it all comes down to this

I would characterize seventy percent eighty percent of my anxiety as arising from concerns about money. For a few weeks I've been feeling off kilter and aggressive, teetering between low and just plain angry. I realize now that it is pay day, that the fact that i don't have the prospect of two bounced checks hanging over my head, the sense of doom I've been hauling around is lightened. Not a lot, since there are still overdue bills whose checks haven't even been written, but there's a lightness to it nonetheless.

This worries me to no end, the fact that not having enough and not being able to keep up, even with a good job and a healthy salary (not great, it's just not as anemic as the rest of the non-profit world) means that my whole life is going to be like this. I'll always be biting my lip right around the end of the month, always pacing around in my head, entering and re-entering my budget into excel spreadsheets, hoping that some new formatting will make the tally at the end of the column change from a negative into a positive sum.

This, of course, is something I have always known. Something I thought I had accepted many eons and decades ago -- in middle school when my friends had new Espirit bags and not a stained hand-me-down from their cousins or in college when people flew to tropical places to get tans on spring break while I took a two-and-a-half day Greyhound bus from Massachusetts to Florida.

But apparently not. Apparently every few months the enormity of my debt, the hopelessness of crawling out from under it and the utter frustration of a hole in the heel of my boots has to re-hit home.

Still, it's pay day. Which means I got to pay my overdue cell phone bill. And I'll get to make the first of many (late) installment to my dentist. And perhaps a drink this lovely hallow's eve. Maybe I'll even allow myself to buy real gloves this winter -- not the $1.00 thin wool kind I usually get at the dollar store.


Nature versus Lack of Nurturing

I am sort of thrilled that the preiminent scientific publication, Nature, has published this commentary on the reality of gender bias in the sciences (and, one can assume, the world writ large.)

The story, by neurobiologist Ben Barres, tells of his experience as a scientist on both sides of the gender "divide." But, as he writes, "Anecdotes, however, are not data, which is why gender-blinding studies are so important. These studies reveal that in many selection processes, the bar is unconsciously raised so high for women and minority candidates that few emerge as winners. For instance, one study found that women applying for a research grant needed to be 2.5 times more productive than men in order to be considered equally competent."

There's a good article in the Washington Post about it. Elizabeth Spelke, a Harvard scientist says, "I think we want to step back and ask, why is it that almost all Nobel Prize winners are men today? The answer to that question may be the same reason why all the great scientists in Florence were Christian."

In his study Barres writes, “I am suspicious when those who are at an advantage proclaim that a disadvantaged group of people is innately less able.”


the first step

In repairing a broken state is here.

I am celebrating.

RIP Favorite

RIP Favorites

Number of times I've seen Sleater Kinney live (estimate): 20
Number of "super fan" weekends: 4
Number of years they've been together: 11
Number of times I've considered crying over a BAND breaking up prior to this one: zero

I feel like I want to blog something long and in-depth about why this is the end of an era or how they were so important to me. Or the side projects I hope each one picks back up on or how angry I am that some asshole from craigslist tried to get me to pay $400 for tickets to their new york show (why or why didn't I buy last week?). But instead I'm going to mourn quietly and post pictures of them like a fucking sixteen year old super fan. Which I am. But I'm also an adult fan who really craves and hungers the intellectual and political weight they brought to their music. And a sad girl who has a huge crush. And a music fan who has so much respect for how they played.

At various times I say that feminism saved my life. Or that riot grrrl did. But what I really mean is that Sleater Kinney, Heavens to Betsy and Bikini Kill articulated something critical for me that helped me progress as a person. The summer I spent as a college temp, doing data entry in uncomfortable suits with the Hot Rock blaring in my ear was the moment that I gained the self awareness and courage to do something with myself. I was 18, back in Oregon for the summer, and trying to reconcile my shame with my rage. Through sleater kinney, riot grrrl, feminism and friends I found something completely different -- hope and drive.

The pure energy of their music has been something I crave and await, their shows are always a rejuvination and discovery for me. I don't know how to describe it. They are that band for me. They arrived at a moment in my life and sustained a momentum that helped me progress.

I am really grateful to them and glad they made the records they did.

Thank you.



I have been awe struck to read the long list of articles about the Islamization of the West. From the NYT magazine ("After Londinstan") to the Economist ("Eurabia"), this trend of articles goes on and on about the schism between "Islam" and the "West."

I do not underestimate the threat posed by terrorists, religious fundamentalism or the Wahhabism movement. However, the focus of these stories on integration strategies (and their less than subtle zenophobia) is astounding when the real resistance and real struggle is not taking place in the West. Why? Because the same facism, with different faces, is trying to take hold.

We cannot rebuke facist anti-democratic forces with different anti-democratic facist forces. In Europe and the United States far-right movements that rival Wahhabism in their rhetoric (if not their actions) have gained enormous power over the last few years. We have indefinite detentions, torture, apocalyptic religious rhetoric, illegal government kidnapping, spying on citizens, in the US we have major news outlets (note I said major, not legitimate) calling for an "office of censorship."

What is the point of talking about assimiliation to the West when the very basic structures of a liberal society are being eroded around us. There is a culture of religious fundamentalism and political purity that does not offer a new model, but a different version of the authoritarian dictatorships that dominate other parts of the world. We do not have a vibrant political discourse in this country about issues of importance -- cut throat US capitalism rules the today with little or no international checks, to suggest other models makes you a commie and a has-been.

What I am arguing is that there can be no real change in the world climate and no answer to violent Wahhabi rhetoric that encourages murder and lawlessness unless we reaffirm those values at home. There should be no condemning of a free press and no action being taken by brances of government outside of the law. What do you offer someone who is angered by the poverty and explotation of the world's poor? Assurances that the US is big, bad and will get you no matter what? That there is no rule, no convention, no inherent value to human life that "presidential perogative" can't trump?

Until we reaffirm the value of basic human rights principles -- fairness, equality, justice and humane treatment for ALL people (good, bad, foreigner, combatant, citizen) there is no war to be won. Only a fight between two rival versions of evil.


the butch is back

My musing from a few weeks ago:

I'm cutting my hair tonight and this has sparked no end of conversations (mostly with myself) about the way in which I related to the world in gendered and or sexualized terms. Which is to say that I've lost a lil' of my mojo with longer locks.

Yes, there is something delicious about burning my hair between two hot ceramic plates in the morning and when I recently discovered that I can do that fun rock-a-billy girl thing with the front of my pony tail I was thrilled, but the drawbacks include that I never get hit on by the ladies anymore and I don't swagger as often. I don't feel the swagger. Having girly hair makes me feel. . . . girly. In all the bad not-reclaimed as empowerment ways.

And I want to think that such a thing is possible. That the explosion of "reclaiming hyper femininity as a way to turn it on its head" culture is possible -- ala the mainstream claims (at least in the beginning) of Jane or the semi-less mainstream arguments found in Bust -- or the general surge of indie-girl culture that focuses on pretty bags, hair clips, and pony purses. I'm all in favor, but can't escape that for me playing to the "girl" in me often requires employing a lower self esteem factor. While playing the butch in me (which I like to think of as the "laaady" in a really sort of low and funny voice) makes me more confident, feel less vunerable and more engaged.

Which may all be some form of fucked up internalized misogyny. Definitely is -- right? My annoyance with this is that I feel like after careful consideration, years of purging, etc -- a cultural assumption should be forced to go away. I should be able to don a dress and feel as cocky and sure of myself as I do laced up in a tie. Alas, alack. I only feel that way when I have a suitably butch haircut. Then I revel in the contrast, the juxtaposition. In dress with long hair I feel. . . like I'm going to church : prim, proper, contained. Properly packaged with pink bow.

Which is how I've been feeling anyway -- slightly contained. The new job schedule is hectic, robbing me of the extra two hours that I didn't used to realize made my evenings feel whole and complete. Who knew six-to-eight was such a vital time for rejuvination? Either way, the hair goes tonight.

A post haircut post-script is pending.


the sacrifice

I haven't spent much time thinking about what it meant for my father to re-enlist in the military until recently. Or, to be more specific, I didn't think about the risk to his safety or his life. Instead I've been preoccupied by what his involvment may mean for his ethics, his politics and his morals.

My father was in the Marines and reserves for 16 years, which means that he is four short years away from a military retirement. He informed me last summer that he was "considering" re-enlisting, doing weekend service as a JAG, and putting in his four years so he could have additional retirement income. Our conversation revolved around how I found this to be a uniquely selfish and short-sighted decision. He said that he had about a 50/50 chance of being assigned to a six-month stint in Afghanistan. This was all preliminary talk. He has constructed an intense set of justifications which include separating Afghanistan (which he views as a justified occupation) with Iraq (which he feels was an unjust war.) My objections to this include many, but the largest being that they are not separate conflicts from a military point of view and that people from Iraq and around the world are being transported, detained and tortured at known and black site prisons in Afghanistan. My personal objections to his leaving were about my family, my youngest siblings precarious age and unstable living situation and the overwhelming feeling that this was not about retirement, but escapism and the desire to play soldier in a real live war.

In the course of our discussion, my father seemed to change his mind. He did not speak of it the rest of the summer or that fall. Then eight months later, he was abruptly taking physicals and driving to Ft. Vancouver, WA to re-enlist.

We have not spoken extensively of this decision since it was made. Partially because he did it in relative secret and partially because I am afraid that we will run out of things to say to one another. As a JAG my father will play a critical role in advising soldiers about the legality of their actions in the arena of war. I send him reports from Human Rights First and accounts of soldiers being lied to about the restrictions of the Geneva Convention. I trust that he is doing the best he can to incorporate his own high standards into a compromised and corrupt system. At this point in this little endeavor, I can't ask for much more.

That has been consuming my thoughts. What role he will play in the continued abuse of detainees and citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the degredation of our troops by their leaders. I worry about his mindset, his self respect and his ability to withstand the new mentality that has permeated the military. But I have not worried much. If nothing else, he is a gentle, sentimental man enamored with the rule of law.

But on Monday I remembered that other thing he mentioned. Going to Afghanistan. I had not taken the time to process that risk or tabulate what it meant in my life and his. I have not allowed myself to process the danger or worry about his safety. To say I have avoided imagining it is the least -- I have actively pretended otherwise.

I'm sure my father thinks nothing of offering his service and potentially his life to the military. Perhaps not to the President or this war, but to his country and to his "brothers and sisters" in combat he is -- at least on the surface -- unflinching.

But I am not. I am horror struck by the prospect. Not just of a six month tour, but of the idea of sacrificing one's self to . . . well what? I can't even imagine what it would be for, who it would benefit, in whose honor or in pursuit of what abstract idea? I can't name one that seems solid. Patriotism? Honor? Freedom? Democracy? They meaning slips out from under the words and becomes immediately ironic, mocking, cruel.

I grew up in a small place. I went to a high school where kids (like me) were bussed in from rural areas north, south and east of town. When I went there, in the mid-90s, there were still less than 750 students at any one time.

So far, three soldiers from my high school have been killed. My neighbor Tyler Troyer. Joe Blickenstaff, who graduated the same year as me. And Kevin Davis, who was 41.

Three sounds miniscule, but when I talk to many people in my life -- they have numbers. They say 3,000. They talk about stories they heard on the radio or the news, blogs they've come across, films. For me, it is trying to recall Joe Blickenstaff's face -- to really hold it in my mind and not confuse it with his older brother Eric or his sister Susan. Three is a lot to lose, from a small place.

I am struck also by where they came from. Reading through the casuality list of soldiers from Oregon that have died is like reading a book on obscure places: Scapoose, Elgin, Pendelton, Corbett, Lebanon, Halsey. These are tiny spots, with multiple soldiers represented in the casulities list and innumerable more camped somewhere, fighting something. All of this was enough to make me feel removed from the esoteric conversations that often happen about the war in Brooklyn bars or my Manhattan office. But the reality that I have not been facing is something I can't even seem to articulate. My father is enlisted. He may go.

(post to be extended soon.)


The Petty Old Woman I've Always Been

Last night as I was smoking my goodnight cigarette a hail of paper came fluttering down from a window which was then promptly slammed back shut.

At first I thought someone had thrown a stack of pictures onto the street -- which I thought was a dramatic and beautiful gesture. But upon closer inspection I realized they weren't photos, but fliers. Fliers for house music. Fliers for a record release party for a house music DJ. That's right -- the same house music that rockets through two layers of brick with studied regularity on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. That pounding boring monotonous racket that does not stop. Not when the clock strikes midnight. Not when the clock strikes one. Not when I march next door at 1:30 in my pajamas and ring the bell repeatedly.

Editor's Note: I am not a puritan. I do not mind loud music. But I do work and I do get tired. I also am aware of the wonderful invention of the modern age -- headphones.

But there at my feet was just what I needed to make it all better: his name. Steve Porter. Steve Porter who is so boring and cliche that his album is called "Porterhouse". Get it -- he plays HOUSE music and his name is PORTER. And Porterhouse is a kind of meat. You see?

But that's not the satisfaction. The satisfaction was dialing 311 and reporting a sanitation violation. Hope that $50 fine keeps YOU up at night Stevie.