I guess the best any of us can do is figure out which part is worth fighting for, and what we are willing to devote to that. Anyway, it’s just annoying.

The disappointment was the not being able to take off much time for the holidays. I miss my friends and family who will be in Chapel Hill for the holidays, and won’t be back for a year. It’s frustrating knowing I’ll be able to come for a week in April, but could only come for a weekend any time before that (which I might do).

That’s about all. I’m pretty exhausted from the sickness, but I have the second half of my bed back (yay!) so that’s pretty exciting. Mostly, I think I just need rest.