(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.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

White men being violent assholes

or why I'll always pick a shitty, campy queer film over a critically-acclaimed American television drama

Look, I'm not going to hold it against you for liking things like Breaking Bad or True Detective or what have you crime drama on FX or HBO. There are lots of them and many of them are amazingly done with great storylines, beautiful cinematography, superb acting, and probably unnecessary amounts of misogyny (implicit or otherwise).

But most of them can be boiled down to one simple, five-word description: white men being violent assholes.

And I have absolutely no interest in that. It's partly the whole realistic crime drama thing, I don't care to indulge in the Great American Pastime of glorified Cops and Robbers (now in HD). But it's also definitely the violent white assholes. If you put it on for me, I'll get on my computer and pay little enough attention that I couldn't tell you more than what happened a minute ago.

It's a violent kind of apathy,  the kind where I'm sure if you had a camera pointed at me you could watch my eyes glaze over into a blank haze of disinterest. Even talking about it now, I'm struggling to express exactly how much I don't care because that means I have to fake caring enough to express it, but for you, I'll power through.

It's not just the violence, I've watched films like Lars von Trier's Antichrist and found the gritty, gore perfectly acceptable. The film wouldn't have worked without it. I was a fan of MTV's Teen Wolf until the writer's decided to kill of Allison's character when the actress decided she didn't want to continue working on a show that wasn't fully utilizing her talents (at least that's how I understand it).

It's not the white men or them being assholes, the majority of our media is saturated with that (because we Americans are kind of assholes, just look at our news). I love Australian Josh Thomas's brainchild Please Like Me which is mostly about white men being assholes (but in a funny Australian way as they try to figure themselves out) with the occasional racist characterization of one of the characters.  I've laughed at almost two seasons worth of The League, which is a comedy about "friends" in a fantasy football league together rife with sexist, racist, homophobic, etc language being horrible to each other in the name of competition.

Perhaps what I don't like is the way these violent white assholes are glorified. They're the protagonists and while by no means is it ever implied that we're supposed to emulate them (infiltrate underground crime rings or start meth labs, etc), they often end up living very sad, broken lives, but in allowing ourselves to be caught up in the viewing we identify with them. We are caught in the whirlpooling spiral that is their tragedy; it's not glorification in the sense that there is glory, but an elevation of focus.

I'm not about that.

So why shitty, campy queer films? There's very little (if any) cinematic merit to most of them and the acting is horrible at best, but my Netflix history is littered with them (usually marked with one or two stars), and to be honest, I don't really watch them either, it's more that choose to put them on in the background while I do other things.

You could make the argument that I myself am a shitty, campy queer, which wouldn't be too far off the mark. We so often like to allow ourselves to play into that narcissistic tendency of staring at ourselves after all. But I'm not a fantasy footballer (I've lived near Seattle all my life and still couldn't pick Russell Wilson out of a lineup) or Australian or a werewolf. I don't tune out when my roommate puts on Fringe or when my boyfriend puts on sports anime.

So if it's not the violence or the whiteness or men or the assholes, then my only conclusion is that it's something about the combination of all of these in the context of an American drama that bores me. That no matter how "good" it is, you'll never get me to watch it.

And I guess all I have to say to that is feel free to invite me to your next tv marathon, but don't be surprised if I wander off to the kitchen to make snacks.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall Update

It's been a while since I've updated this blog. My shorter-term attentions have turned elsewhere and I seem to have accumulated projects.

Still, I can't quite bring myself to drop this blog. There's quite the archive of my thought explorations and identity formation (even a handy explanation of acelessthan3 if people need the refresher). I walk a widdershins path. It's part of being queer, so there will always be a space for more widdershin writings.

That was corny, but no apologies and no regrets.

So here's what I've been doing while I've been mostly ignoring this blog:

I've been getting involved with the local poetry scene. I go to the weekly meetings of Bellingham poetrynight. I'm in process of self-publishing a small booklet of poetry. I'm investing more time in reading and writing poetry than I am the kind of theory that has frequently made appearances on this blog.

I've actually started work on volume two of the Prostate Poems, as well as a second book(let) I'm going to call "Terra-ble: The Organic Grocer Haiku and other poems" which will (surprise) prominently feature the Organic Grocer Haiku, which are about what they sound like: haiku written for and inspired by my work at an organic and natural foods store.

I'm growing my hair out for Sakura-Con 2015. I have never taken so many pills daily in my life. It makes for expensive piss, but I can tell already my hair is growing faster than normal. Though that may also be related to working at an organic grocery store and eating better, but this is not the place to examine that particular cause and effect.

I want to write more letters. I've always been fond of the idea of having pen pals and have had many over the years (perhaps I should restart the Postcard Poems as another project. And just what is it with me and P-alliterative projects?). I'm told I write like a british novel character but use trite and accurate phrases like "fuck off to the east coast" which I'm still not entirely sure what that means, but I'll take it. Cursive cursive cursive. It takes a few stamps to get a few envelopes, though, so perhaps I'll just start writing and see what responses come my way.

As we enter fall, I find myself faced with the idea of applying to grad school. On the one hand, if I want to do anything relating to physical therapy, it's required. But on the other, that's several thousand more dollars of potential debt and at least two more years of school when I just finished my undergrad. There's many things I'm willing to commit to, but at this point in my life I'm not sure if that is one of them.

So I'm creating. I'm still growing and learning and if people have suggestions of things I should look into, please, throw them my way. Or gently toss them. Or send me a polite rude message.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Naked Truth: Continuing a Discussion on Anger

[Trigger warning for racial microaggressions]

So I went to this event at my alma mater this past weekend called the Naked Truth on Stereotypes. I had a lot of thoughts about the event and the presentation, but I'll save that for another time and just say congrats to the cast for doing a good job.

I did want to discuss something that happened during/after the event however. During the discussion portion at the end of the event, a person asked why everyone was so angry and why so many of the stories up on stage featured anger as strongly as they did. 

The cast and folks with Social HeArtistry did a wonderful job answering the question and redirecting, but after the show this person was having a conversation with my friend and seemed pretty upset at the idea of anger and how showcasing frustration at stereotypes can reinforce those stereotypes of being an angry person of color and even went so far as to ask how in its net cultural impact this anger was any different than the angry preachers spewing hate in the public square every spring. 

This of course was a huge red flag for me, and I understand the nuance that anger by itself is unproductive and you can't just get angry and yell, but that's in itself an unfair comparison. bell hooks talks about how anger is often a necessary tool toward creating change and how accusations of anger are often a tool to silence people. Denial of anger is often a tool to pacify and appease the ruling classes into accepting the marginalized (see specifically, black voices), but doing so at the expense of those further in the margins and the reality of the inequalities that exist to keep them marginalized (and justifiably angry).

I don't believe that's exactly the case here, but it is relevant to the larger discussion. Anger is a necessary starting point. But you have to do something with that anger that if you want to see change. 

That's why TNTS had a discussion at the end of the event, to unpack the anger on stage and talk about next steps in creating and sustaining a community that won't allow these racialized aggressions to be normalized. That's part of what my opening quote is missing: you can be angry out of love (be it love for yourself or your community) and through those two feelings demand that oppression stop. But the anger and hate of racist and homophobic preachers is not the same as the anger of oppressed people. One is backed up by a fucked up society that has a longstanding history of voicing those same hatreds. The other is frustration with the effects those hatreds have on people's everyday lives.

TNTS is an exaggeration. It presents the stereotypes faced by marginalized groups in a stark, not every stereotype that each performer talked about was a direct quote of some fucked up thing said to them every day. They don't need to be, because even being faced with those kind of intrusive, ignorant questions once is more than enough to be angry. They don't even have to be directed at you so much as merely at someone like you for them to hold true as symptoms of the toxic and ignorant environment most of our society is for people of color.That's what frustrated me, it doesn't matter if the stories up on stage were everyday lived experiences, not when the media and our classes and casual "innocent" comments perpetuate the same thing with impunity. 

Yes, people start from a place of ignorance, and many microaggressions come from a well-meaning place, but we cannot equate ignorance to innocence when toxic messages limit people's ability to grow and change. There's a phrase that's been going around a lot, that "intent means nothing in the face of impact" and this especially holds true when the impact creates a harmful environment. 

This situation is one where the intent of venting long-held frustrations is being outright ignored in favor of the impact that some people (meaning those with privilege, be it racial, class or otherwise) might be turned off by the anger they've been sheltered from. But if the intent of a privileged person entering a space like TNTS is to learn, why are they not learning? Why are they not listening to the message behind the anger? I often hear the idea that education is a two-way street and the voices of the oppressed need to meet the ignorant where they're at. While this is valid, a two-way street does not mean equal when one side as a collective often walks the other direction when you approach them. 

That's one of the distinctions that makes discussions around power and privilege difficult, that makes this post difficult for me to write: often there's a disconnect between privileged folk and marginalized folk where the responsibility of learning is so disconnected from the content of the discussion that you could almost say there are two overlapping conversations happening at the same time. One being a dialogue within the strictures of the dominant social narrative and the other more a monologue resisting and criticizing the dominant narrative that's attempting to reframe the discussion and asking that you not respond, in privilege our voices don't matter.

On an academic, ideological level, I understand the resistance to this reframing. It's threatening and it closes off discussion in the traditional sense. Discussions not based in the rhetoric of logic and rational thought (i.e. those of the kind of passion/anger I talk about above) are often criticized for seeking to be above criticism because they refuse the voice of traditional ideas of argumentation. Undoubtedly in talks about race and feminist thought especially it will come up in comments. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's true, these discussions are not above criticism, but often times such criticisms based in rationalism are framed and worded in ways that invalidate lived experience.

While the larger theoretical discussion between privilege and oppression might create illogical and seemingly unfair asks when the oppressed push back, I think a lot of that theoretical thought loses some of its footing when the reality of lived experience (usually anecdotal, but so reoccurring that to deny it would be its own fallacy) is so overwhelming. It's hard to take criticism when it essentially says "the way you're describing reality is subjective and therefore wrong." I don't have a way to reconcile this, or even know if I'm describing what I'm trying to describe accurately because there's so much going on.

Thoughts, reflections, counterpoints, examples all welcome.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Today I want to talk about Feedback. No, not the someone-with-a-microphone-stepped-too-close-to-the-amp kind of feedback, but what does it mean to give feedback? To receive feedback? I've also just missed blogging.

Tied into this for me are issues of privilege and varying levels of experience because when someone approaches you for feedback, that often means you're in a position of authority. You're a teacher, coach, expert in your field, or just generally someone that someone else decided they respect the opinion of. It is a matter of privilege because this often means as a person with authority you have increased access to resources. You are better networked, your education is likely further along.

Conversely, at other times, feedback is a matter between peers and it's important to treat these two different kinds of feedback differently.

As feedback from an authority figure, you have power. Your privilege as an authority figure means your reaction carries more weight. Think about receiving a paper or homework assignment back from your teacher and having it covered in red pen. As a culturally common practice, it creates such a visceral reaction that a lot of upcoming teachers are taught not to use red pens when grading.

As such, giving feedback means balancing the objective qualities that you're giving feedback on (your rubric if I may continue the education analogy) and the subjective qualities of meeting the person you're giving feedback where they're at. You wouldn't grade a kindergartner on the same rubric you would a college student.

This of course works in formal situations where you have some kind of quality scale to refer back to.

Does Danny come in to work on time? Yes, and he's usually early? Circle 4 for exceeds expectations.

Did this essay satisfy all aspect of the prompt and do so with evidence of a grade-appropriate writing capability? B+ good job.

Of course, this starts to fall apart once we give feedback on things that are a lot less objective.

Did you like reading my blog post? Well, I found the informal tone somewhat insulting and unprofessional and your choice of topic was uninteresting at best.

What did you think of this poem I wrote? I thought it amateurish at best, the kind of thing you'd find in a high school creative writing class.

These are extremely harsh, critical examples, but equally as stunting and unproductive as blindly saying "I loved it!"

If the goal of feedback is to foster growth, even if it is meant to redirect or change course, then the emphasis must remain on that growth. Specific, concrete problems that can be addressed and worked on.

Three seat, sit up straight in the boat. You might want to work on memorizing your lines better next time you're in a play. Your metaphors don't seem like they have a specific point because I'm not seeing the thesis of what you're trying to say, make that clearer.

When it comes down to it, if there isn't a set standard for what is or isn't "good" some of the best feedback you can give is to ask questions about what you like/don't like/are confused by.

And in receiving such feedback, you're also asking yourself questions in addition to attempting to answer the ones posed to you. Why isn't this working? How was I unclear? Am I doing what i was told was correct?

Because feedback is part of a dialogue, but it only works if both parties are focused on the same end goal: the continued moving forward and growth of the original project.

So... feedback anyone?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On oranges and other things

I used to hate oranges. In particular, I hated the satsuma oranges my mother would hand me during that time between Christmas and New Year's saying it was for good luck. It was the little bits of pith hiding between the segments that did it for me, those little white bits clinging to the sweet, juicy flesh disgusted me. I've since gotten over that. Perhaps I've gotten used to the bitterness.

I spent most of my day working on making mochi. It's the greenish blog in my hand next to the orange. I don't really know why.

Mochi is just another one of those things you eat around the new year. It reminds me of going to one of the Asian market in Seattle with my grandmother, and after she died, visiting my Grandpa Harry and raiding the freezer for the pack he inevitably had stowed away. They were usually a little stale in their vacuum plastic and gallon-sized Ziploc bag, but that didn't stop my brother and I: the soft, sweet dough always a treat no matter how fresh or old.

I don't know why I made some instead of just buying some. If I spent as much time work out or reading as I do in the kitchen, well I wouldn't be nearly as good at cooking.

And as I sit here on New Year's Day, a satsuma on one side of my keyboard and a plate full of mochi on the other, I wonder about good luck. I miss my grandparents a little bit more and a little it less. I'm reminded of how I've internalized what vestiges of my Japanese heritage that have permeated my suburban upbringing.

I'm thankful for that.