May 2004

May 1 2004   1:13 AM


May 1 2004   9:21 AM

May Day - also known as Labour or International Workers' Day - can be traced back to the 19th century. In 1889, in response to demonstrations for an eight- hour day in Australia and the US, an international workers' congress set 1 May as a day of worldwide action to demand fairer working conditions and better welfare. Workers the world over are still making the same demands. And most of them consider capitalism as the major obstacle to both social justice and global peace.  - Emily Mann


Es una historia de manana
Es una historia de amor
Es una historia que amor reinera
Por nuestro mundo
Es una historia de mi corazon

Stevie Wonder

May 1 2004   2:08 AM

When Mom called for the Friday night talk she told me that she'd just seen a story about the Nightline protest on the news. She went on to tell me why the protesters were stupid. The big boss said don't do it and that's the way it is. She even used the analogy of if she said not to do something to me. The theory being that if she did say don't, I wouldn't. I was tempted to ask how she thought that had worked out. But my silence was saying enough. She went on to talk about World War II and how they didn't see the pictures of the dead. Sometimes my mother just parrots ideas about authority and trusting leadership and doing what you have to do. All of which comes from the rich tradition of being working class and a single mother who had to move back in with her parents in order to give her daughter a good home. I used to think it was a generation thing but there are people her age who don't think like that.

I watched Nightline. I watched because sometimes the conversation about war is too abstract and I wanted to see faces. It was a lot to take in. That many faces and names passing in that amount of time is too much to take in. As soon as a thought would form about the age, or race, or gender of the faces other ages, races and genders were speeding by. Sometimes a face would look too serious for someone that young, or a smile would look extra wry, or wide and engaging, or someone looked like such a nice guy, or there was no discernable expression, or outstanding feature.

I found that it was hard to breath.

I was aware that for every face there was a family and friends and a story now truncated. I was aware that for every face there were faces of Iraqi dead not being shown. I was aware that there were other faces of other deaths, not having to do with this war but faces of people who have died during the same time frame and many in circumstances just as distorted. Or more so.

I've read the Bhagavad Gita. I called out to Lord Krishna to whisper in my ear. Explain the field of lord again. Help me to know my place.

Right at the end of my call with Mom she suddenly dropped the phone and ran off shouting for K. Minutes went by. She came back to tell me that he had fallen. He didn't remember how. He may have passed out. He hit his head on something and there was a little blood. She got him cleaned up and in his chair before she came back to tell me what happened. I sat on my end of the phone waiting for information.

All that happened before Nightline. And now it's late. I went to bed but the neighbors on both sides are restless and noisy it being Friday night and all. My mind is tired but too full of thought. Between my inner noise and their outer noise, I can't sleep.

And so I went to Susan's blog to  get the link about Asheville. I can't get the perma link to work on her post about it all but it's up right now. And I thought I'd remind everyone about rabbits and labour rights and all the things that come with May.

Things have quieted down a bit. Just the low rumble of bass lines and drum beats. And the occasional laugh. I'm going back to bed. With a head full of quandary. And a mighty, mighty thirst.

Peace.


May 2 2004   2:08 AM

Happy Birthday Monica.

Tudo bem você deve descannar a sua mente,
Não faz mal o qu vai acontecer daqui pra fente.
Vai cantar alegria.......
Voce coracao assim tao feliz ja vai cantar carnaval.

Stevie Wonder


May 2 2004   9:43 AM

The other day Mark Woods put his picture on his blog. (You have to scroll way down to see it.) I've gotten quite used to the idea of not knowing what he looks like. But I was happy to see the picture. He looks like a very lovely man. I'm not at all sure what I mean by that. I'm not sure what makes someone look lovely. Maybe it's just the sun and the sand and the years of going to his blog for links to SO MUCH. Maybe I see through the eyes of affection already established with language. I've gone back to look at the picture a few times. It makes me happy to see him smiling. Out there. In the sand.

I thought about it Friday night while I was looking at the Nightline photos. Some faces did make me smile. Some made me sad. Some were scary. Some just passed by. But, again, I couldn't tell you why. I think a lot about my own reactions to appearance.

I was jumping around the blogs and found a post for May Day referencing both Julia Kristeva and Camus and talking about revolt.

Truths, including scientific ones, are perhaps illusions, but they have the future ahead of them. In counterpoint to certainties and beliefs, permanent revolt is this putting into question of the self, of everything and nothingness, which clearly no longer has a place.
Nevertheless, if there is still time, we should wager on the future of revolt. As Albert Camus said, ‘I revolt, therefore we are.’ Or rather: I revolt, therefore we are
to come.
A luminous and painstaking experience.

Which was something I'd been thinking about all day. The nature of revolt. (via Wood_s Lot). Who we have been. Who we are becoming.

On Sunday Salon a woman is reciting the names of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.


May 3 2004   5:27 PM

I've been sent this article from the New York Times so many times, I finally read it. It's OK. You gotta hand it to the Times for being able to find a picture of fat people in which the people have faces. Or one of them does. Most news sources use pictures in which fat people are cut off at the neck. Because, after all, if you want to hate someone it's easier if you don't have to look into their eyes. It's easier to hate hips and thighs and bellies and arms when they aren't connected with a life story. Sadly, the picture is ten years old. And it's not like there haven't been fat activist events in the last ten years.

I mean, think about that. The paper of record uses a ten year old stock photo, not to accompany an article about history but in an article about a current trend.

I guess I could I could be happy for any article written about the concerns of fat people that does not include the word diet. The article does give voice to some very cool guys who wrote some very cool books. And one book by a woman. Someone is going to have to help me understand why the idea that a moderately active fat person may be healthier than a sedentary thin person is controversial. Doesn't that just make sense?

The last line in the article is a quote from Peter Sterns in which he says that fat people, faced with the burden of being seen as immoral, may eat ice cream as a way of comforting themselves. It just so happens that I ate some ice cream right before I began to type. I can tell you that it was very tasty and I enjoyed it. And somehow I'm still pissed off about the idea of being seen as immoral because of the size of my ass. I don't feel a bit better about job discrimination, lack of access to public facilities, difficulty in finding unbiased health care, a hostile public life, and on and on and on and on. I guess I could eat more ice cream. And yet, since I'm not a complete idiot, I don't imagine that it will make me feel better about those things.

I know there are people with compulsive over eating issues and I don't want to imply that they are idiots. It's a real problem. And I also think that food can be comforting. But. There just isn't enough ice cream in the world.

So I read the article with a jaundice eye. I know it's a good thing. My ire was already up because I watched The Practice last night. The show is ending. The one show in which a fat woman had a dignified, serious role will be gone soon. This season the show took a turn for the weird. I'm not sure if they were trying to create a new show. I'm not sure what they were up to. But I wasn't diggin it. And last night there was a scene in which Ellenor punches another woman attorney. The other woman was being horrible. I might have wanted to punch her myself. William Shatner has been playing the role of a loopy lawyer. When Ellenor walks past him he says she scares him but he finds it titillating.

That idea of fat women as powerful and scary irritates me. It may be true that the actual physical size of a fat woman gives her a quality of power. Maybe that's overwhelming for some men. I can't say. I know that, as a fat woman, I'm not interested in being a physical threat. Not even to those people who want to hurt me. And the punch was just more of that characterization. Fat women are brutes, doncha know? We're really just so close to out of control at any given moment, I tell ya. You better hope we eat more ice cream. Wouldn't want us to get too upset.

I'm not that interested in power. But I do know that it's important to understand how power operates in our lives and in our sense of self. I'm interested in mutuality. And engagement. And while I'm in complete agreement with the ideas about the war on obesity as a kind of moral panic, I'm more interested in the failure of imagination reflected in the way fat people are described and represented. Imagination. Vision. Revelation. Diversity. Can I hear some new ideas? Can I see some new narratives? Can we address the very real issues of social justice for fat people? Can I read an article about fat lives that doesn't conclude with the idea of me running to the freezer for comfort that will never come?

And here's the real real. I'm not interested in comfort. I imagine that people with real social justice issues and real lives and real longing for substantive relationship would be pissed off with such diminution of their hearts and minds. And wouldn't they have the right to be?


May 4 2004   9:16 AM

Happy Birthday Jill.


May 4 2004   6:02 AM

As I've gotten older it's become easier to not need to talk about everything all the time. However. Talking is still my drug of choice.

I was on the phone for a long time yesterday. Which happens about once a week. And when I got off I was revved and wanted more. More connection. More analysis. More and then and then and then.

Someone once told me a Sufi expression. To know. To dare. To will and to be silent. My feeling of knowing expands and contracts. I'm daring when I need to be. My will is capricious and serves some underground part of my heart. And silence has proven to be a comfort. The two things that feel the best are when I'm with someone and am  able to talk and talk and when I'm with someone and am able to be silent. Together. Just to be with another person.

Oh but I wanted to talk yesterday. I wanted to process. I wanted to rant and rave. I wanted to go on and on and on.

And the silence pulled me down and in and I felt the release. And today. I can't remember what it was I needed to say.

But. You know. If you call me. I'll think of something.

Last week I sent a query letter to a publisher with the first chapter. I do this and then I chew my nails until I get the Dear Ms Parmeley letter. And then I crash. Not good. I know I need to get some more letters out there.

Instead I read and bake muffins and and don't even get the laundry done. And long for conversations that come from the bones and rattle the sky.


May 4 2004   11:12 PM

Zen Cat is back.


May 5 2004   3:27 AM

Dang. It's the middle of the night and I'm awake. I hate when this happens.

I got e-mail from George inviting me to join Orkut. It's the second time he's sent me one so I caved. Dru sent me an invitation to something like this once. Despite the fact that I write my life in public I am really kinda shy. Handwringingly shy. I do get over it when need be. And I couldn't say no to George. The best hug ever George. But now whadda I do? I had a lot of trouble with the questions. I said I dressed in an alternative manner, which was really my way of saying I wear bigger clothes. In fact my clothes are pretty basic cotton whatever. I said I smoked occasionally. I don't know why I said that. It's been so long. I just want to keep my options open. I think I kinda suck at writing profiles. Maybe I'll go back and work on it. Some day.

The shyness thing. Oh. I'm not sure what to say about it. I like one on one, or small groups. But. Parties. No. No. Please. You'll always find me in the kitchen at parties.

Care not cash is a program to end homelessness sold to the city of San Francisco by now Mayor Newsom back when he was a supervisor. It goes into effect now. I'm just heart sick about it. The care is not there. The budget analyst for the city said it won't work. The courts said it wouldn't work. But people are more willing to spend money pushing through bad legislation than they are willing to spend money creating jobs and affordable housing.

And then there's Barbara Boxer supporting the death penalty. I know I live in a progressive city. But I'm not feeling it tonight.

What am I feeling tonight?

I'm gonna try to get some sleep.


May 5 2004   8:07 PM

There is no place where the theory of relativity is more obvious to me than on a bus. The bus ride home from yoga didn't take long. I read for a while. And then stared out the window at the bay. Trying to track something. Some kind of signal.

I was just a little bit hungry and I almost got off the bus twice for food. But I got back to North Beach and went for coffee. And then I remembered a little cafe. Really little. Where an extremely pleasant woman makes great sandwiches. I mean really. This woman is always so nice. She's in this very tiny kitchen. Just enough room for her. And she just makes sandwiches and conversation. I forget that she's there. She made me the wrong sandwich and yet what she made was more like what I wanted. I can't explain that but, really. Even her mistakes seem to work out.

So I came home and had a long talk with Kristina about Hellenistic themes in Camus and why people who don't have a classical education might not notice and still enjoy the work.  

Yoga was very good. My triangle pose is getting better. That's not my picture and my pose isn't that good. Yet.

And now I'm very tired.

And wistful.


May 6 2004   8:21 AM

Today is International No Diet Day. In some ways it's an unfortunate name. Because we are all on a diet. What we eat is our diet. But when you read about Mary Evans Young and how she got the idea for INDD you get the reasoning. She saw women hurting themselves and dying in pursuit of a body and she wanted them to celebrate their body.

Last year, right around this time, I'd just begun to get Planet Organics. They'd sent me this pale green butter lettuce and I made a lunch with some broiled chicken and cucumbers in yoghurt on the lettuce. At one point I looked down and realized that I was eating a plate of food that might be eaten on a diet. Imagine my chagrin.

Sometimes, when I write about fat politics I'm angry. Whether or not I can lose weight is not the issue. The issues are about jobs and housing and family life and access and health care and being able to walk down the street and not feel hated. When I tell my thin and average size friends about things that have been said to me they are stunned. They don't imagine that people are as hateful as they are. Sometimes when I write about fat politics I'm sad. Or hurt.

Today. I'm really OK. I had a nice day yesterday. I got some sleep. I'm eating strawberries and blueberries and yoghurt and a bran muffin. I'm drinking green tea. Deb and I are going shopping so I've have good food later. Maybe I'll eat cookies, or cake, or candy, or more ice cream, oh my. Maybe I won't. I'll do what I do. It's just. My life. My body.

I was reading an interview someone did with Camus in which he talked about the way Marxists thought human nature would be formed in the classless society of the future. He said they rejected "the man of today in the name of the man of the future." He talked about mystification. And I though about how often, in my younger life, I imagined a future self. A thinner self. A more loveable self. I thought about the dream state in which I constructed a self.

Today I just am. Fat. And me. All the things about me. Whatever qualities of wisdom, or grace, or insight, or humor, or petulance, or darkness, or jealousy, or charm, whatever qualities describe me, all the shadows and all the light, live in this body. Today. I sing this body electric.

Make no mistake. Somewhere today a fat kid is being bullied and the well intentioned health professionals don't get how their articulation of the fat body makes that possible. Somewhere someone is hunched over a toilet sticking their finger down their throat. Somewhere, someone is being prepared for costly surgery that will change the ability of their bodies to digest food, forever. Somewhere, today, someone is making a choice not to flirt, apply for a job, see a doctor about a pain, attend a film, because their body doesn't fit. And they don't want to feel the hatred. Again. And you who stand behind them in the grocery line and assess their purchases for moral content are part of the problem. You who talk about the five pounds you put on and how you simply must resist the urge to have that cookie after dinner are part of the problem. You who see fat people and look away and never really look. Never really see.

So we have a day. When we say no more.


May 6 2004   7:31 PM

Can America be America?

Has it ever been?  

On the Sixty Minutes II they said that one of the guys in the pictures was a prison guard here, in this country. I don't think it's useful to compare oppressions but I'm wondering if the people who have done time in American prisons think that those pictures reflect a truth about who we are.

But these photos are us. Yes, they are the acts of individuals (though the scandal widens, as scandals almost inevitably do, and the military's own internal report calls the abuse "systemic"). But armies are made of individuals. Nations are made up of individuals. Great national crimes begin with the acts of misguided individuals; and no matter how many people are held directly accountable for these crimes, we are, collectively, responsible for what these individuals have done. We live in a democracy. Every errant smart bomb, every dead civilian, every sodomized prisoner, is ours. (more)

Can America be America?

I am a daughter of America. I find no pride in that lineage. I feel a pain so constant that it has become part of what it means to be American.

And.

Somehow.

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain--

All, all the stretch of these great green states--

And make America again!


May 7 2004   4:25 PM

GK breaks it down.


May 8 2004   12:11 AM

If you go to the Backtalk section of Mother Jones this month you'll see a letter from me. It is on line right now but I don't know how long it will be. The bit they published was about a third of what I wrote. And the box of factoids I was responding to isn't on line so it's difficult to get the context unless you have the magazine. I don't really care that they cut it down but they titled it Spanking "Fat America".  Can that be any more dismissive?

The box of factoids was about how fat Americans are and how there is a developing market place catering to them. The tone of each factoid was as dismissive as the title they gave my post. They called out Ample Stuff, referring to it as the Whole Girth Catalogue and mentioning specific products. Here's the list.

1) Airline seat belt extenders.  Clearly the airline industry doesn't care about my safety, my comfort, or my right to get anywhere. And yes it is a guaranteed right. Given that, if I want to drop the SIXTY SIX dollars so that I can know I will have some security why should Mother Jones question Ample Stuff and not the airline industry? When I fly I ask for an extension. Sometimes I get them handed to me in a surreptitious manner not unlike the way people used to pass me bindles of coke. Other times I have ask two or three times.

2) Scales. I'm not sure why anyone owns a scale but I know there are health issues for which tracking weight loss and gain is important.

3) Fanny packs and wearable napkins. And that's a problem because?

4)Sock installers, lotion appliers and leg lifters. The first time I saw some of these thing was when my stepfather lost some ability to move. He isn't fat.

5)Porta-bidets. And this one was written about with the adjective (depressingly). Mother Jones apparently doesn't think people should have the tools they need to care for themselves. Or maybe it's just fat people that shouldn't have them.

The second factoid was about theaters and stadiums widening seats and instituting person-of-size sections. Because, I suppose, fat people shouldn't go to the theater, or sports events.

The third was about the FAA upping its estimate of the average passenger weight.

The forth was about hospitals rolling out sturdier gurneys, operating tables, wheelchairs, walkers and bigger gowns. And they mention that the hospitals are doing this because of the boom in gastric bypass operations. I'd actually like to think that hospitals would have those things so that I can be provided adequate medical care and not because they have a costly and problematic surgery they want to sell.

Berkline got a slap because their recliners can bear 600 pounds and Mc Donalds took a hit because of their adult Happy Meals. What Are You Looking At? was mentioned. I  could not for the life of me figure out what they were saying by putting all these things in a little set apart box. Chairs are bad, diet meals are bad, people telling their stories is bad. It's just all bad if it has to do with fat people. Freedom Paradise was mentioned. Coffins were mentioned. Jim Hightower, someone who I generally admire and agree with, doesn't like big coffins either. You know how fat people are buried if they don't fit in the coffin? They are cut into pieces.

I do get it. Mother Jones wants me to quit eating fast food and start working out. And then the world can be one size fits all and won't that be better?  I questioned the tone of what they wrote. They published my letter with a title just as quippy and disrespectful.

While I was looking at the Mother Jones I saw an ad for the ACLU in which they talk about not being Americans who think it's ever cool to hate or to silently tolerate prejudice. They work for the day when people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, which is of course a quote.

I work for the day when the character of a person is not measured by the size of their ass.

I always think about Victoria. She was always a large woman but one day she just began to gain weight and couldn't get it to stop. After three years of having doctors tell her that she should eat less and exercise more she was finally diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and over five million people in this country have the same condition. Five million people being told to get up off their couches and stop eating cake. She was also diagnosed with PCOS. And she writes about Cushing Syndrome. I imagine she might need some of the Ample Stuff products. And I imagine it is depressing for her sometimes.

I think about Anamarie who was taken from her home because she was a fat child. Taken from her home. Her parents were on Good Morning America. The press went wild reporting on how these parents let their child get so fat and now the public health officials had to save her. Where is Good Morning America now?  Now that she has been returned to her home, is still fat and now that she and her family are trying to mend from the trauma of being scapegoated. They think she may have a problem with Leptin. They think many fat people have a problem with Leptin. But they still tell the fat people to eat less and move more. They don't ask how much they eat or move. They assume.

There's a woman who goes to the fat swim. She wears a lime green two piece bathing suit and she has beautiful mocha skin. She's so beautiful. She and I have talked about her issues with compulsive overeating. She's told me stories of her childhood and how food was given and withheld. She has a great life right now. She has a man who adores her and thinks she's gorgeous. She has a job and a home and she's active. And she struggles with her eating. It isn't even about losing weight. She just knows she has a problem. If she were an alcoholic or a drug addict she might get some compassion. But she's fat.

I asked Paul Campos if he thought the left was more fat hating than the right and he said, "I think it's quite possible that the left is more fat phobic than the right in America, because much of the left tends to be culturally puritanical, and fat hatred is in large part a product of quasi-puritanical anxieties about indulgence, over-consumption, and lack of control. On the other hand, the right is pretty fat-phobic."

Well. Where does that leave me?

Paul recently linked the letters page at Salon on which the letters are as hateful as they come. He suggested we write a letter. And I've been trying to write one. But I'm tired.

I don't know what to say to someone who doesn't want to pay the rising cost of public health care caused by "the obese". How is that rising cost calculated? Are the people with failing endocrine systems factored into those numbers? Are the people spending money to have their stomachs mutilated in that rising cost? And what about the medical cost of doctors treating people for obesity while they die from a brain tumor or a pituitary tumor?

There are problems. We know that there are problems. There is fast food and too many screens and not enough movement and high fructose corn syrup and on and on and on. I'm not wiling to do my study trumps your study. Campos is doing that. Sandy Swartz is doing that. Glenn Gaesser is doing that. All nice thin people. It's not my area.

There is more than one story to be told about why people are fat. And when all the stories are told it will still not be cool to hate.

Can I have a fanny pack that fits if I want one?

I think of all the magic pills.

I think of all the children.

Spanking the fat people?

I'm tired.

I'm just fucking tired.


May 9 2004   10:59 AM

I was sitting here wondering what I could write about this morning. I'm feeling worn and dry. And then I heard a bit on NPR. Essayist for NPR. How do you get that gig? A friend of mine told me that she had a friend who wanted her to do little essays for NPR. You know, the ones you hear on All Things Considered. I read the piece I wrote about the SIMS to her and she said I should record it and send it in. So I did record it. And I wrote and recorded three others. She called her friend (the one with the connection to NPR) and he said they don't do those anymore. I spent some time trying to figure out where to send them. I never did figure it out.

The bit I heard this morning was about favorite food that Mother's make. I've been getting some encouragement to do food writing and I like to do food writing. And listening to the NPR essayist (do I sound competitive?) (I am) it occurred to me that I could write about my mother and food.

There are problems.

Heh.

My mother didn't do the cooking when I was growing up. We lived with her parents. Grandmom did the cooking and it wasn't great cooking. I have lots of food memories but not about the food itself. More the context in which we ate. I remember chipped ham sandwiches on pasty hamburger buns after church and rootbeer floats on hot summer nights. My cousins remember Grandmom's meat loaf with affection. I remember hiding it in my napkin and smuggling it to the trash can.

What I remember most about food and my mom was her sitting at the  table with a glass of Metrical while the rest of us ate macaroni and cheese. I remember she and I eating plates full of scrambled eggs on Atkins and bowls of rice on Pritiken.

Oh but then.

My mother baked. She still does. She makes beautiful cookies and perfect pie crust. And we ate them with the lust that only a person who has been living on scrambled eggs and celery for a month can eat.

Mom is a recipe cook. It drives her crazy to watch me cook. She measures everything. I measure nothing. I measure when I bake but not with the precision that she does. When I visit now I do most of the cooking. I taught her how to make risotto and she brags to me every time she does. I roast potatoes a lot. Yukon golds and French Fingerlings. She loves them but she forgets about them. She'll call me sometimes to ask what she should make for dinner.

I watched Big Fish last night. On GK's recommendation. I made myself a bowl full of arugula, beets that I had marinated in Balsamic Vinegar and goat cheese and I cut a thick slice of Pane Di Altamura. Beets always seem to make my blood feel stronger. And I settled into my chair and watched the movie.

Maybe there's a moment when we stop thinking so much about what we wished our parents were. And maybe there's a way to connect with them, even when we aren't what they wish we were. Maybe it's the relationship in which we most learn how to love beyond our needs and wants.

I'm not sure yet.

And maybe the reason I'm not an essayist for NPR is because I try to write about food and mom and end up in doubt and reverie.

Mom did make a thing that I like. But only when she makes it. It's called Tijuana Hash. And, oddly enough, I found a recipe on line. I have never made it and I doubt I ever will but Mom makes it when I go there. And I love it. Because there are these intersections in relationships. Places where you can only meet up with that one person.


May 10 2004   10:15 AM

Monday Monday. Can't trust that day.

On Sunday I usually watch some of the political talk shows but there's been so much equivocation about the Iraqi POWs. I just didn't want to hear any more. Even on the radio there was a guy talking about how much the need to validate the reason for the war may have created the environment for the abuse. Generally I like to err on the side of understanding. I may even agree with some of the perspective. But come on.

Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go. - River

So I turned it all off. Cleaned and cooked and listened to music. Read for awhile. But I wanted to watch Sixties Minutes because I knew Wally Lamb was going to be on. I'd seen him on Book TV last year with a few of the women from the Connecticut prison where he teaches a writing workshop. They were reading from the book he'd helped them to put together. I got it and it is now in the every growing pile of soon to be read. Each one of them calling to me. Read me. Read me.

The women made some money for the book and the Attorney General of Connecticut decided to charge them for their room and board at prison. Mean spirited. Mean. Mean spirited.

For more than a year, Lamb and the lawyers at Harper Collins tried to no avail to convince the attorney general to drop or settle the lawsuits. Finally, the literary organization PEN, which takes up the causes of persecuted writers around the world, became involved, suggesting that one of the still-imprisoned writers be nominated for a major award.
“The women had exercised their free speech and then been punished for it,” says Lamb. “I had wanted to nominate the women as a group. But the rules said no, you must nominate an individual.”

Lamb decided on Barbara Parsons Lane, a former housewife who is serving 10 years on manslaughter charges for killing her husband after years of verbal, physical and emotional abuse. She entered the prison in 1996 under a suicide watch, and for two years, she could barely speak.
But through the writing program, she's become a model prisoner, not to mention an accomplished writer. “She has found her voice,” says Lamb. “And not only has she found it, but she had been willing to share that with other people.”
And a few weeks ago, at a New York gala featuring literary lions from around the world, PEN awarded Lane a $25,000 prize in absentia for fighting to safeguard the right to self-expression. The award was sponsored by A.E. Hotchner and Paul Newman, one of Connecticut's most celebrated residents. But the story was far from over. More

Mumia is on Democracy Now talking about the guard I mentioned the other day. I can't hear any more about how what happened at Abu Ghraib doesn't represent who we are.

The other story on Sixty Minutes was about Hugh Thompson. A soldier. A great man. A man who knew when wrong was wrong.

I turned off the TV and went back to the book. This morning the dove who serves as my alarm clock decided I should be awake at 6:00. I didn't sleep well last night and the coo coo coo cooing called me from my dreams too early and too insistently. But I knew I needed to get up. I need to be focused and get some stuff done today.

Monday Monday. Sometimes it just works out that way.


May 11 2004   8:19 AM

The other day Whiskey River had a set of quotes about vision. I've been thinking about them.

On Sunday I was dusting things on my dresser and I looked up into the mirror. I had an ugly moment. I just thought I was ugly. I made an effort to see differently but to no avail. I was just ugly. Nothing I could do about it.

Last night, while I was flossing, I noticed the way my hair was falling and it looked so perfect. I hadn't brushed it, or anything. It was just falling in this beautiful line. And then I saw my eyes and my mouth and it all fit together so well. I was so beautiful. The same face that was so ugly the day before. And yet.

It seems pretty arbitrary. But I've actually worked on what happens when I look in the mirror. I think women get early training in visual dissection. Looking in the mirror is a mediation on what's wrong.

And I think it's getting worse for men. I see commercials for hair plugs and six pack abs (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and teeth whiter and I wonder how men shake it off. There are also plenty of images of less than perfect men with highly idealized women and wealth and fame and on and on. The message is different. But there's no doubt that's it's getting worse for men.

Actually, I remember old movies in which the light would spark Erroll Flynn's teeth.

Those moments when I'm ugly don't hit me as hard as they used to. I know they will pass. But they do hit me. It's not just about vanity. I read job descriptions that say - must present well. What does that mean?  

I want vision that comes from my whole self.

I really don’t know why I should so much wish you to walk with me through what is right outside my door--unless it is that I think it almost the best thing that I do out here--it is so bare--with a sort of ages old feeling of death on it--still it is warm and soft and I love it with my skin...”   ~Georgia O’Keeffe

I want vision that sees ugly and beauty in a constant dance.

Mostly I want vision. I want to see.

I sell mirrors in the city of the blind. - Kabir

These are the places I go for vision.


Writers understand that action is seldom direct. You write your books. You scatter your seeds. Rats might eat them, or they might just rot. In California, some seeds lie dormant for decades because they only germinate after fire.  -Rebecca Solnit

May 11 2004   6:27 PM

Michael does this really cool word of the day thing. It's always interesting but today, it's just the best. I must use it daily.

Agnus and Fennela?

I LOVE that!


May 11 2004   8:09 PM

My post of the morning was about vision. Tonight all I can think is ...

...an eye for an eye. Leaving the whole world blind.


May 12 2004   7:01 PM

I was late getting out the door this morning. Not that late. But public transportation is a worry so I travel early. I waited at the first bus stop for ten minutes and the second bus stop for ten minutes. Things were moving along.

And then.

The driver was shouting at someone because they hadn't paid. I was reading and trying to ignore it all but that wasn't going to happen. It got louder and more contentious. The driver was saying he wasn't going to start the bus until the guy paid. I've lived through this particular drama before so I tried to focus on my book.

It felt like there was some thing going on that I best stay out of. Something between men. Something about territory. The woman in front of me got up and paid the fare. The driver got things moving again. I told her I wanted to pitch in and gave her some change. She said she was working two jobs and was on her way home and just wanted to get there. The fellow who was at the heart of all this mess stumbled up to thank her. The smell of gin filled the air. She looked at me. I looked at her. She said, "I just want to be home."

I got to yoga in plenty of time. I had a hard time concentrating in class. Sally kept saying things about letting it all go and being in the moment. Yeah. The moment. Right. But I did my best. We were working on Eagle pose.

Cough.

I can't exactly do it. Exactly.

After class I went to Yum Yum  for lunch with Marie. It was great to see her. The waiters adore her. They came running with her Cokewithlotsofice the minute she walked in. She has the bluest eyes and the whitest teeth and a spirit that fills up the room.

I decided to take the 33 to the Castro so that I could catch the F. Waited for fifteen minutes. The bus lumbered past Mission high where the students wear their grief on plastic signs around their necks that say we love you Ray. I love you too Ray.

There's a poem by Edith Jenkins carved into the concrete by the bus stop.

at the corners

hooped streetlights

above black streets

Ten minutes more. For the bus driver. He let us on and then we waited ten minutes more before he started up. A tall man with long hair was talking about the beheading in a manner just too close to manic. A woman sat with her baby on her back. The baby was wearing fatigues. We rounded the corner and I looked at the stone face of the Pottery Barn in which there is an area, kind of high up, cut in,  not unlike what might have held a clock. But in which there is a chair. I thought I heard Guy whispering in my ear.

I tucked in with my book. An hour later I was home.

I'm.

Hmmm.

I'm antsy.

Where can i?

How can I?

Hmmm.

No where to go with all of this. Just these moments of grace and moments of grief and moments of rage. And me. Feeling my way along.


I'm looking for someone to change my life

I'm looking for a miracle in my life

And if you could see what it's done to me

to lose the love I knew

you'd safely lead me through.

Moody Blues

May 14 2004   10:08 PM

My attempt at a lucid and impeccable life.

Is still mostly attempt.

Lucidity?

I live in a dream.


May 15 2004   9:14 AM

Margaret sent me a link to pictures of her wedding a while ago. She was a gorgeous bride. The family was gorgeous. Even the church was gorgeous.

As I looked at the photos I thought about how I'd never imagined myself in a wedding. Not even as a kid. It might be because I was fat but I think it was about something else. Somehow I knew that would be alone.

I guess that sounds like I believe in destiny and I do and I don't. I believe in something more along the lines of probable reality. We make choices and veer to the left. Or the right. But I never did imagine myself in a wedding. And it never made me sad. It just seemed like the way it was.

I like weddings. I like ritual and ceremony. I like public displays of affection. And I also think weddings can be costly and fraught with family strife. There are too many symbols of property. Too much paraphernalia. People get caught up in trying to have something perfect. And perfect costs about the same amount as a car. Or more. Weddings have always seemed like an acid trip to me. Everything is heightened. Shiny. Distorted.

My stepfather came up to me at my cousins wedding and told me that if I caught the bouquet it would freak out my mother. I asked her if that was true and she said something vague about wanting me to have a man that would treat me right. The implication was that I wouldn't be able to find one. And that may have been about me being fat. Or maybe it was about my dad. Or maybe it was that she knew the thing I've always known. That I wasn't going to wear a white dress. No matter why that idea is so strong, the traditional wedding for my fractured family would have been just too weird.

When I was in India Baba said I should get married while I was there. He had a reputation for marrying people. He pointed to the cook and said I should marry him. I've never really understood what that was all about.

There was a time when I imagined a wedding. I wanted to be on a boat, somewhere near Galapagos. Just me, my love and the captain of the boat. An affirmation of our place in the mighty, swirling story. And maybe a party with friends and family later.

But I don't think about it anymore.

Kell's post rang for me. I have my own version of that story. More than one actually. Not the formal part of the story. I was never engaged. But I have been in relationships lived just beyond my finger tips.

I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.

I really don't have sadness about a wedding. But I do have sadness about being alone. I have a feeling of having failed at something. And I can do a long winded analysis about how a woman alone in the world is taught she is a failure but I don't really feel that my aloneness is the failure. Not in and of itself. It's deeper.    

Last night I dreamed I was getting married. I was in a white dress. It was a night full of dreams. Too thick and symbol laden to parse.

There are wounds that stir up the force of gravity.

I try to imagine another planet, another sun. Where I don't look like me and everything I do matters.

Don't start. My heart. Is a smoking gun. And nothing can be done.


May 15 2004   11:29 AM

Last night Mom talked about how she can't watch the news. She's watching Turner classic movies instead.

I noticed the numbness setting in the other day. The numbness that comes from over exposure. Picture of a plane hitting a building. Picture of a man in a hood with wires attached to his hands. The first time you seem them the pain hits your heart. The second time it hits your head. The meaning making begins. The reaction and response. And eventually you stop seeing the picture. You stop feeling. Or you stop noticing what you feel. The picture becomes part of pressure that pushes on you. You forget why you feel the way you do.

A friend sent word that she is being published in a literary magazine. I love my friend and I love her writing. I'm thrilled that she is being published. She also said that she'd been sending out ten pieces of writing a month. It hit me. I felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of my chest. I think I've sent out ten things this year.

I did have a piece accepted by Yoga International. I'm not sure when it will be out, or if it will be on line. I'm happy about it, of course.

There is a way in which I'm having trouble feeling my accomplishments. Nothing seems good enough. I need to do more. And more.

Everything is disproportionate. The good things aren't good enough. The bad things are too big to hold.


May 16 2004   8:39 AM

My apartment is four blocks from Fisherman's Wharf. There is not A tourist season. It's always tourist season. During the week I see familiar neighbor faces. There's a post office distribution center down the street so I see lots of post people. Sometimes I see Lawrence. We've met a few times but I don't think he remembers. I smile and say hi. He nods.

Things well up around holidays and on weekends. I try not to go out on the weekends. But I needed to go to the store. I had some spinach and roasted tomatoes for a salad. And I had a desire for some brie and a baquette. The store was having a sale on tea roses. Three bunches for ten dollars. Not fiscally wise at this particular time in my life. But sometimes you just gotta have some roses. And having caved to that temptation I got some St Andre, instead of brie.

As I was walking home a group of tall, young, blond men passed on my left. There was one young woman with them. They had an accent I couldn't quite place. In a few minutes they stopped and pulled out a map and started looking around for landmarks. Sometimes I offer to help. Sometimes I don't.

When I got home I felt unwell. Food did not sound good. I put the roses in a blue pot on the table. Made a big post of tea and watched a movie. And then I watched another. And then I gave up on the spinach salad, the St Andre and the baquette. I got into bed and slept a long dreamless sleep.

I'm still a little punky but OK. I think. The living room smells like roses. Oddly enough, having a miserable body has shaken me out of my miserable mood.

Somewhat.

We'll see.


Well, you know, California is the most bizarre place to be, in a certain sense. It's so laden with contradictions. It is, in some ways, almost flaunting of them. I think it flaunts more than any other part of the country, in the visual sense: the extraordinary visual degradation, the extraordinary beauty. There are still these vast tracts of wilderness. There is this amazing ocean. You're constantly living in a kind of cognitive dissonance here. - Adrienne Rich (via Wood_s Lot)

 

May 17 2004   7:43 AM

There is a small room behind my kitchen. I suspect it was once a laundry room because there's a capped off pipe. It's not really big enough to be anything but there are built in shelves, on which I put all my cook books and old cooking magazines. And odds and ends. The waffle iron. Vases. A roll of old sketches. Baskets. I made a desk with a board on two file cabinets. I sometimes sit back there and read recipes.

Rooms like that become junk rooms really easily. If I'm cleaning the living room I just carry things back there and dump them on the desk. I've lived in this apartment for more than ten years. I've really tried to keep it from being a junk room. But it fills with clutter and then I clean it up and it fills again.

A year or more ago I took my futon frame apart. It took up half the living room. It was broken. I was sick of it. I rolled the futon. Put the frame in the back room. and there it stayed. It blocked the book shelves. And the desk. Two or three times I took it out and cleaned and then put it back.

I kept thinking that someone could fix it and use it. Almost everyone I know offered to take it out of the room and down the three flights of steps for me but it just never happened. And then, finally, Carrie needed a futon frame. And Carrie knows how to fix things. So she and Suzanne came over and took it yesterday morning.

Phew. That was a lot of set up for not much news.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning. Took out all the boxes and packing peanuts. It's nice in there again. Although, really, I could keep throwing things away for a while. How does junk pile up like that? Do I really need to keep every card I've ever received?

I felt OK all day. Except once. I didn't have an appetite but a bowl of watermelon tasted good for dinner.

Cleaning. Staying away from screens. The roses still fill the air and I'm shaking off the weary blues that held me under for the last few days.

Sinead O'Conner said it best. I do not want what I haven't got.

Except I do want what I can't have. And I will have to suffer it. And. Oh well.

Someday.

Somehow.

Somewhere.

Maybe.

You know.

Or not.


May 17 2004   8:20 PM

I went over to Miriam's today to help her establish a better relationship with her computer. So instead of sitting in front of my computer all day I sat in front of hers. I hadn't been to her house and I wasn't sure how to get there. We had agreed upon 11:00 and I'm a be there on time kind of girl. Actually I'm a be there early kind of girl. I was born early. A detail well documented in the first chapter of my book. (She said in a not at all veiled attempt to get people to read said chapter and lavish praise upon her so that she can survive the dark days of begging for publication of said book.)

I left early because I wanted to get some stamps and a bottle of water. There was someone ahead of me at the stamp store and someone ahead of me at the bottle of water store and I was feeling a little bit tense about time. The first bus took a while. The second bus took a while and I got on a third bus because it got a little closer to where I was headed. All things considered the three bus trip took not too much time. I got off the bus at 21rst and Valencia, which was a block early. The early thing bites me in the ass sometimes.

One of the things that happens in SF is that one street can be on a really, really, really steep hill and one block later there can be a flat street. 21rst street is a really, really, really steep hill going up to Guerrero and Guerrero to 22nd is a really, really, really steep hill going down. I know this because I walked up and down those streets. As opposed to the straight, flat walk I would have taken if I'd stayed on the bus and walked on 22nd.

But hey. It was sunny and beautiful and there was a man sitting in the back of a van with a computer desk, typing away who smiled and said hi and another man talking to a baby in a stroller who also smiled and said hi and flowers to stick my nose into. Someone had stenciled EMBRACE LONELINESS on the side walk. I said, "I'm trying." Out loud.

It just took a while. The all the way up and all the way back down part. After all the tension of the waiting in line and the waiting at bus stops and the up and the down, I was fifteen minutes early.

I'm a be there early kind of girl.

Like I said.


May 17 2004   11:00 PM

There's a big fat storm moving across my beloved community today.

One of the things I'm always trying to understand is why the social justice movement we call fat acceptance, which has been around for the same thirty year history of other social movements, like feminism, the Gay rights movement, isn't more cohesive. And that's if you begin counting with the beginning of NAAFA .

1969. Wasn't that a year? Makes my heart fill up just thinking about it.

I start tracking my own fat revolution with the release of We're Only In It For the Money.

There will come a time when you won't even be ashamed if you are fat.

I didn't know about NAAFA but I knew that hippie boys with beautiful long hair said I might not need to be ashamed and I wanted to believe them. Boys with long hair still make my heart spin.

Eventually I read Fat is a Feminist Issue. At the time I thought it was a really radical book. That was then. The book is just as toxic as any other diet book But back in the day it rocked my world.

In some ways I should track my own fat revolution back to my mighty grandmother. A proud fat woman. A beautiful fat woman. And I do. But hearing Frank. That one line. In that one song. Changed the way I saw my body. My own fat revolution happened without the support of like minded fat radicals. But everyone I met, or read, with any fat radical ideas deepened my sense of the rightness of it all. It's such a relief to have community.

And. Community is fraught. Being a human is fraught. Being human together is fraught.

A discussion on BFB has kicked up the storm of which I speak. Although just as it's difficult to track the exact starting point of a social movement, it's probably true that the storm was raging earlier.

Last week I found myself in another one of those conversations about size acceptance being OK but that people who are really, really fat (and that often begins with the number 300 pounds in these conversations) can't possibly be healthy. I made a few attempts to explain my thoughts and listened to the push back and then I backed away. Sometimes I have the patience for it and sometimes I don't.

I wish that my thin and average sized friends would read the books. (And that's the short list. There are so many.) I wish I thought that all the writing I do here made a difference. I wish the thin and average sized bloggers I know who think of themselves as political linked to things like the privilege list and added some thoughts. But I know that not everyone takes the time to understand another person's oppression.

Paradigm shifts take generations. And in the same thirty year time frame we've seen a ramp up of diet products and the fat hatred needed to sell them.

This is a lot of preamble. I should be more direct.

I value Big Fat Blog. I appreciate Paul. I think he makes an effort to be inclusive and fair. And it can't be easy. I know there are people who leave comments there who aren't fat radical and some are really there to subvert the process. I've heard there are people there who have attacked other members of my beloved community. I wish there were a way to do truth and reconciliation. And I don't know if that can happen on a blog. Paul has made it pretty clear that he wants people who are new to the ideas to feel free to participate. And that might mean a seemingly endless and circular conversation. It might mean an often truncated or sloppy conversation.

I know that people have been hurt. I know that people with fierce fat radical ideas have not felt supported by Paul. And I wish we could go on a retreat together and talk till we work through the issues. But I'm not even sure we could work through them. Because sometimes we just fail each other. I fail people. People fail me. Sometimes we just can't be what we need to be for each other.

All day long I've been reading, watching and listening to things about Brown v the Board of Ed and the wisdom of the state of Massachusetts. All day long I've been thinking about how far things have come and how far they have to go. Social movements take generations. Those conversations are still happening.

And people get tired. I get tired. I don't have answers. But I know that we are a beloved community. And we're in a long dark night. In my attempt to say something I've wandered all over the place. I don't think we all have to like each other. We might not even need to work together. I can only speak for myself.

I need you all.

We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. - Martin Luther King.


May 18 2004   4:14 PM

AJ Roach is singing a song at the Board of Supervisor's meeting because they asked him to keep the Blue Grass Festival in SF. Goodgawd I love this city.


May 19 2004   9:07 AM

I figure.

If I just keep asking.

Sooner or later. Someone is going to buy me this.

Do you think Leonard left the seat up? I think he did. I think he came over to read me poems about women who look nothing like me and wanted me to know he'd been there.


May 20 2004   7:41 AM

Pattie and Carl are in town. They filmed a little bit of yoga. And a bit of me yammering. Not sure what will become of it all yet but they're on a mission so I'm sure it will be something wonderful.

We were on Church street and we passed a young man and woman sitting on a bench. They were in a retro punk regalia. Black clothing with lots of rips and tears. Chains and spikes and piercings and tats. He was sporting a Mohawk in colors not found in nature. She was wearing makeup designed by Edward Gorey. As I passed she turned to him and said,"Yeah, the world sucks. Like we've been saying all along."

They were just so perfectly who they were.


May 20 2004   7:41 AM

Pattie and Carl are in town. They filmed a little bit of yoga. And a bit of me yammering. Not sure what will become of it all yet but they're on a mission so I'm sure it will be something wonderful.

We were on Church street and we passed a young man and woman sitting on a bench. They were in a retro punk regalia. Black clothing with lots of rips and tears. Chains and spikes and piercings and tats. He was sporting a Mohawk in colors not found in nature. She was wearing makeup designed by Edward Gorey. As I passed she turned to him and said,"Yeah, the world sucks. Like we've been saying all along."

They were just so perfectly who they were.

 

 

May 20 2004   6:10 PM

My friend Valeri Jack used to take amazing pictures of me to use for promo for my band.

 

There was no way I could look at those photos and not think I was beautiful. I think some of my sense of myself was gifted to me by Val.

She always took a few pictures before the make up, in the shredding bathrobe, when I wasn't posing. And I always hated them. But they were part of the gift. I just didn't know it then.

I remember the first time I saw this one.

I could barely look at it. I just thought I looked so bad. Right now I can't imagine why.

It was almost twenty years ago. I was all about rhythm and blues. It may be hard to get what's happening with my hair. It was short and spiky and I had four long braids, just for fun. This was the last photo session with Val before I left Longmont, Colorado and moved to NYC. I'm trying to clean up all these files in the back room and all I can do is stare at old pictures of myself. It's a particularly loopy kind of narcissism.

I loved that apartment. It had two floors. The top was the attic of an old house. Loft like, open, with a sky light and a fire place. The bathroom and the kitchen were on the first floor. The kitchen had exposed brick on one wall and windows all along the other, looking out onto the front range. Sometimes I wish I'd never left. But then I wouldn't know what it felt like to walk through the East Village at four in the morning with a head full of bourbon and a mouth full of smoke.

I'm not sure hind sight is twenty-twenty. I think it's filtered through what if and why.


May 20 2004   9:34 PM

It's been feeling shaky here to me lately. I can always tell. I get dizzy. There doesn't seem to have been anything big directly under my feet.

Maybe it's just the shaking in my heart.


May 21 2004   7:46 AM

In my dream I was standing in front of a map of eastern Europe desperately trying to remember the names of all the countries.


May 22 2004   7:15 AM

How did this happen?

I'm not trying to be coy. And I'm not trying to feign ambivalence. But come on. There are so many others. I didn't know I was in the running. How did it happen?

I don't want to go into a fit of metablogging. But. Uh. For me blogging has been like a raft in the middle of the big blue. It gives me purpose and connection and a way to battle my own feelings of loss and alienation. I do write about fat politics here. Politics in general. And I also write my way through my own daily chaos. I make constant errors in spelling. I ignore grammar. My design skills are less than proficient. I care enough about writing to make an effort to write well but I don't ...

I'm stammering.

Jeez. I swear. I've never been sure I was getting it right. Whatever that means. So I'm really not sure how this happened.

But I mean. Thanks. Obviously. If you are someone who voted for me, or nominated me, or whatever the process was ... thank you very much.

I'm tellin ya. I felt like I might have read it wrong so I went to the corner and got the hard copy and there it was again. It's timely. I spent the day yesterday wondering if I needed to take a break. Feeling like I have too much invested. Or something that I couldn't quite name. Or maybe I could name it but I don't want to talk about it out loud because it's just too sad and stupid and I'm angry with myself for allowing myself to have a dream that was just destined to end with me feeling sad and stupid. Feeling like I wanted to disappear.

And now. I feel a little ungrounded and odd.

There are SO many others.

But.

Thank you.

Really.


The writing has been an exercise, trying to work my way towards clarity. Get out the pen and face the beast yourself. What's bothering you? Well that's not exactly it. OK let's go a little deeper. Well that's not exactly it. When you get to the truth, you know...do I want to say that in public? - Joni Mitchell

May 23 2004   8:27 AM

A while ago Laurie, because she so sweet and generous and wonderful and good, bought me a copy of Woman of Heart and Mind. And some other time ago Kristina, because she so sweet and generous and wonderful and good, bought me a bottle of Merlot. So yesterday I listened to and watched Joni and drank wine. Sang along and wept for ... ya know ... reasons. I know it sounds dark and shadowy but it's really a homeopathy thing.

I needed to stay away from the computer, for more than one ...ya know ...reason.

And. It worked. I'm OK. I'm good. I also worked on a thing I'm writing. And I had a lovely long talk with Ari on the phone. One of those talks that goes all over the place and feeds your soul. I ate pizza with eggplant and artichokes and lots of garlic.

My sense of the middle way may not be accurate. But it seems to me that it's not about being narrow and squeezing between the extremes. It's about being wide enough to hold the tension of both extremes. And yesterday was a day of holding the really very nice with the really very painful.

But.

I am wide.

Thanks for all the lovely comments. They were better than the award.


May 24 2004   9:05 AM

There is a gallery a few blocks from my apartment. The woman who runs it has been under attack for a painting by Guy Colwell displayed in her window. There's a description of the painting in this article and photos here and there is an image of the painting on the gallery web site right now.  

I know I blogged about a painter who painted images of torture in Central and South America. I can't remember his name I saw a film about him last year. I tried going through my archives but I couldn't find anything. When I saw the film I spent some time thinking about the images. They are hard to look at. Art has different purposes. Artists have different intentions. But surely one of the things that art can do is to challenge us to face what we are. Does the gallery owner have a right to display what she wants? Does the artist have a right to paint what he feels? Isn't that about freedom, democracy, all those things we're supposed to be fighting for?

If people had been worried about children seeing the painting I might have agreed. It's a family neighborhood. There's a school right across the street from the gallery. Kids are seeing these images on the news but the painting does have a cartoon quality. Somehow I think that might make them less real to the kids. I'm not sure how children are processing all this. But the criticism of her wasn't about kids. Maybe someone made that point but that wasn't the biggest complaint. The complaint was that she was being un-American.   

Jeanne posted an essay about her feelings about the photos in the news. The first image she wrote about is one I found most disturbing and for some of the same reasons. It just looks like such a Christian image. Jeanne said it very well.

The images of sexual humiliation and words describing sadistic abuse have been horrifying. But a naked, shackled and filth-splattered prisoner, arms outstretched, speaks to the imagination of someone raised on the stations of the cross in a unique way. It makes demands on the soul that I don't know how to meet.

And she wonders about the ubiquitous presence of the photos on American media. Is there a chance that we've gone past bearing witness? Is it possible that there are those among us who aren't horrified?

In fact, I've wondered if the same motivation that put Miss Jackson's wardrobe malfunction on endless replay wasn't also at work in the case of the prison photographs. At first, I thought the press might be understandably squeamish about displaying sexual sadism, and that delicacy could provide an excuse for not showing the photos, and perhaps not dealing with the issue. It now looks more like the sexual nature of the photos was a sick incentive to keep showing them.

I've been suspicious about why we're seeing them. When I think about these things, I always return to Regarding the Pain of Others.

The quickest, driest way to convey the inner commotion caused by these photographs is by noting that one can't always make out the subject, so thorough is the ruin of flesh and stone they depict. (more)

The images can too easily become abstraction. I'm not sure we can take it in again and again. But something happens internally when we see them. Sontag wrote a piece in the New York Times magazine yesterday.

So, then, is the real issue not the photographs themselves but what the photographs reveal to have happened to ''suspects'' in American custody? No: the horror of what is shown in the photographs cannot be separated from the horror that the photographs were taken -- with the perpetrators posing, gloating, over their helpless captives. German soldiers in the Second World War took photographs of the atrocities they were committing in Poland and Russia, but snapshots in which the executioners placed themselves among their victims are exceedingly rare, as may be seen in a book just published, ''Photographing the Holocaust,'' by Janina Struk. If there is something comparable to what these pictures show it would be some of the photographs of black victims of lynching taken between the 1880's and 1930's, which show Americans grinning beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree. The lynching photographs were souvenirs of a collective action whose participants felt perfectly justified in what they had done. So are the pictures from Abu Ghraib.

The images are far too American. I know that not everyone sees the pictures and has the same reaction. And the more I see them, the less I feel. There's something deeply disturbing about that. I feel the need to rattle my own heart and remember. I'm with Jeanne. It makes a demand on the soul that I don't know how to meet. My hope is that they shock us into awareness and rev up our will to change. My fear is that they are part of a national character, so prurient and disengaged that we are lost.

After all, we're at war. Endless war. And war is hell, more so than any of the people who got us into this rotten war seem to have expected. In our digital hall of mirrors, the pictures aren't going to go away. Yes, it seems that one picture is worth a thousand words. And even if our leaders choose not to look at them, there will be thousands more snapshots and videos. Unstoppable. (Sontag)


May 24 2004   6:53 PM

so much depends

upon

a butternut squash tamale

steaming in

a big white bowl


May 24 2004   9:01 PM

When I was reading Lorianne I thought about Miguel. I wish I could blink my eyes and he would be in Keene for  awhile. He needs the green.


May 24 2004   9:01 PM

When I was reading Lorianne I thought about Miguel. I wish I could blink my eyes and he would be in Keene for  awhile. He needs the green.

 

 

But you say "That's just my imagination." - Rickie Lee Jones

May 25 2004   8:05 AM

I had a very manic day yesterday. I kept finding myself walking in circles in the middle of my living room. My living room isn't exactly big enough for circles.

I'm working on another article for another yoga magazine. Sally already made the connection so I think it will get published. If I write it. There's no real deadline but I want to get it to them so they can tell me if they want me to do it differently. Meanwhile, my own yoga practice is lacking in focus.

So I hit the keys and then I did the dishes and then I hit the keys some more and then I made some tuna salad and then I hit the keys some more.

And walked in circles.

You know that thing where you get up to do something and you walk into another room and the minute you get to the other room you have no idea why you're there? That was me. All day.

And then Planet O showed up with cherries and peaches and other stuff, but the cherries and peaches made me the happiest.

And then I got this from Dru.

UCAUTION
IN THE INTEREST OF SAFETY IT IS ADVISABLE TO KEEP FATSHADOW AWAY FROM FIRE AND FLAMES.

Username:
From Go-Quiz.com

Hmmm.

I'm just wondering.

Are we talking about my safety?

I have always had a thing for Joan of Arc.

It was deep into his fiery heart
he took the dust of Joan of Arc,
and then she clearly understood
if he was fire, oh then she must be wood.
I saw her wince, I saw her cry,
I saw the glory in her eye.
Myself I long for love and light,
but must it come so cruel, and oh so bright?

I watched A Beautiful Mind. I didn't think it would pull me in again, especially not on TV, with commercials. But, oh that moment when she says, "I need to believe in something extraordinary." 

Yes. Me too.


May 25 2004   8:18 PM

We're having a hard time here in the city of brotherly love. Too many people dying in the streets.

Our district attorney, Kamala Harris, has taken a stand against the death penalty. And it's an unpopular stand because it involves the death of a police officer. Today the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution backing her. Cris Daly led the charge.

I swear, sometimes I just want to go to City Hall and hug him. I want to hug them all.

I didn't vote for Ms. Harris. But I'm so proud of her. I'm so proud of the Supes. I'm so proud to live in this city. In my seemingly never ending job search I've looked at moving. I feel like I'm willing to move anywhere. But on days like today I can't imagine where else I could live.

I know that this is hard for some of the people on the police force. Despite the fact that there is language in the resolution that talks about support for the police I know that they are angry. And hurt. There is long standing antipathy between Cris and the police. I know that there are people who see the death penalty as a way for families to find closure. I think it's a misguided attempt at closure and I don't think it really works and to the extent that it seems to work I would beg for a deep reconsideration of why.

We are having a hard time in the city of brotherly love.

The death penalty is just wrong. And I am so happy to live in a city where the leaders know that. My heart does go out to the people who are mourning. There are too many of them.


May 25 2004   8:09 AM

Oh. Oh. Oh.

Sigh.

I was thinking about a poem I wrote last year. One a year is about all I can pull outta me.

It's still true. Maybe more true.

I need to find a way to stop

hope

and not relinquish

possibility.


May 26 2004   9:20 PM

I walked out of the door with my eyes full of tears. And I was having trouble breathing.

Just before the bus came, a swarm of kids came over from the middle school. I mean really. A swarm. They were all around me. There was no chance of getting a seat. I just backed up and let them have the bus. By the time the next one came there were several older people. And by several I mean like six, or seven. They just seemed to grow up out of the sidewalk. As the bus pulled up I could see that it was already pretty crowded and these older folks were an assertive bunch.

Sometimes it seems like the nerve endings have pushed through my skin and are dangling.  Another body, even a foot away can feel too close.

The part of me that is always watching began to ask questions. OK, Tish. You don't want to be on the bus with kids and you don't want to be on the bus with elders. Do you need to go back home and be by yourself today?

I decided to get a cab. A cab is just not fiscally appropriate at this time in my life but I needed the isolation. As we crossed Hayes I saw Matt walking along with his office guy. Matt was walking in his long, languid steps and his office guy was walking in shorter, faster steps, almost double time. I got to Valencia early so I had a coffee at Muddy Waters. Everyone got to class a little bit late. And Sally announced that she can't do the class anymore. There really aren't enough of us and she has to pay for the space and travel from the east bay and she has lots going on. Class felt heavy and distorted.

I'm ambivalent. I don't really have the money for the class. I have learned enough to practice at home. It was good to have that weekly check in. But. Oh well. She may try again later in the summer, or in the fall. I might be able to get a ride to the east bay class sometimes.

I came home and watched Lost In Translation. Kristina called while it was on so I hit pause. Bill Murray's face was on the screen. I served Bill Murray breakfast years ago in a diner in Boulder, Colorado. People always want to know if he was funny. My job was to ask him how he wanted his eggs cooked and keep his coffee cup full. It was early. He wanted apple pie for dessert. We didn't have any. He said something kind of convoluted about looking in deep into my eyes and thinking about apple pie. I said something about any apple pie deep within me not being something he would want. It was more odd than funny. And there was his face on my TV screen. I've always loved the ruddy quality of his face. I like faces that look like they've lived a life. I wanted to press my cheek into his. In the scene on pause he looked both forlorn and bemused.

My eyes are full of tears.


May 27 2004   8:19 AM

When you have nothing good to say, find a meme.

Honest Bloggers Quiz

1. Which political party do you typically agree with?
Green 
2. Which political party do you typically vote for?
I voted Green a few times in the last elections (Yes, I'm one of the terrible people who voted for Nader. Before you go on and on about it try to remember that the Supreme court selected the guy we have now.) but I think Democrat is more typical.
3. List the last five presidents that you voted for.
Nader

Clinton

Clinton

Dukakis

Didn't vote.
4. Which party do you think is smarter about the economy?
I'm not sure there is a difference between the top two and I'm not really clear about the Greens. I guess I don't know.
5. Which party do you think is smarter about domestic affairs?
Greens.
6. Do you think we should keep our troops in Iraq or pull them out?
Bring them home. Create a reparations plan for the damage we've done.
7. Who, or what country, do you think is most responsible for 9/11?
I don't think there was a country responsible. But I do think there are reasons why "they hate us."
8. Do you think we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
Nope.
9. Yes or no, should the U.S. legalize marijuana?
Yes.
10. Do you think the Republicans stole the last presidential election?
Yes.
11. Do you think Bill Clinton should have been impeached because of what he did with Monica Lewinski?
I honestly don't care.
12. Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?
Not really.
13. Name a current Democrat who would make a great president:
Dennis Kucinich
14. Name a current Republican who would make a great president.
My Mom.
15. Do you think that women should have the right to have an abortion?
Yes.
16. What religion are you?
All of them.
17. Have you read the Bible all the way through?
Yes.
18. What's your favorite book?
The one I'm reading in any given moment. Although I will say that my copy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men would be something I'd grab if there was fire.
19. Who is your favorite band?
The Be Good Tanyas
20. Who do you think you'll vote for president in the next election?
It doesn't look like I'll be voting for anyone. But I'll put a check next to Kerry's name.
21. What website did you see this on first?

The beautiful, mighty, always fabulous Easy Bake Coven


They'd make you believe that your problem is one of sex,
That men and women have mysteriously become
Strange and fearful to one another - sick, diseased, cold -
And that is true. But no loss of a father-image or of
Any other image, did this. Why don't you face the truth for once?
You have accepted the whole filthy, murderous swindle without
A word of protest, hated whomever you were told to hate,
Slaughtered whomever you were told to slaughter; you've lied,
Cheated, made the earth stink with your very presence - Why
Shouldn't you despise and hate one another? Why shouldn't
Your flesh crawl everytime you touch one another?
Why should you expect to make 'love' in a bed fouled with corpses?

  - Kenneth Patchen (via Dru)

May 28 2004   7:48 AM

I went to see Sherman Alexie last night. He made me laugh. A lot. And I needed to laugh. And he read a beautiful story from his latest. He said he does vanity searches on his name and for a minute I hoped he would stop by here and read about how great it was for me to laugh and how much better I felt because of all the laughing. But if he did stop by he'd see that I voted for Nader and he has extremely unkind words for people who voted for Nader. None that I haven't heard before. Often from some of my dearest friends.

I always want to ask. Do you like havin seat belts in your car?

Whatever. I understand the difference between then and now. I'll vote for whatever they toss at me to unseat the boy prince. Just don't ask me to feel guilty for supporting a man who has done more for the people of this country than almost anyone in public office.

Right after the Nader thing he went into a long riff about vegans and people who dress up as turtles for peace marches. You had to be there. Much of it was funny. Much of it I agreed with. But it got a little hyperbolic.

Not that I don't have my own tenancy to go off.

He has a great new project. He's writing 365 stories of seduction. He really was so sweet and so funny and so smart and so cute. As soon as I stop being mad at him for the Nader rant I'm gonna buy the book. Well. As soon as I stop being mad at him and get a job I'm gonna buy the book. Although an EXTREMELY sweet person sent me a gift certificate for Amazon. I've been drooling all over myself trying to decide what I'm gonna buy with it.

So it was a nice day. And I needed a nice day. There was that one e-mail. The one telling me that I didn't have the qualifications for the job. I haven't been getting anything back from the places I apply. The fact that this place had the courtesy to write back seemed like a good thing.

See, some books and some laughing and I pull back together pretty well.


As a commie pinko bastard, I am horrified that a right-wing Republican is my president, but as a commie pinko bastard writer, I'm more horrified that he is a malaproping right-wing Republican. - Sherman Alexie

May 28 2004   7:48 AM

The woman who ran the gallery I wrote about the other day was attacked physically. She has a black eye and a broken nose. She is closing her gallery.

I'm so angry about this.


May 29 2004   9:03 AM

I went back to bed and got some more sleep. I still feel shaken.

The woman who ran the gallery I wrote about the other day was attacked physically. She has a black eye and a broken nose. She is closing her gallery.

I'm so angry about this.

The world seems terribly frail to me today. But, maybe it's just the residuals from a dream interrupted.


May 29 2004   5:51 PM

Great pictures of a gathering in front of the gallery at Luxomatic.


May 29 2004   11:03 PM

I was thinking about how my use of the word fat might be misunderstood. Many people, maybe even most people, have a negative reaction to the word. Many of the people I've been talking to for years about why I use the word can't quite bring themselves to use the word out loud.

For me the word is simple and descriptive. It doesn't have an inherent value. Everyone likes fat wallets or a fat rhythm section. And some folks like a fat ass. But, of course, that's more problematic.

I've been thinking about it because I'm writing these articles about yoga and I use the word fat in the same manner I use it here. I had to really work on setting up the context for the use. But in a world where fat means everything wrong with the way we live, my use may not have a chance.

I do try to make the point that fat people face increasing discrimination in the work place, in access to adequate medical care, access to public facilities and transportation and a public hatred. It all sounds pretty grim. But I value my experiences. I've had a great life in many ways.

Once I heard an African American woman say that when she left the house she walked into public as a black woman. I'm not sure that all people of color feel that way but I do know that people of color have experiences (driving while black for example) in which they must wonder if what's happening has anything to so with pigmentation. When I heard the woman I felt this thud and connection. Because when I walk out the door I know that being fat will be part of what creates my experience.

I think it's true for all people. All the descriptors we live with have an impact on our experience.

I made an early decision to not believe that being fat had to mean my life wouldn't work out. And I've lived with that attitude. Generally speaking things have gone well. And to the extent that it hasn't gone well I always wanna ask why? I took a lot of risks in life. And I might have taken more if I hadn't been dealing with the internal struggle of wondering about my body size.

It's hardest on me when it comes to love. Because I've always wanted to believe that love is the arbiter of beauty. And my experience hasn't born that weight. As it were. I also know that when I have ... uh ... romantic feelings for a person my perspective gets a little bit wonky. And I think that's true for most people.

And then there's the health thing. I will admit to a bad attitude about health. Rock n roll grrrl. Drugs. Drinking. Smoking. Blah. Blah. Blah. Some of that is about wanting to be Janis Joplin when I grew up and part of that is about growing up with a body that was constantly problamatized. The more fat loving I've become the better I treat my body.

There are always numbers tossed around. Azoowah number of people dead from obesity. The numbers are badly drawn in my opinion. I would like a professional health community that could read my individual health chart. The stress of my work history. My penchant for bad behavior. The harm done by early dieting. The stress of living in a hostile world. Hostile in general. And hostile in specific to me.

In terms of the community of people trying to create a revolution, things are almost worse between us than they are between us and the thin and average sized community who don't understand our experience, the medical community that want to sell us products and not care for us and the culture that wants to dump all its meanness on us.

But after all this problamatizing I am left with the story of my life and the way in which being fat influenced who I became. There have been prices to pay. But there have also been gifts.

I'm aware of the issues peculiar to who I am. As are we all. I'm not really interested in a problem free life. I get the idea of grist for the mill. I'm always trying to see it more clearly.

I had this experience years ago. A child looked at me and said, "You're fat." It seemed to me that the child was just testing out a word. There was no obvious judgement. It was a simple observation. I said," Yes. I am." And we smiled at each other. And went on playing.

Shoop. There it is.


May 30 2004   11:46 AM

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice


May 30 2004   9:12 PM

I was excited about the return of The Restaurant. It sucked me in last year because it is a world in which I spent so much of my life. The product placement got annoying. I wanted them to spend more time in the kitchen. But I liked it. This year is everything bad about the first season on steroids. Not just product placement, all Rocco product. The show is a pissing contest between Rocco and his investor.

But none of that is unexpected.

There were two scenes in which two waiters from the first season were talking about their negative feelings about Rocco. They had to know the camera was there. They had to know that Rocco would see it someday. Rocco hasn't done much to build relationships with his crew but as I watching I kept thinking that I wouldn't want someone to watch me talking badly about them behind their back on television. The whole show seems mean spirited.

I don't watch the other reality shows but I see the commercials. Women lined up compete for the "love" of a man, or a million dollars? I can't figure that one out. Men lined up to compete for a woman. People eating bugs. Falling from buildings. Back stabbing in offices suites. It's all so mean spirited.

The sad part is that sometimes the restaurant industry is just that mean.

I grew up on fifties TV which was probably a little too nice. Every family was nuclear and every problem got solved. My family wasn't nuclear. And our problems seemed to go on and on. I actually do like reality and reality is complex. But if this stuff is reality ... well.

The only part I liked was watching Rocco's mother make fun of the way he throws salt at the pan. That made me laugh. Out loud.


May 31 2004   9:07 AM

My family blood is on a battlefield or two. My parents met in the Navy and their relationship was a battle lost. I do battle on the field of the Lord.

I've been sad for quite awhile. And I spend a lot of time trying to work on the things that I can work on to be less sad. But there is a part of me that doesn't understand how it's possible to not be sad, given all that's going on in the world around me and in my personal life. I know it doesn't serve anyone for me to be collapsed in tears day after day. So, I do what I can to rally. And I do have wonderful friends who help me. I've been dealing with something all month that has been particularly hard and I don't think I've been dealing with it very well. It is a sad thing. No doubt about it. But, again, I can't spend my day crying about things I can't change.

That's the battle in my life today. Accepting.

Weekends like this, when the flags are waving and the sales are pushing product, I remember my battle blood soaked lineage. Not with pride. Or shame. But with a deep need to understand my true place in the line.