Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Be a Man” = “Learn Pretense”

How the imperative Be a man!” devalues anything our culture (erroneously) feminizes —
including, ultimately (and tragically), empathy.

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“I’m interested in the emotions underneath these rituals, not the specifics”

Atheist-Christmas-007As a complement to my earlier post, here’s a quote from Alain de Botton’s Dec 23 article for The Guardian, in which he describes how secular thinkers might take advantage of aspects of Christmas:

“We live in a crowded but lonely world. The public spaces in which we typically encounter others – commuter trains, jostling pavements – conspire to project a demeaning picture of our identities, which undermines our capacity to hold on to the idea that every person is necessarily the centre of a complex and precious individuality. It can be hard to stay hopeful about human nature after a walk down Oxford Street. Locked away in our private cocoons, our chief way of imagining what other people are like has become the media, and as a consequence we naturally expect all strangers will be murderers, swindlers and paedophiles…

“The secular world often sees in [Christmas] rituals such as communal singing or eating a loss of diversity, quality and spontaneity. Religion seems bossy. But at its finest this ritual-based bossiness enables fragile but important aspects of life to be identified and shared.”

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“Peace on Earth”

rejection handFor the Mess, for the palpable grappling with failure, for the sting in some of the carols that are bludgeoning speakers today —
essentially, for the “rest of us” —

Jesus this song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
“Peace on Earth”
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won’t rhyme
So what’s it worth?
This “Peace on Earth”

(A little U2)
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Poetry read over Pop Music: YES.

Confession: I’m utterly delighted by these poems read over pop music:

Click the forward arrow above for more greatness:
track 1 frank o’hara & drake
track 2 alice notley & justin timberlake
track 3 dana ward & katy perry
track 4 dylan thomas & miley cyrus
track 5 william carlos williams & wale/miguel
track 6 dorothea lasky & raekwon
track 7 richard brautigan & mariah carey
track 8 sylvia plath & eminem/rihanna
track 9 ted berrigan & kendrick lamar

These tracks hark to my piece for Ploughshares re: what poetry can learn from pop music …

More importantly, they convey the irresistible depth that music lends to words. And the subtle enacting here of social critique combined with direct musical utility and appreciation is stunning.

Coming from a career as a songwriter, whatever tensions that exist among poetry, social commentary, and pop music have only been lively and generative.

So poets — and writers of all genres (because why not get crazy here) —
Music does a thing. Go experiment with it.

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(In which Rilke nails December. And depression.)

It’s been a dark December. I mean this metaphorically, although (oh god) it’s raining again. It’s the kind of December to which one should invite Rilke, post haste.

Particularly since, 100 years ago, Rilke was having a rather dark December himself. So for you fellow depressives, grievers, broken folk… from Melville House, this today:

Rainer Maria Rilke is in a bad way during those last December days [of 1913] in Paris. He writes: “I see nobody, it has been freezing, there was black ice, it’s raining, it’s dripping—this is winter, always three days of each. I have truly had my fill of Paris, it is a place of damnation.” And then: “Here is the incarnation of my desires for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917 etc. Which is: peace, and to be in the country with a sisterly person.” He then writes to one of those sisterly people… Sidonie Nádherny: “Now I would like to be as if without a face, a rolled-up hedgehog that only opens up in the ditch in the evening and cautiously comes up and holds its grey snout up at the stars.”

Yes. Yes.

Want more? I recommend this translation of  The Book of Hours, in which Rilke loves himself some Dark. Worth your December attention.

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Why Teaching Equality Hurts Men

shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows

Don’t let the title put you off. This isn’t what you think.

With few exceptions, there comes a point in every little girl’s life when she first suffers exclusion on the basis of gender. For me, this happened regularly in primary school sports: the boys didn’t like it when I wanted to play cricket, and would actively gang up to ensure I was either kept away from the bat or relegated to the furthest reaches of the outfield. Children aren’t paragons of political correctness: unlike later in life, I knew definitively then that gender was the reason for this behaviour, because I was openly told as much. Over and over again, whether it was soccer or cricket or handball or football or some other thing the boys were doing, I had to fight for inclusion, because even at the tender ages of seven and eight and nine, boys knew

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A “Rape-Victims List” for sale by a Data Broker… Hey, only $79.

In the realm of “Are you kidding me?” —

The following was written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, posted on WSJ Blogs:

“Data Broker Removes Rape-Victims List After Journal Inquiry”

A marketing company purporting to sell lists of rape and domestic violence victims removed the lists from its website Wednesday after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.

Medbase200, a Lake Forest, Ill., company that sells marketing information to pharmaceutical companies, had been offering a list of “rape sufferers” on its website, at a cost of $79 for 1,000 names.

The company also removed lists of domestic violence victims, HIV/AIDS patients and “peer pressure sufferers” that it had been offering for sale, until it was contacted by the Journal.

The rape-victims list was first disclosed by Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, at a Senate hearing Wednesday about the data-broker industry. Ms. Dixon could not be reached for comment after her testimony.

The hearing was part of a Senate Commerce Committee investigation into the data-broker industry. In a report Wednesday, the committee said marketers maintain databases that purport to track and sell the names of people who have diabetes, depression, and osteoporosis, as well as how often women visit a gynecologist. The report said individuals don’t have a right to know what types of data the companies collect, how people are placed in categories, or who buys the information.

Medbase200, a unit of Integrated Business Services Inc., sells lists of health-care providers and of people purportedly suffering from ailments such as diabetes and arthritis to pharmaceutical companies.

In an interview, Integrated Business Services President Sam Tartamella initially denied that his company maintained or sold databases of rape victims. After the Journal provided him a link to the “rape sufferers” page, he said he would remove it from Medbase200′s website. The page was removed later Wednesday.

In a subsequent email conversation, Tartamella said the company had never maintained an actual list of rape victims. “No one has ever leased, rented or otherwise acquired such a file from our firm, ever,” he said.

He said a “hypothetical list of health conditions/ailments was used as a hypothetical” file for an internal test. “Apparently, that ‘test’ datacard was never removed after the website went live,” he wrote.

Tartamella said he was combing through his company’s website to ensure “that other errors are not present.”

To compile its lists of patients, Tartamella said the company used direct surveys, along with proprietary models that could not be shared.

Note: This post has been updated to reflect that Medscape200 also removed a list of HIV/AIDS patients that had been on its website.

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The whole duck thing

Seriously kids omg I can’t take it anymore.

“Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that one is entitled to a job in perpetuity in spite of incendiary statements.” (-Daniel D’Addario)

Also,
From a writer who’s all about breaking silences: If you’re interested in honest, compassionate dialogue, do it be it start it. Un-firing a character won’t do it for you. Besides, few of us are likely prepared to argue that Duck Dynasty is an appropriate or effective forum for compassionate, rational, researched and well-represented dialogue. If this issue is bigger than a character’s suspension from a show that I hope I never see, then do the work to make it bigger. You. Because seriously I can only un-follow so many people on facebook & the blogs before my fingers start hurting.

(PS I still love you DD fans.)

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“Expensive cities are killing creativity”

creatives bewareSt. Louis-based writer Sarah Kendzior has published an editorial for Al Jazeera, calling upon creatives to reject the now-cost-prohibitive art centers of the world. Kendzior launches her piece by citing Patti Smith’s May 5th advice to young NYC artists: that they “find another city.” Smith said, “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. New York City has been taken away from you.” Similarly, David Byrne stated in October that “the cultural part of the city – the mind – has been usurped by the top 1 percent.”

Kendzior notes (and I recommend reading the piece in full) that the exploding costs of living in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, and LA mean that failing as an artist often means more than getting yet another job:

“To fail in an expensive city is not to fall but to plummet. In expensive cities, the career ladder comes with a drop-off to hell, where the fiscal punishment for risk gone wrong is more than the average person can endure. As a result, innovation is stifled, conformity encouraged. The creative class becomes the leisure class – or they work to serve their needs, or they abandon their fields entirely.”

In other words, if creatives want to be able to take risks, or simply pursue their own work — as opposed to serving corporations (and/or the 1%) — they may need to take Patti Smith’s advice and “find a new city.”

i can has artAs a midwestern artist, my knee-jerk retort was that quite obviously, economic hardships are everywhere – particularly in humanistic/artistic professions. And while a city’s cost of living is a significant factor considering the low incomes art careers often earn, it’s not as if art is undervalued strictly (or even primarily) in the recognized artistic centers of the world. In fact, some of us pine for cities in which people actually go out to look at, listen to, or otherwise value art of any form. (The sense of being undervalued is likely more stark in cities in which a smaller population means that the small percentage of art-valuers necessitates a microscope.)

And finally, most artists – in any locale – have to serve corporations in order to pay our bills: often by licensing music, designing logos, or writing copy for marketing campaigns. While this may be sign that various cities undervalue creativity, these artistic circumstances are much more nuanced, extensive, and (by now) culturally intrinsic than a few cities’ issues with inflation and elitism. (Cue projects such as Kickstarter, or Jack Conte‘s Patreon.)

choose your own

Still, what’s great about Kendzior’s piece – regardless of its failure to take a more holistic approach – is its theoretical rejection of (financially-)enforced artistic silences. It offers a turn from the myth of “proximity-equals-success” to a focus on minimizing — to whatever extent such minimization is possible — the risk that one’s work will be (over)determined by economics, and thus deprived of its individual voice. In effect, Kendzior gives artists “permission” to go wherever our work can be most ours… and to feel no compunction that this may not be in a culturally-approved, globally-recognized center for art.

Kendzior’s call to artists will feel, to most of us, entirely too theoretical and imprecise, but the thrust of it is sound: Any creator must actively set aside assumptions about where art is (or can be) made in order to uncover where her own art is made. If such a place exists — and no one is saying it does — it’s worth some grueling exploration to find it.

And if, in the process, one chooses to give a theoretical middle finger to cost-prohibitive cities that have enjoyed a reputation for welcoming starving artists with open arms: well, bonus.

“Perhaps it is time to reject the “gated citadels” – the cities powered by the exploitation of ambition, the cities where so much rides on so little opportunity. Reject their prescribed and purchased paths… for cheaper and more fertile terrain. Reject the places where you cannot speak out, and create, and think, and fail. Open your eyes to where you are, and see where you can go.”

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Using Words

“As long as I can, I will take what I feel, use it to face what I am able to know, find language, and write what I think must be written for the freedom and dignity of women.”


AndreaonCrete1966MI don’t agree with everything 
Andrea Dworkin has written, but this, yes. Yes.

Taken from “My Life As a Writer,” in Life and Death.

 

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