Friday, November 5, 2010

Drumbeat day 2

less exhausted and a bit less excited tonight - which is probably good, all things considered.

spent the bulk of the day with the digital storytellers. the goal was, head out into the raval and tell a story digitally. most people did admirable projects like documenting the immigrant experience, but i'm shy of that sort of thing in a context i don't know well - i don't even speak catalan! i don't know how to tell anti-gentrification rhetoric from anti-immigrant rhetoric! i wanted to find some way of getting at the gendered ways we walk through cities, and somehow my iphone's mic wasn't working, and i wanted to upload on the fly - so i made a quick tumblr, forgetting for a moment that tumblr is resolutely linear in time, so the whole thing is backwards.

here's my quick story: you can see how it serves as a stub for other possibilities. you could:
  • incorporate movement, find a way (video??) to capture the start-stop-loiter pace of this kind of walking
  • map these consumer forays
  • play this route (meander? derive?) off against a "proper" city map/recommended walking tour: i think of lines on google maps, against which these forays splay off in unruly ways
  • use images here like a database (caitlin's idea) and connect across city spaces - which is super interesting if you shop small local designers, as i like to, since you won't repeat chanel online etc.
  • add voices - audio - to reflect the many forms of consciousness you embody at the same time: i want this, i hate this, i hate myself for wanting it, but it's so beautiful, but shouldn't you be reading The Economist, etc
  • insert audio on a map: for instance, a happy chord for every store that thrills you and a dischord for every disappointment - the seeming indie that turns out to be a chain, shoes made of plastic, knock-off desigual, a leather shop w/o bags
  • QR-mark your preferred shops so as to make a secret society of underground shoppers, maybe across continents.
ok, enough on that. i had one hour; i did a tumblr!

good talk and great projects in that group: could not believe what people did in an hour. esp the guy from NY (ok, ok, a documentary producer for some 20 years now - obviously his stuff was going to be good!). lots of emphasis on video, although the he-said/she-said twitter story that @jacksondevious and @iamjessklein did was also interesting. a single hashtag would have made it cohere, but what was interesting was the interruptions from overseas and other friends saying things like, "show us a picture [of the market you're describing]." really opens up the narrative.

tried to hit the wikipedia event in the afternoon but it was clearly too late; that conversation was well along.

which brings me to a few overall comments:
  1. love love love the facilitating. no audience Q&A, no long talks, no reading. here is some stuff on that.
  2. agree with the critiques about how english it was. see jon beasley-murray's, for one. worse, although i was shocked when i first arrived (secret confession: i was worried EVERYTHING would be in spanish/catalan, and that i wouldn't understand a word of it), i'd grown used to it by day two. honestly don't know what you'd do otherwise, though: there were people here from germany, italy, hungary, spain, france - and that's just the linguistic groups i know of. is english the de facto language of the internet?
  3. the academy is not totally broken. yesterday i was all about storming it; today i felt like, hey, look, we do a lot of nuanced critical thinking there and that's good. i was missing it by today. it was good to be around that again. (i swear i will remember that!)
  4. don't understand the passion for badges. if you want accreditation, why reinvent the wheel: plenty of institutions accredit, it's one of the things they do really well. but why a badge? or, let me put it this way (which is a bit different from JBM): how do you know that you won't turn into the big bad evil other? how will your boutique practices not produce exactly the kind of mindless stamping you loathe in others, once these badges are operating at an economy of scale? if you're all P2PU and DIY-U, then be that. no halfsies.
  5. HASTAC folks are brilliant.
  6. hack ethic of working is inspirational. can't we write this way?
  7. agree that it was hard to have the "move among plenty of options" and "bear down to work with folks" ethos (ethoses?) operating at once. also agree open-web and open-ed folks didn't work together enough. though thrilled to see anne balsamo's project taken up by mozilla!
  8. i am not a 20-something coder/hacker/tech - which is why i am home blogging about the whole thing (uh, before i forget) and not at the party, which started, let's see, about half an hour ago.
it's midnight now and i'm to bed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mozilla drumbeat

haven't blogged here in ages, what with the new one - and these notes are not really for public, but just so i will always have them in the cloud. i want to capture the weird and dizzying excitement of the day before it is gone completely.

mozilla drumbeat festival, barcelona, 2-5 nov 2010

not a conference, but a "festival." the morning starts with 8-min keynotes. we are sitting in a bifurcated room - the typical rows, but doubled, and facing each other, screens on left and right. such a startling change from the authority of the single expert.

mitchell baker from mozilla: we want an open web; mozilla is still a nonprofit and that's not easy; help us build the tools you want to have.

cathy davidson whipsmart: everything about our education system was designed in C19 industrial era - keeping time, long days, standard deviation, multiple choice tests (i wonder about structures of attention: what's that amstud guy's book again). in C21 this isn't going to work - we are the last generation to learn like this. be an "edge thinker."

then, selling the day's events. the "structure" of the conference is spatial and temporal. different orgs/presenters/builders have tents and time slots. one person from each of these stands up and gives a spiel in the opening session: "we are tagging videos in multiple languages. if you know a lang, esp a lang that isn't widely spoken here, come work with us." "we are hackbus." [think tie-dyed boogie van, outside MACBA getting a parking ticket as he spoke.] "we hack virtual and real spaces." among other things, human sculptures - slo-mo flash mobs? they drive around europe freeing the web from corporate interests. they all wear black t-shirts and many of them black hats. they look like anarchists, but brainy ones. they spend all morning sitting in the square under a big square black umbrella, these white european boys in their black tshirts, hacking away at ... something. everybody's laptop (no macs, btw) is festooned with stickers that say things like "mp3 is not a crime." hackbus invites people to come hang out with them.

HASTAC is "storming the academy," "storming the syllabus," "storming the gradebook." and at the end of each day, offering yoga.

local action = city tours.

video lab.

html5 and web development for OER (open ed resources).

P2P = peer to peer learning.

and so on. so much stuff i want to do, and everybody witty and short-spoken and clear. the room itself is fantastic (second floor of the contemp art gallery annex, clean white lines inside old stone walls). around me, people are texting, emailing, blogging, tweeting, microblogging. this is the beginning, for me, of feeling slightly disoriented: somebody's talking! you should listen! i am a product of industrial education and canadian politesse....

a "humble invitation to be totally present to this experience." oh, and: we are a half hour behind but the entire schedule has already been adjusted on the wiki. when we arrive we have badges, but no other materials. everything is online.

HASTAC, "storming the cloud." anne balsamo does an exercise that doesn't quite work, where we represent a tag cloud. she recovers amazingly - stunning facilitator, stunning teacher (when someone accuses mo of saying something anne is right there: "i probably said that") - and poses the question: "we know that the next generation is going to learn through tag clouds, that's how they'll learn -- "

[Sidebar: that's how they'll learn?? my students are learning through tag clouds?? we are lost, lost....]

" -- so given this, how can we train students to look for minority representations and not just at the big font in the bright colors?" big discussion. the whiteboard in the tent turns out to be a permanent board for post-its, so anne writes over the blue tags in red ink as people make suggestions about a better way of sorting data. i am thinking: but this is a problem of politics, which unfolds in time, and it is a problem of language, and i don't know how to solve that. but the time thing is interesting. someone - a Duke FutureClass kid - proposes the internet as a democratic space of unfettered mobility, the opposite of offline space. i say, 'but the problem with conceiving of the internet that way is that, if it's a democracy, it's a democracy that unfolds in a never ending present. you're tired of digg, you move to del.i.cious and start all over, as if digg never happened. i want a tag cloud that represents time, so you can see obsolescence begin and change start to happen." someone says, "yeah, colors greying out?" i'm thinking and listening and speaking, and therefore learning (learning b/c speaking, b/c listening, b/c taking a chance: i know sweet fuck all about tag clouds when you get right down to it, but i know we talk a lot at hook and eye about tagging well) and my brain feels stretched and it's not even 11am yet.

i watch the hackbus boys for a bit. still hacking.

lunch. caitlin talks about her AR lab. we talk about how hard 2010 has been. the food is only ok.

after lunch, walkshop. this is a recap of a city walking tour a group of 3 did with adam greenfield a while back. who's from the tech side? who's from the pedagogical side? i'm alone with a bunch of web developers from berlin. what kind of technology do we have for hacking the city? we all have iphones or android systems but there's an awkward silence til one of the berliner boys (there are three of them, each with his own company, sharing space in an old mannequin factory) says, "it's not about the technology, it's about the data plans." exactly. bring on the open web already!

the idea is to visit data rich sites in the city and both capture and upload meaningful urban data. a data rich site could be: a wifi hot spot, a place where city officials gather data (CCTV, e.g.), etc. still not totally clear on this. posterous is the gathering site. everything is done by QR. i download a QR app before we leave the building: thanks, guefi. then we all troop out to experience the city.

along the way i ask peter bihr about the upcoming conference cognitive cities.

the first stop is a QR code on the MACBA wall. our phones read it, translate it, and take us - to the wikipedia entry for MACBA. there's a small silence while we digest this slightly disappointing piece of news. then a guy named Dan from england asks, 'but what if you want different information about this place? what if you're drunk and want to know how to get home? what if you want to know opening hours?' the organizers say, yes, yes, maybe a list of links would be good. i say, "what if you want all of that information and more - what was here before this building, what it looks like inside, what has happened here in the past and what kinds of meaning it has for ppl? and what if you want to know all of that at once? why can't our technologies deliver thick meanings?" the guy standing next to me says, "why not think of a city like a playlist." "embed a memory stick in the space itself." ("that would never survive in barcelona," says one of our organizers." "or in rome," says imke.) somebody else says - i think the guy from sound cloud: what if every building had a tone and you could inhabit the city like a soundtrack. i thought, shit, yes. tone, color, sound: not just visual representations.

just then a man walked past us, looked, and started clapping a complicated rhythm. he stopped walking, kept staring at us and clapped the same rhythm again, then again. we stared back, until one of the berliner boys got it, and clapped a syncopation in return. they did this for 30 seconds and then our interlocutor walked on, apparently satisfied. i thought: that's it, exactly. city.

next stop was at a data rich corner: a TV screen in a bar, sponsored by (you can't make this stuff up) projects images of barcelona into the street, in order to tempt passersby into drinking at their olde style taverna. on the opposite corner, a video camera guards a street which is already restricted entry. only official security and corporate minions have the key to unlock the bollard to drive down the street. all of this is the newest incarnation of low-tech control: the "entrada" and "salida" signs demarcate the one-way ins and outs of tiny passageways, and on the opposite corner is an apartment building that used to be guarded by a super with a pay-to-enter scheme - until the tenants used ("hacked") the payphones outside to bypass his draconianism. they would phone whoever they were visiting, hang up before the call was answered, and the visitee would throw down the keys. i wonder about the less formal invigilation of city space, but don't ask.

nick shows us his augmented reality streetmuseum app, which overlays historical images into present urban streetscapes - in real time. stunning.

when the tour is over, we dissipate. i go to a nearby bar with one of the organizers, the manchester guy, who's been living in barcelona since 1993 and can't get away, and his friend patrick the anarchist and their friend who speaks less english than i speak spanish, i order saffron gin, they order beers, and they tell me about how the euro has destroyed spain, how corrupt the spanish government is, and so on. it's fun - for a while, but i want to see what's up with hackbus ("i hate those fucking hippies," says patrick the anarchist) so i pay and leave.

the evening keynotes are similarly short and sweet: pay attention to arduino, which hacks *hardware.* see their lamps for artemide - swoon. question of how to manage/assure quality esp in context of formal ed = big ongoing question. the kid who invented wordpress was so young he couldn't buy a drink in his country. FML.

a big learning today = everybody, tech developers as well as intellectuals, wants what i want, but it's not possible to achieve just yet. this is part of why it's taken me so long to articulate it. the kind of multidimensionality i thought a tool could show me is something that is not only hard to think but also hard to build.

at the end of the day: who had fun? who learned something? who's coming back tomorrow? i wonder when i lost this feeling of excitement at the end of a conference, and promised i'd write this down before it gets lost. my brain needs glucose.

oh: fantastic fucking haircuts at this event. and the t-shirts ("you AUTOCOMPLETE me") are good too.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Academic fashion: an oxymoron?

i haven't written for a long while, in part because i have been musing over a new style - needing one, wanting one. i love what blogging has taught me about writing, but i feel i understand the witty peroration and i want to try something new. and/or i might write a more focused, issue-specific blog (stay tuned).

but for those of you who might be interested, here's what i recently had to say on the topic of "academic fashion" (it's forthcoming in ESC: English Studies in Canada, later this year - remember, you read it here first!):

What to wear is always a loaded question, even in academic circles that pretend to be above such vulgarities. In fact, pretending to be above such vulgarities might be the quintessence of academic fashion, judging from the results of a quick google search on the phrase. Comments on the web range from the casual:

“As an academic, I see nothing wrong with jeans and tee-shirts. Anything more complex is more trouble than it’s worth.”

to the ardent:

“I wear a t-shirt and shorts (unless it’s too cold for shorts) to teach in. I wear that to conferences too. Call me crazy but I got into academia on the theory that it was my brains that mattered not my looks. I wear a tie for no man.”

to the downright polemical:

“I’m an academic. I spend most of my day sitting at my computer or working in the library. There is nobody looking over my shoulder. No one is going to fire me because there is a hole in the elbow of my pullover. Why shouldn’t I wear what I like? Why the fuck should I have to copy the dress code of ‘people over thirty who work in public relations’? GIVE ME MY FREEDOM! GIVE ME MY MOTHEATEN OLD PULLOVER!”


Mind over body: Descartes still rules the university, in an unholy alliance with Calvin and Weber. We are a sober people, we academics, suspicious of glitz and flash and self-promotion. We are socially positioned in a way that works against stylishness, too. We may be wealthy by global standards, but we earn the salaries of public employees. Since we work all the time, we have few opportunities for frivolities like shopping. And while we might have broken down the ivory-tower stereotype conceptually, for the most part our campuses still tend to be enclaved in the city: fashion is not something you can easily fall into, the way (I imagine) you could if you worked in a downtown office tower.

Mind over body, work before play, frugality above all: the antithesis of fashion.

But what if you’re embodied? Let me make an old-fashioned move here and assert that the stakes are different for women. Expectations are higher, exhortations are more urgent, and possibilities are more loaded. Men might get away with motheaten sweaters, but women generally don’t. Fashion is highly gendered, and gender normative – so when I refer to “women” in this context, you should hear white, middle-class, slender, gender-conforming women. Academics are not outside that interpellative address, no matter how much we might want to dismiss “couture” as a despicable ancien rĂ©gime.

Too brainy for mass-culture girlishness but still interpellated as feminine by popular and academic culture, women are caught between the diabolical anxieties of being pretty enough and being smart enough. As a result, we get it coming (“It’s scary that you know a woman’s a social scientist when she’s wearing a certain type of dress or skirt and some awful-looking clay pendants”) and going (“She should spend as much time on her lectures as she does on her outfits”). And lest you think it’s only our students who police our fashion, remember the flak Elaine Showalter took for ‘coming out of the closet’ as a fashionista in the Dec 1997 Vogue? “I was once so desperate for a shopping fix at a Salzburg seminar on gender that I visited a dirndl factory,” she confesses. Condemnation was swift and brutal. Showalter’s irresponsibility – her betrayal of the sisterhood, her callous consumerism – was the talk of the academic gossip circuits, briefly. Warning taken: if you read Vogue and your teaching evaluations, keep it to yourself.

Fortunately, web 2.0 means that if we find ourselves confounded by our closets or confused about consumption, we can turn to the growing world of academic fashion bloggers for help. Threadbared, hautest of the academic couture blogs, discusses “the politics, aesthetics, histories, theories, cultures and subcultures that go by the names ‘fashion’ and ‘beauty.’” Others are more practical. AcademiChic is produced by “Three feminist PhD candidates at a Midwest university, on a crusade against the ill-fitting polyester suit of academic yore,” while The Glamourous Grad Student will tell you how to look good on fifty dollars a year (or, in her words, “share how I balance a grad student stipend with a desire for magic in my life and wardrobe”). My personal favourite is Fashion for Nerds, “Bringing Style to Science, One Outfit at a Time.” Characterized by the familiar generousity of the blogosphere as well as its DIY ethos, these blogs focus on how academic women can put together work-ready outfits by combining off-the-rack purchases from H&M or Banana Republic with vintage finds and the comfortable shoes you already own. They are not preachy – the bloggers use themselves as examples, focusing on what they like about the outfits they wear – but most posts include references to the origin of pieces just like a regular fashion magazine spread might. It suggests their followers find such advice necessary.

Do we know enough to steer between the Scylla of not-pretty-enough and the Charybdis of not-smart-enough? Let me distil our bloggers’ advice, along with observations from two decades in the academy, in a list of Do’s and Don’ts for the Professorial Woman:

  • Do shop locally. (Exception: Matt & Nat. A Matt & Nat bag could be driven around the world in a Hummer that runs on the blood of the spotted owl and it would still be sacrosanct. Ditto clothing from Mountain Equipment Co-op.) Don’t shop big box stores. (Except Winners is okay, and the aforementioned H&M, and Banana Republic, and Club Monaco, and Anthropologie, and HBC and Sears.)
  • Do look sharp, energetic, and youthful, but don’t look like your students. How? Search out the section of the mall not devoted to turning women into girls, while avoiding the stuff your elderly piano teacher used to wear. Hint: if you’re surrounded by cougars and MILFs you’re getting warmer.
  • Do dress in a way that commands respect. However, don’t appear too corporate: remember, you don’t want to look like you work in PR. A jacket is okay, a cardigan preferable. A suit is a no-no, unless you’re gunning for an administrative position, in which case you fail the “smart enough” test. Canadian academics prefer tights to hose, boots to pumps, and skirts or pants to dresses. Blacks, blues and browns are safest, although you don’t want to appear too monochromatic. And don’t wear too much black or you’ll be taken for an artiste.
  • Do cultivate a bluestocking look to prove you’re intelligent and appropriately gendered, i.e., neither head-turningly feminine nor inattentively androgynous. (If you’re intentionally butch, don’t worry, your students will discipline you on ratemyprofessor.) Don’t advertise your sexuality: no heels higher than two inches, no extreme makeup, no bling, no ink, no piercings, no cosmetic procedures. Do consider the academic bob, which will mark you as safely, permanently, numbingly middle-aged. Do wear funky glasses, the signature look for the brainy woman, but don’t wear funky hats (not white enough).

Got it?

If you’re able to walk that fine line, if you can strut your stuff on the academic runway without losing your balance in the face of blinding surveillance by students, colleagues, administrators and the general public, you might be tempted to make academic fashion the next feminist front. I’m tempted, regularly. But to what end? For the right to sit in fusty libraries wearing motheaten sweaters? Or to walk to meetings in Christian Louboutins? Don’t get me wrong: I want to work in a place with more kaftans and Pumas, nose rings and suits, and smart trousers on transmen. But let’s shuffle this up the priority line only after women start earning a hundred cents on the dollar.

Meanwhile, let’s agree that most days it’s enough to brush your hair.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Department of Penury

so, we're building a new deck (the last one being so rotten that last year a roofer fell right through, with knock-on effects to our insurance rates), and it is somewhere between $$$$$ and $$$$$$. there's the need for a new structure. then there's the fact that we don't want composite, but real wood. as long as we're doing it, we may as well do it right, and make something that covers over a problem area in the yard. then, of course, we don't like the spindles you can buy off the rack at homo depot, and we prefer 6-inch decking to the narrower, commoner 2x4s, and we both like the modern look of stainless steel and glass. doing the deck also means taking care of that problem area at the north side of the house, and if the bobcat's going to be here digging concrete piles anyway, why not regrade? etc.

the whole thing is going to cost in the neighbourhood of $30K. we do not have $30K sitting around in ye olde bank account. (a quick peek suggests that we have $509.08.) but since shortage of money has never stopped us from spending, we have a plan. my mother rents the basement for her business, blue sky publishing. we plan to reproduce the following on glossy paper and send it to her in the mail:

Dear Blue Sky Publishing President,

We are making some exciting changes at Zengelwood! When you return to work, you will notice that we've replaced your virtual blue sky with The Real Thing!! That's right. For a limited time, see the sky from your underground workspace!

But that's not all! In the near term, we will be refurbishing the BSP entryway. Your corporate headquarters will be covered with premium Brazilian ipe supported by state-of-the-art concrete pilings. Because we spare no expense for you, our valued tenant, you will see stainless steel screws, fine-milled rim boards and custom glass railings.*

In celebration of your new improved workspace, and to thank you for your patience during this construction period, we would like to offer you, our valued tenant, one of the following options of your choice:
1) A one-time limited rent special of $1000/day for the month of May
2) A binding non-retirement agreement for 14 years.

Don't wait! Act now! Our agents are standing by to take your call. Remember: at Zengelwood, your livelihood is our life.

Heather Zwicker
Chief Financial Officer
Department of Penury

*You may in fact see some of these stainless steel screws down by your entryway. You may keep these as a souvenir of this exciting period in our growth.

we're open to other offers, too.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Protest culture

i've been thinking about the culture of protest. things at the university are bad, and people are understandably scared and upset. the story that caught on mediawise is that various departments might lose their telephones. meanwhile, on the south side of edmonton, a woman walking home with her friends in the early hours of the morning was jumped by a pack of guys calling her "a dyke." police response was... lackadaisical, to say the least.

particularly in regard to the second of these issues, the response on facebook has been swift, supportive, and fierce. within 24 hours, a "community response project" garnered over 400 members even though the group's organizers had no clear plan. the facebook description reads: "A group dedicated to crafting a queer, systemic response to the recent assault against Shannon Barry (and others). We would like to organize, give us ideas! Posters? Protest? Let's think grassroots."

i didn't join, even though i love and respect the group's founders. i didn't join even when i saw friend after friend after friend after friend become a member. and i've been wondering why. it's a holdover from church, i think. call it commitment issues, but i have a hard time becoming a member of something that will demand unforeseeable things of me, and i'm particularly leery of protests.

i've done a fair number of protests in my time. i've demonstrated for abortion rights and i've defended abortion clinics. i marched against the first gulf war and the second gulf war; i protested the mid-90s provincial budget cuts more times than i can remember; and just last january i stood next to my dear friend in churchill square reading the names of the children bombed by israeli security forces. i was briefly imprisoned after the rodney king uprising. as street credit goes, i've got a little.

i have to confess that the notion of responding to the shannon barry beating with an old-fashioned protest left me feeling weary and disaffected. in fact, i found myself siding with the do-gooder white guys who urged people to take this up with the edmonton police service's LGBT liaisons. similarly, i have not written to lambaste my faculty association, or the dean, or the provost, or the president or the premier or the prime minister. instead, i keep trying to point out that when the province of alberta incents funding expensive professorships on soft dollars, institutions are left vulnerable to exactly this kind of financial crisis. we could see this coming for years. in other words, it's a complex problem that can only be solved by understanding the big picture of how universities are funded and administered today -- which in turn would require grasping a medium-sized picture of how units beyond the humanities are affected by this budget crunch -- which might produce the necessary (if not sufficient) conditions for solving this problem.

what i often suspect about protest culture is that people are not in fact interested in "solving the problem." historically, of course, taking over the streets has been hugely effective. see french revolution, see civil rights, see the troubles in northern ireland. even now, occasionally, marches can bring tears to my eyes: think of the battle in seattle, 1999, or the worldwide -- worldwide! -- protests against the US invasion of iraq in 2003. or if you like, just think of how ian mcewan uses that as a touchstone in his novel saturday.

but me, i'm all about solving the problem. this is terrific when the issue at hand is keeping a dissertating student on task, or getting a deck built, or giving advice on some interpersonal conflict, or building a better graduate program, or fixing a logical lapse in something i'm trying to write. i don't mind fighting because in some profound way it's not personal: i believe that we can think our way through both process and desiderata, so that investment in any given position is inconsequential next to arriving at a better (if not ideal) solution.

but "solving the problem" is not always what's called for. life doesn't work like the OCD challenge of keeping a clean inbox. as i've been reminded at several points in personal relationships (ahem), sometimes people just want to bitch about a bad day at work without transitioning into a brand new career, or register disappointment with their families without launching the entire unit into intensive psychotherapy. when professionals lose their telephones, they worry that their jobs will be next. unrealistic fear? probably. unreal? obviously not. on a political level, sometimes people just want to stand up and say, clearly, unequivocally, and quickly (i.e., without making this their life's work): this is unacceptable. society is wrong. you cannot do these things in my name.

sometimes the most interesting stuff takes place when you're that simple and honest. over on the shannon barry community response project, a critique of the way hate crimes legislation bolsters surveillance and incarceration is shaping up. folks are not taking to the street, they are taking to their heads and their hearts, and the results are really moving.

i'd like to become member 423 -- if they'll still have me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

May 2

found on a telephone pole, good friday 2010:

i need to express myself to stay sane i'm shy this is where i live i don't see my history written on the body of this city sometimes i am so sad sometimes i am so lonely seeing something i've made, outside, in my neighborhood helps and so this is where i am making my home i have responsibility for this place this city needs more color this city needs more vibrancy this city needs more creativity this city needs more spontaneity, this city needs less bureaucracy i sometimes can't sleep at night my heart hurts i can't just leave the past behind i can never finish things but i create all the time and can't throw them out i have lots of doodles around my house i taught myself to draw and think i mostly suck but some people like it i have things to say that i don't want my name attached to i love seeing other people's creations i am inspired by other people's creations i am inspired by art galleries art galleries too often only show Art art galleries make me sad this city is too gray this city needs histories written on its walls this city is a place this place has histories these histories are neither simple nor just i don't know them well enough i want people to tell me theirs i want to learn this place is not easy i don't want to be sad i don't want this city to be so cold it will be fun to...are all artists people say "we are all artists" but don't often enough ask what that means there is a lot of amazing stuff being created by you and me all of the time i want to experience it there doesn't have to be a "middle man" i have staples i have tape i have thumb tacks i have flour and water i have ideas i have dreams i have a future i find inspiration in so many things i would probably find inspiration in you lots of people would probably find inspiration in you if you wanted to let everyone else know what this place, this life is like for you. if you wanted to share.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Miraculous things

i woke up at 645 this morning, my right arm lying peacefully next to me.

there are at least three miracles embedded in that sentence: first, no sling; second, no pain; and third, to wake up presumes that i slept -- which is the greatest miracle of all. nights over the last five weeks have been their own special hell. for the first couple nights, i slept in the spare room (if you could call it sleeping, those long hours of narcotic drift). on the third night, paranoid and borderline delusional with the combination of percocet, pain, and sleep deprivation, i came crying back into our bed. which was better, to the extent that it's a more comfortable mattress to lie on for hours at a time.

there is no way to sleep comfortably while you're wearing a sling, and you are required to wear it all night every night. next time you can't sleep, fold one arm across your midriff and imagine keeping it there for eight hours. the first thing you realize is that you can only lie in your back, although after a couple of weeks you figure out how to lie on your unoperated side, as long as you bolster the damaged arm. (the logistics of this are just as complicated as you might imagine.) as for sleeping on your tummy, or the other side, as for snuggling, or sex, or even reading comfortably in bed -- forget it, sister. even that 45° turn, from good side to back, is a major night endeavour.

i'm sure it doesn't help that i'm normally a good sleeper -- a great sleeper, in fact. it's a major blessing of this lifetime, worth the knock knees and the TMJ. i go to bed when i'm tired, i fall into a deep sleep within minutes, and i wake up wholly and completely seven or so hours later. i am that irritating person who says to the chronically insomniac, "have you tried chamomile tea?" they must feel about me the way i feel about people who suggest taking an aspirin for a five-star migraine. my standards for sleep are high, and i have come nowhere close to meeting them these last five weeks.

but enough about that: it doesn't bear reliving. i slept! without a sling! and woke up pain-free!! on this weekend of all weekends, the credulous days when people believe all manner of things -- that jesus is the son of god, that lamb's blood can protect you from the state's functionaries, that a four-day weekend is long enough to do all of the spring yard cleanup, that failing to land a SSHRC means something about you as an academic -- i am prepared to call this my own spring miracle, and i will add to the list of miraculous things pretty bras, pullover shirts, pulling up socks two-handed, a good haircut, retrieving my own glass of water and shaving my pits.