Archive for February, 2017

Photo diary: January 2017 (the anti-inaugural)

February 10, 2017

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You wouldn’t know it from watching the Senate Republicans’ disgraceful rubber-stamping of the appointments of one compromised and/or unqualified candidate after another to powerful cabinet positions, but the vast majority of the American people expressed their opposition to this president’s agemda on Election Day by voting for another candidate or not voting at all. I am reminded of that and heartened when I look at the pictures I took in Washington on January 20 and 21, where the streets were full of cheerful, energized resistance. Similar scenes took place that day and many days since then all over the world.

The night before the inauguration, theaters all over the country launched the Ghostlight Project, whose mission statement reads: WE WILL GATHER OUTSIDE OF THEATERS TO CREATE A “LIGHT” FOR DARK TIMES AHEAD, AND TO MAKE, OR RENEW, A PLEDGE TO STAND FOR AND PROTECT THE VALUES OF INCLUSION, PARTICIPATION, AND COMPASSION FOR EVERYONE REGARDLESS OF RACE, CLASS, RELIGION, COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, IMMIGRATION STATUS, (DIS)ABILITY, AGE, GENDER IDENTITY, OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION. I showed up for the launch at the Arena Stage, which was also hosting a community farewell to the Obamas that night.

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The next day my friend Joe Martin, who worked closely with Barney Frank for many years, and I made the rounds of the anti-inaugural events. Festive crowds gathered at noon at Union Station, people of all ages and colors, with signs, banners, puppets, and marching bands.

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Later in the afternoon the scene shifted to McPherson Square, where there was a rally with numerous speakers and musical performances, but the action was mostly hanging out in the streets communing with others as a gray pall hung over the city. A contingent of anarchists broke some windows and torched a limousine, which the TV news highlighted to suggest dangerous rioting in the streets, but the gathering was pretty low-key. The police presence was enormous, and I got the distinct feeling they were pretty much on our side. The people in the red baseball caps trickling out of the official inauguration wore expressions that looked somewhere between smug and sheepish.

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At the end of the day, Joe’s husband Clint met us at Busboys and Poets, a hip and groovy cafe/coffeehouse near the Catholic University campus, for dinner, where they were passing out free copies of Shepard Fairey’s beautiful “We the People” poster (you can also download it for free here) and where we spied this cute young couple rocking their pussyhats.

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Quote of the day: HYPATIA

February 9, 2017

HYPATIA

The greatest library in the ancient world [was] located not in Italy but in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt and the commercial hub of the eastern Mediterranean. The city had many tourist attractions…but visitors always took note of something quite exceptional: in the center of the city, at a lavish site known as the Museum, most of the intellectual inheritance of Greek, Latin, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Jewish cultures had been assembled at enormous cost and carefully archived for research…

Hypatia was the daughter of a mathematician, one of the Museum’s famous scholars-in-residence. Legendarily beautiful as a young woman, she had become famous for her attainments in astronomy, music, mathematics, and philosophy. Students came from great distances to study the works of Plato and Aristotle under her tutelage. Such was her authority that other philosophers wrote to her and anxiously solicited her approval. “If you decree that I ought to publish my book,” wrote one such correspondent to Hypatia, “I will dedicate it to orators and philosophers together.” If, on the other hand, “it does not seem to you worthy,” the letter continues, “a close and profound darkness will overshadow it, and mankind will never hear it mentioned.”

Wrapped in the traditional philosopher’s cloak, called a tribon, and moving about the city in a chariot, Hypatia was one of Alexandria’s most visible public figures. Women in the ancient world often lived sequestered lives, but not she. “Such was her self-possession and ease of manner, arising from the refinement and cultivation of her mind,” writes a contemporary, “that she not infrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates.” Her easy access to the ruling elite did not mean that she constantly meddled in politics. At the time of the earlier attacks on the cult images, she and her followers evidently held themselves aloof, telling themselves perhaps that the smashing of inanimate statues left intact what really mattered. But with the agitation against the Jews it must have become clear that the flames of fanaticism were not going to die down.

Hypatia’s support for Orestes’ refusal to expel the city’s Jewish population may help to explain what happened next. Rumors began to circulate that her absorption in astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy – so strange, after all, in a woman – was sinister: she must be a witch, practicing black magic. In March 415 the crowd, whipped into a frenzy by one of Cyril’s henchmen, erupted. Returning to her house, Hypatia was pulled from her chariot and taken to a church that was formerly a temple to the emperor. (The setting was no accident: it signified the transformation of paganism into the one true faith.) There, after she was stripped of her clothing, her skin was flayed off with broken bits of pottery. The mob then dragged her corpse outside the city walls and burned it. Their hero Cyril was eventually made a saint.

–Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve

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Photo diary: January 2017, Colorado (part 2)

February 7, 2017

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In addition to visiting my sisters, we also hung out with Andy’s Aunt Jeanne and her partner Russ, who makes his own wine. And I had a long-anticipated reunion with my dear old friend Tami Tanoue, whom I hadn’t seen in 50 years. We went to fourth, fifth, and half of sixth grade together at Tachikawa Air Force Base in Japan, and thanks to the wonders of Facebook we re-connected a few years ago. She lives in Denver with her husband Roger, a comic-book writer, five dogs, and two cats.

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We also dipped our toes into the world of legal cannabis, where Colorado has led the way. We had a look at five different shops selling the whole array of cannabis products in Denver, Aurora, and Boulder. One cool thing about legal cannabis is that products are labeled with information about the potency, suggested dosing, and how long it takes to kick in. The staff at any dispensary are also extremely well-informed and happy to answer questions. How would you know otherwise? O brave new world!

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For all the time I’ve spent in Denver, I’ve never visited the art museum, so we took a couple of hours one afternoon to repair that oversight. Aside from the thoughtfully curated multiple exhibitions (we had a look at “Audacious,” a show of contemporary political art, as well as the permanent collection of Western and American Indian art and masks and fabric from Oceania) and the unusual architecture, the Denver Art Museum has more ardent interactivity than I’ve ever seen before. Rooms for parents and children to sit and make things. A system encouraging viewers of challenging contemporary art to identify and express the feelings the artwork evokes. Wall plaques that go above and beyond the call of duty. Very well attended on a Tuesday afternoon. And a cafe serving delicious food.

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Photo diary: January 2017, Colorado (part 1 — la famiglia)

February 6, 2017

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My middle sister, Barbara, turned 60 on New Year’s Day, so we flew to Colorado to celebrate with her and to meet the newest members of the family: my niece Jeri’s daughter Kyla, who was born the day after her brother Kody turned 21, and my youngest sister Joanne’s fiancé Richard, who is such a cannabis devotee that they’re planning to get married at Bongathon this summer. The birthday celebration was hosted by Barbara’s younger daughter Carlee and her fiance Michael, who has a super-smart and super-cute 9-year-old son named Josh, and also attended by Jeri and Carlee’s brother Adam, his girlfriend Jamie, and his son Brent, as well as my older sister Marianne, who flew in from Maine. Richard and Michael watched the football game while some of us took the dogs (Molly and Mia) for a walk. The next day there was a family photo shoot at a studio in the nearby mall operated by a friendly pair of African-American guys, and then I packed my sisters into the car for a drive up to Boulder where we had late-afternoon tea at the Dunshanbe Teahouse, which was designed and created by over 40 artisans in Tajikistan who then took it apart, crated it up, shipped it, and then flew to Boulder to reassemble it in 1990.

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Quote of the day: ANGER

February 6, 2017

ANGER

When I was angry,
I kept asking how
anger works.
No one understood

my question.
Friends thought I was joking.
Or being obtuse.
Friends would say: What

do you mean
how anger works
Anger is anger. What
are you asking.

And I would say:
Well. Is anger
a finite
material.

Is anger like hydrogen,
and there’s simply
a certain amount
of it in the universe.

Is there a zero sum
of anger, a law
of the conservation
of anger,

and can we
pass it back
and forth.

Can you take my anger
and leave me less?
Can I take your anger
and then have more?

Is anger a renewable
resource, like trees
or coral reef, subject
to natural rhythms

and mass die offs,
forest fires,
and warming tides,
cycles of growth and depletion.

Is anger something
you spend like money,
that you save or spend
and is gone as it goes,

or something that
is replenished like ejaculate,
more on the way
as soon as you send some off

or is anger like ova,
each egg coming
on its own schedule,
until they run out.

Is anger like pus,
a response to a wound,
that you can drain,
or that you can heal,

Or is anger like a gas
you can vent
so it won’t explode
the tiny vessel

or is anger like water
that will explode
the water balloon
unless you tie it off

at the right time.
I thought someone
had to know
the answer

because I was consumed
by anger,
it was under
everything I did

I felt it all the time,
all the time,
and it never
departed.

I didn’t have a breakdown,
though I asked friends
if what I was experiencing
was a breakdown (no,

they said, a breakdown
looks only
like a breakdown), and
I looked OK,

but no one knew
how to help me,
and I told a friend
that I wasn’t OK

and she told me
that I was OK,
but the anger was there
all the time,

like a pair of shoes
that were always
between me
and the ground I walked on,

and I kept asking everyone
how anger works:
Can you drain it?
Can you vent it?

Can you stop it?
Can you heal it?
Can you trade it?
Can you sell it?

And no one,
no one, no one,
no one knew
what I was asking

until finally
someone asked me
to describe
what I was feeling,

and she said
you’re not talking
about anger
you’re talking about rage,

and I realized
that I’ve never
experienced anger.
I only know rage.

Which helped a lot.
Which explained why
I could only think
about striking out

and then not strike out.
Which explained why
I knew which plants
in my garden could be made

into poisons, and how.
Which explained
why my daydreams
turned into

elaborate fantasies
about harming people,
until I did the things
I imagined to myself,

and listen, please listen,
I knew it was bad,
and I wanted out, but
I couldn’t write

my way out of it,
and I couldn’t think
my way out of it,
and I couldn’t love

my way out of it,
and I couldn’t read
my way out of it,
and I thought I would live

with it forever,
that I would contain
it at whatever price
I had to pay,

and I’m telling you this,
and I need you to listen,
because I’m saying
that I do understand

what it’s like to want
everyone else to suffer
as much as you
are suffering,

and I understand
what it’s like
to want to die
both to contain

the pain of rage,
and to spread
the pain of rage,
and when you read

of this murder or
that bombing, know,
these killers are not
inhuman or monstrous,

but rather that they
are weak vessels for rage,
that they are balloons
that burst with their rage,

that they are pipe bombs made
of flesh and bone,
and peace is what I want
more than anything else,

but peace is so fragile,
so easy to take, so easy
to lose, and so they take it
from you, to feel less alone,

and I’m out of it now
because I thought
I had done it to myself,
but I didn’t. And I see

that now. I’m closer
to peace. I’m further
from rage. I’m a bomb
no longer ticking,

but I was a bomb.
Hold me tight.
I was a bomb.
Hold me tight.

–Jason Schneiderman

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