Thursday, September 20, 2007


Preface: This is a silly little story i wrote for Creative Writing class last Fall. The assignment was to create a short scene of conflict where one person was trying to get something from the other, except without using the word 'no'. I don't think 'no' is in there. Tell me if it is. It's dated September 18, 2006.


A skinny boy with red dreds sauntered by my booth. His face was crisp and glowing orange, freshly scorched. Ounces of sweat-water dripped down his jaw from under his plastic green leprechaun hat. He engaged the guy next door.

“Hey man, how much is a water?”

“One dollar, Gatorade is two. Looks like you could use a little refreshment, eh buddy?”

“Oh yea man, ya think so? Not sure SPF 420 could save my brain from melting out here if ya know what I mean?”

“I hear you, so what’ll it be?”

“Well shit man here’s the thing. I’m clean outta cash at the moment, so I was hopin’ maybe you might could help out a fair-haired friend and slip me a swig or two for free…”

“Aww sorry buddy, can’t help you there.”

“C’mon I’m dyin’ here. A little charity goes a long way concerning Karma.”

“I’m sorry but I mean, that comes right out of my pocket, and I’m barely breaking even as it is.”

“Ahh but sir, the day is almost done and soon the moment will pass, and your good deeds will be all that remain, no two dollars.”

“I told you…”

“I hear ya, yea alright, you seen any drinking fountains ‘round here?”

“Not at all, not much permanent plumbing in these parts.”

“Yea, figured.”

The boy took a half-turn and looked up and down the half-mile stretch of vendors. Food, drink, tie-dye and drums, stickers and cd’s, fancy fresh products crying for consumption and he, the consumer, left helpless. I called him over.

“Hey man, here’s a dollar, get yourself some water before you pass out.”

“Hah hahh I appreciate that but when I pass out it won’t be from dehydration! Plus, I’m really tryin’ to get my hands on a Gatorade. Water is well an’ good an’ all but ahh a Gatorade, now there’s somethin’ worth begging for.”

“Fair enough. So here’s two.”

“Thanks man, mighty generous of course, but I think I can finagle one for free here if I just keep workin’ on it.”

“This is free ain’t it?”

“Yea but cash is different. Doesn’t feel right somehow, know what I mean?”

I did. His hazed wide eyes wandered, scatterbrained, but met mine long enough to establish understanding. His eyes were kind, if a bit lost. It seemed he had simply misplaced his official friends only to find Everyone as his companion.

“What if I handed it right to the guy? Then he gave me the Gatorade, then I gave it to you, would that work?”

“Wait hold on, I’m gonna turn my back. When I turn around, whatever happens has happened and that’ll be that.”

I left the Gatorade sitting on the table and hid behind a rack of t-shirts. He turned around and laughed a joyous laugh at our little game. He smiled triumphant, holding the drink out in front of him for inspection. “Melon. FIERCE Melon. Hah Hahhh.” With that he heaved it towards the sky and with arms spread wide to the heavens screamed, “Thank Yoooouuu!!” He spun a one-footed 540 and caught the plastic bottle one-handed behind his back all in one motion and meandered back toward the stage, slipping into the mass dancing with love-ly electrolytes in his heart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

is that intentional?

There is an eBay commercial I've seen recently. It shows a group of people running around a race-track, like dogs chasing after the sliding bunny, but instead of a bunny it's a toaster or some such thing. So they're coming down the homestretch, and a pale, 30-something, tubby dude is in the lead, but look out, a young, cool looking black dude is making his move. He is about to pass our pale friend and win the race when, OH NO, he comes up lame with a pulled hammy, and Average White American Man wins his toaster! The ad campaign is of course centered on the slogan, "It's More Fun When You Win It", or something like that.

Is that social commentary or what? I know it's kinda subtle, but not really. Who did the casting for that commercial? Was it written into the script that the white guy would win only because the black guy got injured? Is that a conscious decision to represent it that way? Or do they think we're living in such a heterogeneous world that it doesn't matter, that the white and black dudes are interchangeable, and it could have just as easily been the other way around. But that's just the thing, it could have just as easily been the other way around, but it wasn't. Basically what i'm saying is, Critical Theory class has ruined TV for me. Everywhere you look there are sketchy representations like that, creeping into our psyche with seemingly meaningless images that in fact reinforce whatever it is we're supposed to believe.
Which is what? The black guy would have won if he hadn't gotten injured. So what is that saying? Is it suggesting that Black Americans have every opportunity to succeed but in large part they don't because they don't stretch properly before the race (ie shoot themselves in the foot)? [I pose it as a question because i don't want to offend anybody, which i shouldn't, if you understand what i'm saying.] That is certainly what it suggests to me.
So the question becomes, is that true? Well it's almost three in the morning here, so i plan to go to bed and dream of elysium, thankful that i'm not (directly) responsible for any under-handed racism.
But just for the record, HEY, remember when we enslaved an entire race for a few hundred years? Exported them all over the world? Invaded their continent and destroyed intricate cultures with knowledge dating back to the dawn of man? Then we slowly, begrudgingly let them be a part of OUR society, finally letting allowing them to be recognized as real citizens something like 40 years ago. And do we really think that in such a tiny timespan, barely a generation, the effects of our wrongdoing have worn off and we're all on an equal playing field?
I just hope that people think for themselves, and not blindly buy what an eBay commercial is trying to sell them. Hopefully most people won't notice at all. I think that would be best, serving as evidence for the whole heterogeneous society theory.
I'm going to bed.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

This is a paper I wrote for Human Sexuality class a couple semesters ago. The assignment was to find a piece of art in any museum or outdoor display in DC, and write about the sexual connotations inherent in it, based on some of the concepts we’d been discussing in class. Well I’m pathetically lazy and didn’t get out to any real museum, so this is what I came up with. Scored 98/100.

November 7, 2006

The Washington Monument

So I went to a couple different museums, the Hirshhorn, the American Art museum, and I also spent time in the Sculpture Garden, and while there are thousands of incredible works of art in these buildings, many of which carry heavy sexual suggestion, I found myself fascinated with a different spectacle. Not quite a sculpture, the Washington Monument is a symbol of all that is great and powerful in America. Named after our first, and supposedly greatest president, people flock to this simple tower from all over the world to be looked down upon by its all-seeing red eye. I will explore this phenomenon in terms of the implicit sexuality of a tall pole sticking straight out of a grassy mound of wet earth.

I will start by describing the monument itself. Surrounded by a huge circular tour bus road, the Washington Monument stands at the crest of a grass field perhaps half a mile or more in diameter, rising to the tower on all sides. The monument is built on a marsh, and the foundations had to be stabilized on several occasions throughout construction1. The sexual connotations here are not explicit, but they are present nonetheless. Think, America’s tower of power, our masculinity protruding from a soft wet mound of grass that needs constant reassuring and restructuring. I point this out with a hint of irony at what this represents in terms of gender relations in America. I will come back to this point later.

The monument itself is made from 2-foot tall blocks of grained white marble.1 The construction took place in two phases interrupted by the Civil War. When construction stopped in 1854, the shaft had been erected to a height of 154 feet. In 1855 during the interim period, a group known as the “Know-Nothings” executed a successful coup to claim control of the monument. The Know-Nothings “(officially the American Party),” were “a nativist political movement…organized to oppose the great wave of immigrants who entered the United States after 1846.” After two years in control, the group only managed to add 26 feet of shoddy masonry with sub par marble. When the US Army Engineer Corps finally began construction again in 1876, this layer was removed, leaving a scar that is quite evident to this day. Isn’t it interesting, that a group passionately resolved to protect America from invading immigrants and their alien values made their mark by messing up the monument that most symbolizes their own ideals? This little anecdote has strong ties to many contemporary issues in America over immigration and ‘American values’ and the American ‘way of life’, and once again, those who are most passionate to ‘protect’ America from would be invaders seem to be the ones doing the most damage.

That is just politics though, and the important issue at hand is how these ideologies suggest certain assumptions about gender roles. A woman’s place in America has obviously moved leaps and bounds throughout our history in terms of legal recognition, suffrage and on into the free market workplace, but the facts remain that the overwhelming majority of CEO’s in this country are (white) men, equal pay for equal work is still an issue, and women are somewhat unavoidably held down by the patriarchical nature of our society. That, however, does not mean that they haven’t had their say. Like I said, women have been a moving force throughout American history. But just like real life, in individualized gender relations, sometimes you have to peel off a few layers before you see that the influence is equal and mutual.

It is vital to understand the inspiration for the monument. George Washington may be the most celebrated American in history. As it says on the monument’s official website, Washington was a man who “defined the Presidency,” and “earned the title ‘Father of his Country’ in recognition of his leadership in the cause of American independence.”1 The man who fathers a child so great as America must be incredibly potent. Anybody able to give birth to such a strong and healthy child now 230 years old says a lot about the parents, or in this case it seems, just the Father, for there is no mention of a Mother (besides, perhaps, the Virgin Mary, but the religious side of this story is a topic all its own).

This man was so great that “efforts to commemorate his legacy began during his lifetime and continue to this day.”1 But again, according to the official website, no other work of recognition has “captured the imagination of the people world-wide like the Washington Monument.”1 Why is this? Is it the location? The monument is located “at the…cross-axis of the White House and U.S. Capitol.”1 Only not quite. “Because of the swamplike nature of the [planned] ground…the construction engineers located the site for the foundations about 100 yards to the southwest”1 on more stable ground. As I alluded to before, the too soft and fertile ground represents femininity, while the monument itself represents the expression patriarchal power. It is a fitting image that the unstable foundation forced the monument to stand just slightly off from the ideal geographic cross-axis between the other two most important symbols of power. It’s as if, as men, we are more or less going to have it our way, but not exactly. We’re going to build our buildings and beat our chests and grasp at power, but we will always be slightly undermined, nudged a bit off our manly course by women, who are, when it comes down to it, our foundation. You may not be able to see the monuments supple base from “30 to 40 miles away”1 like you can it’s blinking red eyes, but if not for the foundation there could be no monument in the first place.

This leads me to Martha Washington, George’s cornerstone. Much has been made of Mrs. Washington and it is only right and only possible for a man to have been as great as George was when he has the love of a woman like Martha. However, much of her celebrated greatness was in her ability to stay cheerful and supportive of her embattled husband. Her official White House biography states that, “From the day Martha married George Washington in 1759, her great concern was the comfort and happiness of her husband and children,”3 a stereotypical image of what a woman ‘should’ be. She was a homemaker, a mother and a loving wife, what else could any man ask? She was wise, however, stating in letters that, “I am still determined to be…happy…for I have…learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances,” and was praised by Abigail Adams as, “one of those unassuming characters which create Love and Esteem.”3 This was clearly a powerful woman. Perhaps not physically or politically, but in the way women are most naturally powerful, in terms of emotional expression and tenderness. Their ability to engender hope with nothing more than a smile (and maybe a kiss) has been the root cause of miracles, I’m sure of it. Loving-kindness is a powerful weapon when deployed correctly.

It is also interesting to note that no building anywhere in the District of Columbia is taller than the 555’ 5/8”1 tall monument. This fact is a powerful ode to our nations respect for George Washington. His name commands such power that no building, even in the bustling nation’s capitol, can look down on his tower. This concept is idealistically pleasing but it also has practical consequences. The limitation on height obviously limits economic growth. Taller buildings mean more offices means more businesses in less space which is the catalyst to a stronger economy. Washington D.C. might compete with New York City in terms of cultural city life and explosive economic growth, were it not for this respectful rule. At the same time, it creates a different atmosphere, a quieter ambience not to be surrounded by skyscrapers on all sides. Either way, it is important to recognize the not-so-subtle influence of this massive pointed erection looking down on all of us in our nation’s capitol.

Obviously these gender relation issues are not explicit in the Washington Monument. The fact is, it is a beautiful aesthetic structure that helps create one of the more stunning scenic (sunset, if you like) views in the world. It seems common practice to take the girl of your fancy for a walk down to the monuments at dusk, the calm reflecting pool magnifying the romance already in the air. I know many people for whom a trip to see the monument has resulted in some gender relations of their own, and in the end, isn’t that really what it’s all about?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

saline solution

Lately i've been pouring warm salt water in one nostril until it drips out the other. I tilt my head and lean forward, using a phallic teapot contraption. It is strangely pleasing and is helping me breathe better but i'm out of practice. Breathing that is. I'm a habitual mouthbreather it turns out, as a result of my deviated septum and chronic sinus infection. So now that i can more or less breathe through my nose, i tend to forget.

It's muggy in DC and today felt like death even though it rained. Free Petron at five a.m. made future (now past) discomfort a certainty.

I read somewhere that snot isn't merely a physical creation, but can be influenced by deeper psychological conditions. In some way, boogers are partially a reflection of some aspect of one's mental state. I should learn something from that.

for anyone who reads this, i'm curious as to why. having read it, i'm sure you are too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is this awkward?

What kind of self-indulgent bullshit is this anyway? Who has a blog? I mean, apparently millions of people do...but yea, exactly. There's an infinite supply of rambling bullshit to be found laying around these days; so much so that it seems almost irresponsible to add to it.


'Almost' apparently can't convince me that there's no one who might wanna read My rambling. And so it starts. And i have nothing to say right yet but not to worry, something will come along soon.

For example, as this is the initial entry in what could prove to be an extensive record of my writing, it seems i ought to establish some ground rules, or constructive context, maybe a 'thesis', as it were.

A thesis is easy. In theory, this is a collection of ideas. Though mostly text, multi-media is an apparent possibility, so we'll see. The format could be formally journalistic, or might end up as drunken babble at times. So we'll see. There's only one way to find out. My idea is that i'll keep a couple different blogs under different topic headings like Music and Books. This one is Notes to No Body (for now). This seems to be the self-indulgent area where i'll pretend that someone is keeping tabs on me by writing about my day and my feelings and ...


That's not exactly accurate. Chappelle observed of 'every womans' story that, "There's too many feelings, get on with the story..." you get the idea, so i'll move on.

Firstly, after all that, i reserve the right to claim as Fictional, any incidents, people, places or opinions described anywhere under my name. As it turns out, most of it will in fact be true, but nothing i say here should ever be used as evidence in court or any thing. Elaboration, embellishment, convenient fake plot twists, direct quote interpretation, and vague fact manipulation are all part o the game here, so don't get mad about anything i say. You probably won't, but just in case, is all.

Further, it is important to note that most of these entries will be posted bright and early late most mornings. At these strange hours, my mind may not always be trusted to project correct impressions, especially when i become mis-understood or beyond comprehension, whichever comes first.

So the question remains, is it going to be awkward if a bunch of people read along as i lose my mind? Maybe, but hopefully a few of you ('you' hypothetically being a small contingent of family and friends) will at least find it kinda interesting.
For now, it seems the chief purpose of this blog will be to keep track of myself in South Africa (Cape Town) this summer. It'll certainly save me from sending the same slightly altered e-mails to fifteen different that's convenient.

As a practical matter, it seems that a clever, concise menu of all my writing won't appear as i'd like it to, so the way to go is to click on my 'complete profile' er whatever on the side menu there and then i think it should show the list of different topics i been pontificating upon. Right.

For the record, i'm flying to Cape Town on the 5th of June. My purpose there is, in the most general terms, to learn and to teach. I'm there until the 15th of July, when i fly to London for a few days before ending up back in Minneapolis on the 18th. As of now, i'll be back in D.C. on the 29th of July.

OK for now. It's getting early and i need a nap.