(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolatiers Take Heed

Hey all you chocoholics out there, have you been following the news that says the rising price of cacao due to a decline in the continued viability of cacao production could mean a bar of chocolate may one day cost far more than the dollar you pay for that Hershey's bar.

But never fear, despite unsustainable rises in demand there is good news on the horizon.

Scientists in France recently released that they have almost finished sequencing the full genome of
Theobroma cacao
which could result in stronger GMO strains of cacao that would make production easier, though ultimately it will take political stability in the Ivory Coast to guarantee cacao for the future since 40 percent of the international cacao production comes from this tiny, equatorial country.

Here's hoping we won't need to be millionaires to get our chocolate fix. The spoiled American in me shudders to imagine having to resort to indulging in carob chip cookies any more than I have to.

In the meantime, have you considered the possibility of stocking up?

In unrelated culinary exploits, I have yet more French bread success! And on Monday night during Dani/ny time, we made smoked salmon ravioli (of assorted shapes and sizes). I'll post pictures of that night up on Facebook in a short bit.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Smell Good

It's almost nine in the morning as I start writing this, I've been up for almost two hours despite having not gone to bed until close to 3am. Despite that, I woke up quite refreshed and will most likely need a nap in the afternoon.

But I feel like lately this blog has gotten a little too personal, a little too me-centric, but first and foremost, Widdershin Writings is about exploration and taking divergent paths. So today's topic? Pheromones, those tricky, hormonal, scent messengers that work within the plant and animal communities to trigger certain actions. They came up in a late night conversation with my friend Alex and have been on my to blog list for a few months now. Also, I got this lovely scent box as a Christmas present from my parents:

Hey, watch the Axe, you might chop off someone's nose with that.

If you do a Google Search of pheromones, after the obligatory wikipedia page, you find a host of pages advertising ways in which pheromones can be used to increase your sexual attraction or boost your power over other people.

Let me distract you with a video of a funny man talking about it for a moment:

A lot of studies have been done regarding the use of pheromones in the animal kingdom. There's a really interesting Radiolab podcast about bugs that talks about the pheromonal trails left by ants leading the nest back to sources of food (which is why they travel in such neat little lines). There are also certain types of hornets and wasps that leave pheromonal alarm triggers when they sting, signalling others of their species to attack, usually to protect the nest. So if you're out in the forest and don't want to attract bees, don't smell like a flower.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening is based off the premise that plants, threatened by the ecological destruction caused by humans, started giving off pheromones that elicited suicidal tendencies.

But my real interest in pheromones naturally comes with their affect on the human drives.

Does anyone else remember this viral video of a commercial for Vulva "the intimate smell of an irresistible woman?" Or how about any of the plethora of Axe deoderstank commercials?

The idea, as Dan Savage so rightly pointed out in the first video above, is that scent is powerful. Humans may have trained ourselves to be ocular/aural creatures, but the olfactory sense is one of our oldest and strongest in its ability to associate with thoughts and feelings. For a lot of us, certain smells are able to trigger certain memories. Lavender always brings me back to summers in Leavenworth. Apparently it's because the olfactory bulb is closely linked to the parts of the nervous system associated with memory. Given this powerful natural connection, the existence of human pheromones doesn't seem that unlikely.

For myself personally, I've been told I smell good on multiple occasions when I've been pretty sure I shouldn't, like after I've been salsa dancing for an hour or two. But so long as I showered earlier in the day and remembered to put on my unscented deoderant, I usually find myself liking how I smell.

Mmm, pheromones...

A 2008 article from the Journal of Neuroscience used MRI (note to all my readers out there, MRI imaging is like saying ATM machine, just fyi) to examine neurological responses to different kinds of human sweat. They roughly found that "sexual sweat" elicited more of a response in certain areas of the hypothalamus associated with olfactory control and sex and reproduction. Still, I take this with a grain of salt, this is only the result of one study with a very small testing pool though and I would like to see more in depth research done

Many of the above mentioned sites selling products with these human pheromones will mention at some point that androstadienone a chemical metabolite of testosterone and common ingredient in many of the pheromones on the market targeted towards men, increases the potential for women (and gay men apparently) to show interest in (i.e. find more attractive) the one wearing the pheromone.

It seems there are a few studies looking into this phenomena, so there at least seems to be some merit to the existence of human pheromone-like substances, but I think if you're that interested in finding someone to go home with at the club, having a drink or two and looking like a fun person to be around is likely to get you farther.

The point I'm trying to bring up here is if you smell good, you smell good. If you don't, take showers just a little more often. but honestly, don't worry about it.

And 27 hours later (give or take a little) we have a blog post.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Working out with Nathan Day 8

The Rec center reopened today so we did a combination of exercises.

I think every time we've been to Wade King together this break, without fail I've managed to run into someone I know. Today it was Quentin.

We started with circuit training, alternating sets of weight machines with running laps around the track. I've always gotten a kind of pleasure out of doing circuit training, sprinting my one lap as fast as possible to keep my heart rate up as I force out a set of ten reps on whatever machine I happen to be using at the moment, my feet flying across the slightly padded, synthetic floor.

Nathan and I made ourselves hurt just a tiny bit, especially after yesterday's body weight resistance, which I know I at least was still a little sore from.

After doing that for the first hour, I started teaching Nathan how to erg. We didn't do very much, only 500 meters or so to give him a feel for the machine. Nathan's rowing form, to be absolutely blunt, was terrible, but with just a little bit of coxing, he picked it up pretty fast. Push with the legs on the drive and fall back to a nice finish with your arms and back. Relax forward into the slide so you're leaning forward before breaking the knees.

I guess I'm entirely too into working out right now because when Nathan asked if we should continue or stretch out so we could go home and EAT, I went with further working out.

Asking the rec center attendant to unlock the door for us, went into one of the rooms upstairs and pulled down the judo club mats into a makeshift wrestling space then proceeded with some light pummeling before teaching me some of the basic forms of some takedowns. I'm getting better at putting the movements together, but according to Nathan, the part that hasn't fully connected in my head is being able to use my partner's body and drop this inhibition against being unbalanced. But I'm working on it and getting better and it's damn fun in the process, even if I end up thrown to the ground multiple times each workout.

This is fun and I can't wait to see what we do tomorrow.

Working out with Nathan Day 7?

I lost track of what workout we're on.

Because the rec center was closed Dec 21-26, we ran the last two days, so I guess that would put us at day 7. It really wasn't anything spectacular unless you count the bag full of books and the sketchy trail in the dark.

I liked today's workout.

With the rec still being closed and it being too bleh (and by bleh I mean raining) to really entice either of us to want to run out on the track as I suggested, we stayed in and did some bodyweight resistance exercises.

I wish someone had been there to take pictures. Imagine for a moment though myself thrown over Nathan's shoulders in a fireman's carry with him doing squats. Now imagine me attempting to do the same thing to him, but struggling because I don't really have the practiced balance to feel completely comfortable. That's the kind of stuff we did.

I especially liked the flies and for lack of a better description, horizontal pull-ups we did. There was constant resistance both down and up and there wasn't really a lot of rest even when one of us wasn't doing it because we had to provide resistance. And on top of the actual muscles we were working with each exercise, we were also building grip strength in the fingers and forearms.

Afterwards we dueled in Halo 3. I'm not sure if I should be excited to be getting better at working the magic box, or scared that I'm getting better at working the magic box. But then Nathan's girlfriend Ashley joined us and after a few more rounds we got tired and played Catchphrase which was quite a bit more enjoyable. Conclusion: the roommate's game console needs better party games and at least one more controller. Any suggestions? Xbox360, PS2 and apparently there's a GameCube arriving from Hawaii when Joe returns from his visitations with the family.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Working out with Nathan Day 4: I forgot to blog about Day 3

I apologize for forgetting to blog about yesterday's experience, the excuse that I'm going to give you is that I didn't go home right after working out, but rather made a quick stop to snag a change of clothes, then was off to puppy-sit for my friend Nate who happens to live in the next apartment complex over from Nathan.

Here's photographic evidence.

Her name is Echo, isn't she so cute?

Today I lead us through a pretty simple, piecemeal yoga routine, prefacing our practice with the disclaimer that I am not a trained yoga instructor but merely a light practitioner. I started with some simple breathing exercises, explaining Ujjayi breathing or victorious breath. We saluted the sun, ironically facing away from the window with a beautiful view of the unexpectedly blue Bellingham sky, then moved into some more targeted positions aimed at our legs and chests.

Relaxed and stretched, we worked on some more wrestling, this time starting lower to the ground. Either I'm starting to get it, or Nathan is getting better at explaining how the process and interaction during wrestling works in a way that I can understand. It's still yet to click in my head, but that's the learning curve, a lot like dancing. As a lead in salsa (and I'm sure this applies to other forms of partnered social dance), you have to feel not only the beat, but also your partner and compensate for their weight/height/skill and for the most part it doesn't quite look or feel completely natural until you can balance those things internally and automatically.

Right about now you might be wondering to yourself, but Danny, why all the stretching and taking it easy? I thought this was a workout. First, stretching and keeping the mind and body centered are part of fitness. Second, we were both sore from Day 3.

So yesterday we did weights, which for me at least was the first time I've touched them since probably about May. We were both amused by the guys in the weight room, the ones who clearly visit there often and are able to lift more than twice their weight. Wrapped in glass windows on almost all sides, and mirrors on most of the walls, the weight room on campus is a case study in gym culture.

After a couple sets of a few different things, we went outside and did duck walks. They're kind of hard to explain if you've never done them, kind of a speed lunge walk if that makes sense.

They're the reason my quads and calves have a date with some arnica massage oil I happen to keep handy.

Hello, beautiful.

I may be "in shape" in that I have good cardiovascular health, but I don't do nearly enough speed and strength training for this not to leave me in mild pain until minimum tomorrow afternoon, when once again Nathan and I will be working out.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Working out with Nathan Day 2: Hiking with Trisia

A picture blog seems like the most appropriate venue for today.

We hiked around the trails near Lake Padden.

The start of the trail.

Look! Trees and shit.

Do an epic pose!

This was marked on the trail-maps as being big fallen trees.

So of course Nathan and I climbed on them.

""It's like some kind of rod of power." "What if it belongs to one of the gnomes?"

Working out with Nathan: Day 1

Yesterday was day one of exercise with Nathan over winter break. I was supposed to meet up with him at noon, but since we never specified where we were meeting, I showed up at the rec center on campus early.

So I ran in my black spandex leggings and sleeveless, white t-shirt with a panther printed around the side, going at a "I-can-run-at-this-pace-forever" jog. Made it at least a mile and a half before he showed up, but I wasn't paying attention to distance so much as I was checking out my reflection in the window to make sure my form was good at one end of the track and then checking out the window on the other end to see if Nathan was there yet.

I'm not sure if I quite understand the dynamics of wrestling yet. Conceptually it makes sense: you grab the other person, don't let them grab you (and if they do, don't let that stop you), keep your balance, look for openings, but as far as getting it, it just hasn't clicked yet. The feeling reminds me of my first few weeks salsa dancing, before my body and mind synced what I could do and what I should do and how to think ahead.

Most of our workout was focused on upper body, though I still ended up down on the mat a few times.

From one time I got pinned, a small spot on my shoulder started turning red from a very mild mat burn. You probably can barely see it in this picture. I'm not going to complain about it because I'm sure there will be plenty more.

All in all it was a fun first day. We went back to Nathan's place afterward and shared a cup of tea, then I was off to hang out with my friend Laura.

I'll post about day two when I get home tonight. We're going hiking with Trisia.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Check-in: Is this blog working?

Widdershin Writings, I wonder what's going on here sometimes, what traffic passes by when I don't have a window viewing this little e-ecosystem called my blog.

I paint a picture in my head of a little room full of trophies and thoughts, a storage space for my past. I look back at old posts and I'm tempted to edit, to revise and change, go antiquing with my words and restore everything, covering it in a layer of glossy paint so you can't tell it's even the same thing.

But that defeats the purpose, revision is erasure. I cannot deny my past and so will instead let myself stand in all my imperfections. This scar comes with a story. This post is a story. I will pull a Walt Whitman and let my multitudes contradict themselves. I don't have to like it, but the only change that makes is that I don't have to remain like that.

I started this blog two years ago. And the posts come in waves, peaking in the March through June period (though I wonder how much of that has been influenced by taking a class with Tony Prichard during these times).

So this is a check-in. An evaluation where we see if this is working or if the experiment called my blogging is a total fail.

But first:

This is one of many songs I received through mix CDs from friends over the past two years. It's by no means my favorite song off this particular mix, but on this blustery, dark, rainy evening in the middle of December with my arm covered in henna, it feels somehow appropriate. It's finals week and by any means I should probably be stressed out, worrying about studying. That's not my style.

Henna smells kind of funny. It's reminiscent of grass to me, only sweeter.

This blog as an ecosystem is adapting to the stimulus in my life. Mainly classes and stress if the content is any judge. But it's tracking my journey, taking snapshots of my life and putting out there for the public to see.

I like this, because it's exactly what Widdershin Writings is about. This blog is not about me. It's about my journey, winding and backwards and off in every direction imaginable. Stay with me for a bit and we'll see where the road takes us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This becamse too long for a comment

So what I see happening here is the artificial creation of alterity. In separating yourself and dividing yourself, you create Others within that you are unable or unwilling to work with(which might explain your paranoid tendencies).

When Jack said, "I posit that we do not exist as the same person through time either. That can be crudely extracted from the ramble I had about it." I wonder if you meant person as synonymous with identity. From where I'm coming from, a "person" has multiple, multiplex identities (they exist across many media in many contexts) over time. These identities change and evolve and how we interact with them changes and evolves but the underlying person (though for clarity's sake I think I would prefer the term "existence") remains constant.

In comparing these existences at various points along a temporal curve, we find that they have differences. If I take the stance that a person is defined by their identities, then they are not the same person, but in that the snapshots I am taking of this existence are removed from the same curve the existence this person comes from is the same.

You create the alterity by removing the common context of the underlying existence.


In writing this I've had to travel to the past.


But I've also had to reach for what some people would call an attempt at the future:


I've also visited other sources:


My culture, or rather this post, is networked.


I have a jogging final to get to, so I'm going to continue this later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Breaking out of my shell

I've decided that for the duration of fall quarter (or what remains of it anyways) and for winter quarter, I am instating campus as a no-headphone-zone for myself. Everywhere from the Fairhaven dorms to Nash-Higginson during class hours is off limits for mp3 listening.

I'll admit that it's nice every once in a while to float through the world, existing in a sound-proofed bubble of untouchability. People see the dangling cords and are hesitant to interrupt. There's a power in your step as you walk to the beat of someone else's drum.

But aren't we supposed to have a song in our own heart, march to the beat of our own drum? Be original and blah blah blah.

So I say this to all you people on the Western Washington University campus, I'm pulling out the earbuds, I'm walking (and because it's me, dancing) to my classes sans-music and I'm going to look you in the eye as I walk past you. I'm going to smile. I'm going to nod. If I know your name I will say it. Hell, I might even stop and chat.

I'm grounding myself in you, offering my presence undistracted by the media mindwipe.

I'm not asking you to do the same.

I'm asking that you look back.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Fourth Wall is Breaking

There's a fetishization of high school happening in pop culture right now. It's called Glee, or rather Glee is the symptom of the larger pop culture movement perpetuating and stereotyping within the masses.

Granted, this obsession with youth and targeting of the teenage demographic has been a staple of visual media for almost as long as television as a medium has existed, but starting around the time of the High School Musical franchise, the global network of marketing genius known as Disney further transformed entertainment into the kind of consumer-based, multi-platform spend-a-thon that has paved the way for Glee.

Glee as a consumer item is no longer a product, but an interactive experience. The show doesn't stop with the rolling of the credits, like a virus, it has infected our day-to-day lives. The music follows us, a zombification of hits long past, chasing us down with the rich baritones and flutish altos of fresh young faces.

The bloated body of the Glee phenomenon reeks with the corpses of stereotypes and television tropes rehashed in every wholesome teen drama from the Brady Bunch to the failed remake of 90210. Every character, if not a stereotype of one kind is a mash-up of several. Every issue they face is taken directly from the files of every afternoon special since the original Degrassi.

But Glee isn't the only mechanism in this globalization of Western society. All of pop culture has followed suit. Music takes its place, shaping and reflecting the civilization that creates it. Lady Gaga?

Where postmodernism confirmed Shakespeare's aphorism that all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players, the current shift in the pop culture clime not only seeks to reaffirm it, but to shape reality after it.

For the past year or two glee clubs have been popping up on school campuses across the country as the infection has spread. Gleeks rise proudly in misfit solidarity, singing their experience acapella and accompanied, performing to rabid audiences. Reality is becoming the fiction. We conform to these stereotypes in efforts to mimic the triumphant underdog status of our media heroes.

Earlier this month, there was a news story about costumed crime-fighters patrolling the streets of Seattle.

I titled this post "the fourth wall is breaking" because we're becoming the characters in our own story. We're reading about ourselves.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Love poem from flame to a log

all I want to do is touch you,
consume you with each caress
lick you, stripping away flesh.
melt for me.
spontaneously combust, and I will grow --
blossom into a thousand tiny flowers
shedding petals to the air with
each passing gust
-- I lay you bare. exposed
for the cold carbon oxygen doesn't want.
ashes to ashes you fall,
swept beneath the rug when I depart
passion undoes us, the
exhibition breaking bonds
of taboo temptations
hold me tight and I promise
I will bring you out into the light

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Walt Whitman, Privilege and my Frustration with my Peers

I'm slightly unnerved in my 18th/19th Century American Literature class. 

The last few days we've been talking about Walt Whitman's Song of Myself.

It's a great poem, kind of long and I'm never sure which edition people have looked at. For my class, we read the 1855 edition: http://www.naturalawareness.net/songofmyself.pdf

Over the course of our class discussion, we talked about how what Whitman seems to be trying to do is to deconstruct hierarchies within society and represent the "I" he refers to in this poem as an operative everyman. "I" am the working class, the lowly, mundane, earthly everything of existence, and "You" are me.

"E pluribus unum" or "Out of many, one." We are all equal. We are all beautiful in all our dirty little lives. 

"I do not press my finger across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing hearing and feeling are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from;
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer,
This head is more than churches or bibles or creeds."

But I think what Whitman fails to recognize in this inclusive, generalized optimism, is that he is speaking from a place of privilege. Whitman is an educated, white male of the upper-middle class. He can afford to deconstruct and challenge these societal norms. Where someone like Phyllis Wheately whom we read earlier in the quarter had to heavily veil her messages within her poetry and exclusively use a Christian discourse in order to even be considered the legitimate writer of her work.

As I understand it, the American Trancendentalist movement of the mid-19th Century as a reaction to the intellectual Empirical style of thought of the late 18th Century, transitioning away from Romanticism and creating a more "American" style of writing was still confined to the intelligentsia. Much as Whitman would like to pretend he's the ants and dirt and grass and his appeals are meant to represent one in the many, I can't accept it.

I realize I'm coming from a distinctly modern perspective, but to say "Look at yourself and look at me, we are equal" delegitimizes the differences of identity inherent between them and what's more, as a person with privilege, Whitman, in saying this,  reasserts his privileged position. Thus, his entire discourse is a fallacy that contributes nothing towards the working, poor, socially stigmatized people he seeks to celebrate. He glorifies them without doing anything to change their position.

I will accept that for his time, Whitman was pretty radical in embracing and creating a wholly American style. And this was needed to pave the path for future discourses, but how is he so different from the 18th century abolitionists parading around freed slaves like Frederick Douglass?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chains of love got a hold on me

I reposted this video on Facebook the other day:

It's a message, a message of love, and more a call to action. Love is a verb. I will love you with all the strength of my being, love you enough to change the world.

This summer I did an independent study project about messages, messengers and the self. While I am by no means anywhere near finished with it, I remember mentioning the classic children's party game, telephone. And in reposting this video, I started a round:

I reposted from Khari. Stephany reposted from me. Rebekka reposted from Stephany. Sam reposted from Rebekka. And finally Bob reposted from Sam. And I'm sure there are branches, tangents from other people borrowing the link along the way that I'm not enabled to see. This isn't the first time I've seen these kinds of threads, a link travelling between common friends, some of these same people even for that matter.

This particular link caught me because of the nature and subject of the video. Love.

It's a simple concept with complex connotations, love. 

There are days when I think of love and I feel like it's a chain. Not so much a shackle attached to my wrists or ankles, but we are links. In a great chain of being we are the products and progenitors of love tangled together like a litany of spiderwebs rolled together, the connections so fine you cannot tell where one ends and another begins.

This chain of embedded video links is just the start of our connections.

To paraphrase what another friend who I have often found in chains much like this one once said: "And Allah said to the whole of creation, are we not lovers? And we replied, Aye, we are love."

We are love courageous. Love fierce and proud and strong and soft and tender. We are love and love will change us and change for us and change with us. Because through love, we know. We know we do not stand alone.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hide yo kids, hide you shame

C'mon Bellingham, I expect better of you.

The number of "hide yo kids, hide yo wife" references I'm seeing on Facebook and other social media after this afternoon's attempted armed robbery is disgusting.

The references are tacky and socially inept. Funny (and catchy) as it is, the original "Bed Intruder Song" video was objectifying and appropriative of a culture and place most of us can never even dream of seeing in person. We're in Bellingham, people, which by virtue of being a college town directly translates to "privilege central" at least in the areas in question. The scenarios between this situation where a young man was assaulted in broad daylight and those presented courtesy of Autotune the News video aren't analogous at all.

As a fairly progressive area, I thought we could be a little more socially conscious. kthnxbai

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grocery Aisles

dance with me down the grocery aisles
make the produce jealous with our tartan tangos
at the cue of the frozen entrĂ©e orchestras, we can
salsa sashay with hips so generous that
no lie would be big enough
and it will be ballerina twirls past boxes of cereal
canned veggies can do the tootsie roll
following at our feet in a two-step touch
the wheels may be stuck,
leaning leftward with the momentum of a grocery list long since forgotten
but it doesn't concern us
the grocery cart menagerie is the only audience that matters
if you dance with me down the grocery aisles

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On National Coming Out Day

For my Facebook status, I copied and pasted the following as part of showing my support for National Coming Out Day (October 11):

"I'm queer. And National Coming Out Day is tomorrow. I'm coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality because it's 2010 and almost 90% of LGBT youth experience harassment in school, and too many lives have been lost. Donate your status and join me."

Though really, what is out? Do I need to say I'm gay to prove that I'm out?

Really, haven't I been so for years? Perhaps then it is better to live a queer life, unapologetically and prove to these youth that being queer and being strong is possible. Prove to them that it's something you can celebrate and live with joy.

Being queer isn't always torture because you grow with it, grow into it. In accepting yourself and forgetting what anyone else could say, what they do say (and they will say many things), you become something else, something stronger. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? So don't let it kill you. You have to make it your resolve to be better for it.

But at the same time, I have to recognize that I'm speaking about this from a place of privilege. Despite identifying as a queer person of color (color being loosely defined by an unknown mix of genetics to give me that off-white olive tone when I get enough sun), I can pass as a straight, white male.

I've never tried to pass, and so my identity has never been called into question. I'm queer. Period. Out of time, save your questions for another day. So in a sense I've never come out. What does it mean that we live in an age where there are people who can live vicarious, actively gay lives and never come out and actually say they're gay?

I'm lucky. I was never bullied, never harassed. Which is why it's all the more important for me to take part in these kinds of queer movements, to show that it is possible and make it more possible for others to have the kind of experience I did where being queer wasn't a struggle, where it was a personal norm (even if still not a societal one).

There's this mythology that coming out has to be a drama, a tragedy. And yes, it will always be a struggle to find yourself and figure out who you are and what you want and love that for all that it is, but I think that happens whether you're queer or not. It's my mission to help make a world that breaks this myth, turns it on its head and questions proudly, "What do you mean by out?"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Socially Aware

‎"I saw a photo of a member of Maria in the Shower performing in Black face and feel hurt and dismayed by this image. I want to know why it is OK in 2010 for people to perpetuate stereotypes of blackness. It is hard for me to believe that this was done with the intention to harm, but it is a reflection of white privilege and the ability to not have to think about how we might be affecting our brothers and sisters." Khari

Photo credit to the Maria in the Shower facebook page

Privilege is it's own kind of oppression whether it be based in race, gender, sexuality or any of the other potentially minoritized aspects of a person's identity. One of my intentions after a Power of Hope camp earlier this year was to become more aware (and actively do something about) the privilege in my life.

A few of my friends and I joke about our 18th/19th Century American Lit class, calling it post-Revolutionary White Guilt because, well, it is. But I think there's a larger significance here. In class, we talk a lot about race and politics and how it's so horrible the way things were back in the Enlightenment era. It's progressive and forward thinking (though perhaps it's backward thinking since hindsight is 20-20), but I think it's missing that one step further, the critical level that looks not only at what we're reading, but our own reactions to it and why we react to it the way we do.

As a class of predominantly white, relatively well off (we are in college after all), educated college students, we know better than our predecessors, in fact most of us - and here I'm assuming rather a lot - were raised in what I imagine were pretty liberal environments and so at least have the rudimentary understanding of what it means to defy social norms or at the barest minimum be socially aware.

How then does it seem like we are ignorant of the very society we are creating in critiquing the discourse of a past age?

It would and should not be socially acceptable to use another group or culture's identity in jest, at the same time I would argue that it is equally wrong to put them on a pedestal as an ideal or a model. To critique a period is to risk creating a false sense of superiority that blinds us to our own created faults. This is the privilege of being able to see our own privilege, to see the oppression around us and choose to do something or to do nothing.

Being socially aware is not just about knowing, as is the case with all kinds of awareness, but using that knowledge. This is me using that knowledge to further educate others, to say that I don't think this is okay and change needs to happen.

I'm working on it, are you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

On recent gay teen suicides

I've been relatively disconnected from a lot of the queer community the last few weeks, my information systems are down since I'm so busy working on other relevant causes in my area.

Partly motivated by the prospect of Mallard's ice cream, partly by the fact that everyone in the QPOC (Queer People of Color) meeting I'd just attended were going and partly by a desire to be more social in the WWU queer community, I went to the LGBTA Ice Cream Social on campus Thursday.

I saw people I knew, people I didn't know. I ended up volunteering myself to run the button making table because I know how to work the button machines. So I failed miserably at the social part, but I've just accepted that as the way my life works. You go places and you become a part of whatever you go to, the sociality is the action of being involved. My roommate will tell you it's me being a yes man, but I disagree. What authority do I submit to by stepping up?

In the wake of 6 suicides nationally by gay teens, happening just on the periphery of what I know is going on in the world, I find it especially heartening that Western has such a vibrant, diverse and open presence for the LGBTQ community. TRANSport, QAAFA (Queers and Allies for Activism), QPOC to name but a few closer to campus. I can take off the rose tinted glasses long enough to recognize that there are problems, it isn't perfect, Western and Bellingham have work to do to take meaningful steps towards true queer inclusiveness, but compared to a lot of places, we have resources.

So even though I have plenty of other things on my plate, I've decided to apply for an internship in the LGBTA offices. I don't know if I'll get the position, and I'm sure even if I don't I'll be involved in some way, but this is a step for me, taking ownership of part of this identity I create and showing exactly how much of an impact I can have by being the queer I am.

I'll edit and post my own video when I get around to making one. But it gets better.

I'm not going to list them here, because I believe that if you're reading this, you probably already care enough to have already looked up resources online. And there are resources out there.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

On Walking By

I am the infection,
the contamination,
the word that plants the seed of an idea.
And, like a weed,
I flourish in the spaces in-between.
If kiss is kill,
then kiss me deep,
but don't you dare kill me.
The inflection, Pontypool,
screams at me to tell you to shut up.
I'm in the thick and in the thin,
waiting inside the outside.
My roots are strong.
They are tendrils and strings that,
cross the divide.
This fabric a blanket forms,
and I wrap you in my love.
Hypothermia seeps into your bones,
Under heat disease
Take the pressure off and go to sleep

If any of you have read this blog in the last few months, you know how much I go on about silence. It's the ninja aesthetic that draws me there. Move in silence, strike with deadly precision. I'm no ninja, but I like the imagery.

I'm drawn to silence I think because I live a noisy life. I'm always busy running around, involved in something. I'm always thinking about something I care about. Silence is a retreat for me, it's where I want to come from.

I don't think silence is as bad a thing as we credit it in society. To be by yourself, to be present does not require speaking or noise or sound. I view silence the same way I view the concept of nothingness. It is a container and an inverse that we cannot exist without.

But at times it feels like a fool's errand because to seek silence is to make noise. It's like Enlightenment, to truly be enlightened, one must not strive for Enlightenment, right? So I'm at a loss because I'm not sure what to do with all this sound.

Perhaps I should make a:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Fairy Tale Sermons: This too will pass

"This, too, will pass."

Popular accounts give the origins of this aphorism with Sufi writers, a variation of which I've provided with below.

A Story from Attar:

A powerful king, ruler of many domains, was in a position of such magnificence that wise men were his mere employees. And yet one day he felt himself confused and called the sages to him.

He said: 'I do not know the cause, but something impels me to seek a certain ring, one that will enable me to stabilize my state.

'I must have such a ring. And this ring must be one which, when I am unhappy, will make me joyful. At the same time, if I am happy and look upon it, I must be made sad.'

The wise men consulted one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally they came to a decision as to the character of this ring which would suit their king.

The ring which they devised was one upon which was inscribed the legend:


This is more a fable than a fairy tale and it very clearly serves as a reminder of the impermanence of all conditions, so I wanted to take a moment and relate this to my personal experience.

The other day I was asked what I was afraid of. I couldn't really give an answer, which isn't to say I’m not afraid of things or that I don't experience fear, but I try very hard not to let one bad experience prevent me from attempting the same action again. You learn from your mistakes and your victories, but I do not believe learning should ever stop you.

Learning is adjustment to the actions, it is changing your perceptions and your approach, which does not necessarily change the goals. A bee stings you once or a spider bites you, so you learn to treat these creatures with respect, but fear, or at least rational fear, is temporary. It is grounded in the immediate world that faces us, a situational comedy of uptight clowns if you will.

Temporary shares the same root origins as tempo. We keep time to this pulsing beat, the up and down wave-forms of life. This is why nothing captures my attention; it is the perfect combination of the is and the is not.

Nothing, as an idea, carries its own weight because it is constantly negating and creating simultaneously. It may be a simple matter of wordplay and inflections, but nothing could be simpler. Nothing but nothing captures the immediacy of the temporary and translates it into a broader state of being.

The vacuum, the emptiness that nothing embodies is temporary. It gets filled, but ultimately what fills it is nothing, or at least inconsequential things. I'm not afraid of the temporary because I know this, too, will pass. They come, they go and everything returns somewhere else. You can rely on this, it is the nature of change.

There's a word for this in the body: homeostasis. Even if we disrupt the system, if we cause the heartbeat to palpitate, it finds a new equilibrium. The norms adjust. Societally, perhaps this is scary.

God is supposed to have a plan for us, right? That's part of the basis of so many faiths, trusting in the divine plan and it's hard to maintain that kind of faith sometimes when you can't see the big picture. I don't see the big picture, but I trust that it's there and that as a total it makes sense in the grand equation. All these cardiogram blips are insignificant compared to the line we begin with and the line we end with.

Life. This, too, will pass. Enjoy it while it's here for both its good and its bad.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Unfinished empathy

You make me fall in love with your stories and your cares and your worries and your stares. It's not you, it's me. It's not me, it's you. All these insecurities touch me, grab me, pull me in. I feel your love and it becomes mine. I love on your behalf where you can and where you can't.

You make me fall in love every time you fall in love with someone else. It's painful. It's terrifying. All these strangers piercing my heart though we've never met, I see them in a new light. It's blinding bright: hurting, heart-shaped holes the only shadows unrequited.

I want you to stop. Stop loving. Stop caring. Stop telling me about it. But no, that's not the way this works. I'm a conduit. I'm translating this experience, making it accessible , but I wonder for whom?

Catalysts, we are agents of change. Networked and hardwired to receive and act. I take this in, redirect it, funnel it down a different path of this spider's web woven. Self-identified as a hub, I stand tall in a center with no boundaries. Forever.

Left-side. Left-side receives and listens. Carries across, translates into form. Words? Images. Picture me this, standing, leaning in the doorway, waiting for you to realize you can come in. The door is open. This is home. Home because you have carried it here on your back.

Let it sit. Let it stand. Freedom songs of the snails and turtles belong here. Radiate outward. Breath in with my hands. Breath out with my hands. Feel  them beat and break the knots that tie you down. Gulliver broke free from the grasp of such small worries.

When we care, it's a trade. Energy exchange in unequal expressions of entropic excess. I see red and blue at odds, polar offspring of the warm and cool emotional spectrum. I am blue: grounded, present and calm contrast to the lost red, the anger and fear that takes control . I take it and tame it, balance but I am no savior.

Reception is all about giving. Provide, provide, take you inside. A letter separated from the ultimate booby-trap. Sometimes we call it bait. Wait.


Positive spin. Clockwise or widdershins? The machine, perpetual motion, turns itself.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Are Not a Number

Spring of my eighth grade year, I remember during ASB elections one girl used the tagline "You are not a number" as a main tenet of her campaign. She was rallying against the administration, a straight-A star, the kind of girl constantly winning awards and recognition for her outstanding work talking to the C-average laymen, her peers if you loosely define the term.

You are not a number. You are not a test score or a nameless ID on a form to be scanned and filed with countless thousands of others until you move on and it gets passed to the next office. You are not what the WASL tells you to be. You are not your grades -- a lesson I've found many an over-achieving student needs to learn sooner rather than later.

No. You are a person. You are an individual with unique perspectives and views. You are an artist and an athlete and a student.

I voted for her, but despite her perfect message, she did not win the election. At the time, she came across as too perfect. Perfect grades, perfect image, pretty and most of all, nice so that even if you wanted to hate her for her perfection, you couldn't without feeling bad for hating her.

I was reminded of this the other day when not hours after moving into my new apartment, my roommate mentioned some app he had on his iPhone. It was some rpg-style calculator that takes different actions and converts them into points that can be added to different areas of self-improvement like strength or intellect or spirituality. Get enough points and you move up to the next level.

My initial reaction to this was a mild interest because it's kind of a foreign concept to me, but the longer I sit with this, the more I get this gut reaction of distaste and I want to reject it and push it farther and farther away from me. This is wrong to me, you can't measure a life. To chart progress is to lose sight of the point of progressing in the first place.

And I get it, I'm not a gamer, who am I to judge, blah-de-fucking-blah. I don't care, I refuse this philosophy. It's a symptom of postmodern Western culture that it's okay to think like this. In Buddhist traditions, even in the search for Enlightenment, it cannot be achieved without first giving up the desire to reach Enlightenment.

There's part of me that wants to mock him. Danny learned a new recipe! *cue horn doo-do-do-dooo* Danny moved up to level 6 in cooking! But what's the point? I'm not going to change his mind by doing that.

This whole level thing is just another form of labeling. It's not rating, like a caste system or a hierarchy, but it's a box to put ourselves and each other in. To level up is to move out into a bigger box, a different label and name. But you are not a number.

It's confining because it's never escaping the cycle. It's ungrounded and leaves you seeking, seeking the next step, seeking the next level. There's no time to accept the present because it's too goal oriented. Where mediocrity and stagnation lie in too much stillness and not enough growth, this takes on the opposite extreme. Happiness only exists in movement and because of this you can never be satisfied unless you keep climbing the spiritual ladder.

I've asked it before and I'll ask it again (and again and again), but why does silence make us so uncomfortable? Stop thinking, stop doing and simply be. Receive. Listen. Feel.

I'm not unnerved by this philosophy because of JoeJack, but because of the culture that allows it to begin with. We're immature in that we as a society never reach beyond this and attempt to see the bigger picture. By trapping ourselves in levels, we put a cap on how far we can go.

The frustrations expressed in this post are symptomatic of a deeper dissatisfaction with the noise around me. I'm being pushed and I'm being pulled, lifted and weighed down by the love I surround myself with. I keep telling myself I'm grounded, but I'm not so sure anymore.

I love. I care. I want. I need.

The past few weeks disconnected from the world, surrounded by love so strong the world will move out of its way, I felt present. And it was a conscious intention of mine to remain present for myself, for those around me, to enjoy the experience. But now, back in the "real" world, I find myself at times overwhelmed. Is it possible to remain present from a distance?

I volunteered at a second Power of Hope camp in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. Nothing I can write would ever really do the experience justice. There's something about spending a week making yourself vulnerable and open within a community of beautiful, artistic people that makes you fall in love with everyone despite gender, race, sexuality, age, class, ideology, etc. Eight days that go from 7:30am (if you're so lucky to be able to sleep in past the sun) until 10:30pm or later, full of non-stop activity are guaranteed to leave anyone emotionally and physically exhausted.

I spent a lot of that week trying to figure out how I can bring this experience out into my everyday life. I took notes on all the name games and opening activities. But when it comes down to it, I think the biggest way I can continue to carry Power of Hope with me is to internalize that message. Change starts with a decision, with a conscious effort to make a difference. In a society that believes that if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem, there's no room for any waffling in-between.

I've seen many different kinds of community over the last week and a half. As an organization, Power of Hope has created its own kind of community of individuals dedicated towards making that positive change in their lives. On the micro-level, there's also the community of our homes, the families who all to often are strangers to us. I've seen the beauty of a small-town community supporting and loving one of their fellows as a room of 40+ individuals sat together for an hour and a half and listened to him speak about the global community of which we all are a part.

I want this. I want this for myself and for everyone around me. And that's scary because it's one tall order. I don't know if I can deliver, but I'll be damned if I don't try. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heart Doodle

I keep returning to this little heart doodle. I scribbled it on myself with henna several weeks ago and now I'm finding I can't let it go, or perhaps it won't let me go. 

While writing a letter to my friend Andy, I really looked at it and considered all the elements of this seemingly random doodle.

The inner part is clearly infinity. Only it's not ∞ infinity, it's broken. It's infinity opened. The "ends" are snapped and curled into spirals. And It's not opened just anywhere, it's opened within a heart.

The heart is clearly representative of the spirit heart. And what do we have coming from this opened heart? We have squiggly lines and dots radiating outward. They're like real veins and arteries from a heart, but they're also like light. The squiggly lines like waves and the dots like particles. Who says I never learned anything from physics.

So this heart that has been opened by the divine (for what else can count or change the infinite?) radiates light. But not just any old way, the overall structure is that of a cross or of a crossroads, the lines radiate at four distinct points, which is pretty standard symbolism for opportunities and change.

I wonder if perhaps this heart is supposed to represent me, but my first instinct is to reject that kind of egotistical thinking. But if it is me, can I live up to that? I suppose I want to, I want the light in my heart to create change. I want to act as a medium for something greater. I guess we'll see, and maybe, maybe this will serve as my reminder of what to strive for.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Fairy Tale Sermons: Monkey King and the Five Pillars

From Lucifer Issue 75

The Monkey King is your classic trickster god-fool, resident of China. As a hero, he entertained the masses, but to the gods, and especially the Jade Emperor, ruler of heaven, he was nothing but trouble.

Perhaps the best known telling of his adventures comes from Wu Cheng'en's 16th century epic, Journey to the West.

As the story goes, the Jade Emperor with all his armies and powerful generals was not able to placate the passionate and ambitions Monkey and so, reaching higher even than powers of the kingdom of heaven, sought the help of the Enlightened.

Buddha met with Monkey at the gates to the heavenly palace, where he waited admittance to the halls of the gods as an equal. Catching the interloper in his hand, he issued a challenge. If you can jump out of my hand, you can claim right to the throne of the Jade Emperor.

Unable to resist the temptation of such an offer, Monkey leaped and twirled through the air, flying on a cloud as he'd learned from a Taoist monk, flying far, flying wide, flying to the ends of the very Universe. He flew until he came upon five great pillars that held up the sky itself.

Proud Monkey thought to himself, aha, I have surely won this bet, but to be sure, I shall leave my mark upon these pillars. So we find the mythological Chinese equivalent of "Monkey was here" graffiti tagged on the middle pillar. And to further prove his point, Monkey pissed at the base of the first pillar.

Then he returned to Buddha, boasting of his great achievement, of how far he'd gone, but Buddha informed him he had never left the Buddha's hand. Shocked and angry, Monkey King could only look on as Buddha raised his hand and there, inscribed on his middle finger was Monkey's handwriting and the faint but clear smell of urine from the base of his smallest finger.

Now, of course Monkey protested. He screamed and raged and was just about to jump and flee when Buddha pushed him out of the Gate of Heaven and he fell all the way down to earth. Buddha then changed his fingers into the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. These became a five-peaked mountain that trapped Monkey, holding all but his upper half with its weight.  Struggle as he may, Monkey King was not able to move.

Returning to the heavenly palace, Buddha told the Jade Emperor that Monkey King was well and truly taken care of and that he would remain trapped beneath the mountain for some hundreds of years until he had truly learned humility, whereby a travelling monk would come and unleash him.

Hubris, ladies and gentlemen, was a common theme amongst all the pantheons. Some upstart immortal (or mortal) would challenge the god/s with per feats of creativity or strength that were so beyond any other mortal man and boast of their achievements until it was heard all the way up in heaven. And inevitably they rain down with their subtle tricks or angry fire and they punish you.

In many ways, it's a commentary on social mobility. You do not rise above your station. A shepherd does not become a king. A spider does not become the creator. Dwarves do not stand with giants. Not unless it has been ordained by the gods, not unless you have truly earned it.

But what is it to be humble? What is modesty? Both of these prerequisite a conscious acknowledgement of one's own shortcomings, an acceptance of faults and station. Where humble denotes the absence of pride, modesty is the absence of pretension and boastfulness.

But like Desire's fickle relationship to Enlightenment, these are not things to strive for because in a way, to strive for them, to seek to be more humble and modest for humility and modesty's sake defeats the purpose. So then, what is one to do?

To seek modesty and humility is to self-deprecate almost to the point of losing self-respect. It is the inverse of pride and boastfulness to a fault. Rather than seeing how great you are, you project how horrible you are, how low you are. It's groveling at the feet of nobody.

While Monkey represents one extreme, the base, earthly desire, and Buddha clearly the opposite, the most divine, we as people stand somewhere in-between. Freud recognized some good tropes floating around when he talked about the id, ego and superego.

But as any good literary critic could tell you, even with the superseding ego to balance the two polar extremes, this still  reinforces the binary system. If you have two things that are opposite, adding a third between them does not remove them, it does not displace them. It provides a fulcrum from which to balance them, a match point where they can coexist, but they are still separate.

It seems, always, that to unite two opposites will result in annihilation. What I see in this is the existence of not two, but one. Opposites are the same thing in that they require the other to define themselves. It is this modality that makes them so hard to see. Take for instance that memorable scene from Alan Moore's Swamp Thing where the universal force of darkness faces the universal force of light and rather than an explosion that destroys the universe, they instead shake hands and seem to come to an agreement.

Yin and Yang, the opposing intertwined. This is why Buddha doesn't kill Monkey King. Monkey King cannot be killed because his function as opposite of heaven is vital, but also because there is possibility for change. One can be more humble, more modest, but it isn't a matter of seeking to be so as much as it is a matter of simply being so.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pied Piper

If you look closely, there's a Racheloons
lurking in the background.
Oh Hamelin town, suffering of a folly of your own creation. You have to pay the piper, for he is a vengeful traveler. Broken hospitality to the wayward wanderer bodes ill for your already feeble reputation. He will take your children, but who is really playing the pipe? Take that and smoke it.

Who betrances us so unwilling that we would walk and wander a-way without cause or care?

This way, that way, here-a-ways and there-a-ways; it does not matter. Like the checked cloth we call the pied, they are all the same. Nothing is new but that in the now because there will always be a future that looks at this past.

Echoes of his melody ripple like Eros' missed targets on the Naiads' pool. He has the Sirens' song captured.

Moths to the flame we pound our heads on the wall in time to his 6/8 beat.

Even you, village elders, swoon to his haunting, tempted and taunted.

I'm not going to be enchanting anyone with my pipe playing, not by a long shot, but earlier this summer I made an intention to learn an instrument. I am determined to hold myself to that intention.

The next obvious question was what kind of instrument should I try to learn? I'm poor and essentially alone for most of this summer, I needed something simple and cheap that I could teach myself. Autodidactism FTW!

Then, in the same conversation with my friend Jonathan where he offered to teach me guitar should I acquire one, I realized exactly what I should learn to play: the pipe, tin whistle, penny whistle. I've always had a fascination with the story of Hamelin, and the song by Seattle band, the Senate, hasn't helped with that either.

So I dug up the little, bamboo pipe my aunt bought me in Thailand (Vietnam?), found some fingering charts and melodies online, and proceeded to start playing. I'm a little squeaky and I have trouble with the higher notes, but I'm determined.

Gratuitious butt shot!
It's helpful that I don’t drive and chose an instrument that's easily portable.

While I'm walking, I find myself playing simple scales, trying to play, from memory, whatever tunes I can remember. Hot cross buns and the intro lines to Disney's Part of Your World.

I'm not going to be performing with this. It's not about that. Learning an instrument is an exercise in self-improvement and self-discipline. How long can I keep this up? Can I really devote myself to becoming good at this? I want to. And even if I don't, I'm not proving myself to anyone else. This is all about me.

It's funny, too that I find myself gesturing and gesticulating wildly with pipe in hand. It becomes an extension of my hand, almost like a magic wand. I laugh at myself, but secretly pretend it is a magic wand disguised as a musical instrument.

I can have fun with this.