https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FDeepLookPBS%2Fvideos%2F879300018921245%2F&show_text=0&width=560“>Crow Funerals from the PBS Deep Look series.
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Roger Anderson is an aficionado of all things telephone–except calls from telemarketers. After putting his son on the phone with a sales guy who ended up cussing at the kid, he went to work creating a robot capable of reading inflections and holding long conversations with telemarketers, thus wasting their time. He’s even given a TED Talk about it. Since the first release, which featured Roger Anderson’s own voice, he’s expanded to a menu of various genders and personalities (there are samples here). Subscriptions are cheap, considering how jolly it is having some bots on your side. Check it out: http://www.jollyrogertelco.com/
I stumbled upon this short (1 hour, 18 minutes) film on Netflix and it seems such a gem I have to share. InnSaei is an Icelandic word with multiple meanings, all appropriate –I won’t give it away, see the film!
Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir landed and worked for women’s rights in her dream job at the UN. Eventually the stress of her work led to a painful miscarriage, and she had get her bearings. How had she become so disconnected from her emotions to not realize she was burning out?
From there she seeks out scientists, like neuroscientist and indigenous consciousness expert Marti Spiegelman; Marina Abromovic, the artist well-known for her work of sitting and gazing with whomever sat before her to connect without words; and Malidoma Patrice Somé, a West African spiritual leader, and others.
It’s worth all 78 minutes. Leave time for a walk afterwards.
“This morning I have been pondering a nearly forgotten lesson I learned in high school music. Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant. Yesterday, I read an article that suggested the administration’s litany of bad executive orders (more expected on LGBTQ next week) is a way of giving us “protest fatigue” – we will literally lose our will to continue the fight in the face of the onslaught of negative action. Let’s remember MUSIC. Take a breath. The rest of the chorus will sing. The rest of the band will play. Rejoin so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you must add your voice to the song. With special love to all the musicians and music teachers in my life.” — attributed to Madonna (I’ve not found its original source. I suspect the “blow up the White House” kerfuffle has overshadowed it).
Resistance is a long position.
For many of my friends and I, the past three weeks under the Republican administration have been a horror show as many of our causes and the agencies monitoring and protecting common interests (e.g., affordable healthcare, clean water, national parks, women’s governance of their own bodies, etc.) face blitzkrieg assault. How many petitions can one sign? How many protest marches can one join? It’s exhausting. Frankly, the speed and number of these attacks are designed to be exhausting, and they will continue. It’s a favorite strategy of self-serving powers – each act of resistance takes energy, each fact-check requires time and effort and rides the heels of a lie already gaining ground and whose repetition will continue.
A brief and relevant interlude for art: The Last Exit to Brooklyn knocked me sideways when first I read it. I remember reading to the end of “Tralala” and having to stand up and pace out the energy, scream-whispering, “Holy shit! Holy shit!” because I had just experienced the perfection integration of voice (the tension of the line!), form, and content. Tralala’s desperate circumstances, her bravado violence – nigh unforgiveable, and yet the end pleads compassion. It’s a masterpiece. Most stories/segments in the book also hold characters traditionally considered despicable (especially in 1964 at publication) who walk in the dark. It can be a tough read, whether you read for craft or pure story, and yet, even the mighty Hubert Selby, Jr. let a beam of light and laughter in with “And Baby Makes Three,” where Spook (and his motorcycle hat) finally show up with an old police bike; it stands out as a single matchlight of pure happiness.
Where is your matchlight? You may have to hunt for it.
That our world has survived more competent raptors than those running amok in our government for the past few weeks may not be enough. The Nazi war machine was halted; Hitler croaked; Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot are all dead. This this pinch-sphinctered bullshit, too, will end. Small comfort, given the devastation the others left in their wake. I need more than this fatalistic tidbit. I imagine you might, too.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the onslaught, but find news illuminating what offers your worldview hope and makes room for courage. It’s like getting warm in the middle of a panic attack – it may not completely fix everything, damn, if feeling cold doesn’t make it all feel that much worse. What serves for balance and respite will vary according personality, context, and situation.
A tiny list of examples for start:
- While not a full-on break, the biting response of the rogue Twitter accounts for muzzled federal agencies gave me a wagon-fixing spike of joy.
- Megan Stielstra’s and Dia Tschirki-Penning’s #host project, a response to Oklahoma HB 1441. Pitch in, if you like:
“Megan and I are finding as many strong, heroic, in your face females we can. Tagging them as “Host”. And sending to Governor Mary Fallin.
Additionally, feel free to call her office and let her know what you think of Oklahoma’s HB 1441, which refers to women as hosts for fetuses and requires paternity tests before women are allowed to make decisions about their care. (405) 521-2342”
- Shinrin-yoku AKA “forest bathing”
- Iceland’s Best Witchcraft Museum
- Donna Seaman’s book looks amazing.
- The Curiosity app delivers 5 tidbits of varying interest each day. You can check out their site here.
- Craft some art, damn it. Write, draw, paint, act, sculpt, throw a pot, quill, quilt, knit, embroider, collage, sing, make music, dance, perform, design…
- Check out some art at, say, Colossal or the current ArtAIDS exhibit in Chicago.
- Look to folks who build community through story – check out 2nd Story and its people.
- Here are a few people and organizations helping homeless folk with tiny homes and socks (I can personally vouch for Bombas – best socks I have ever worn. For every pair they sell, they give a pair away). It’s a start.
- Southern Poverty Law Center has a multifaceted, teaching Tolerance. There are webinars, teacher’s own experiences, and resources. Not the only resource out there, but a place to start.
Is your brain tired? Want action over news?
- Plan and plant a victory garden. A move toward self-sustenance can work wonders, and watching seeds sprout and grow feels good. Here are some planting schedules to get you started.
- Or make your plans for the LGBT March on Washington.
- Run for Office tells you how to do just that.
This is just the beginning. Where do you turn for balance?
The recent immigrant policy, as wrong and infuriating as it is, is a shell in a shell game; what’s more, each shell contains a nut threatening to grow into a malignant tree. While people rightly rage about the blatant injustice toward immigrants, Bannon is offered a special throne at the National Security Council. This is the strategy outlined: https://medium.com/…/the-immigration-ban-is-a-headfake…
The EPA and environmentalists’ and climate change scientists’ concerns are abraded in typical GOP fashion: Lie, repeat the lie until people have heard it enough to think it’s true. Remember when “X out of Y scientists say” suggested what followed was almost certain fact? You can thank big petroleum et al, Christofacists (thank you, Kieryn Darkwater for the term), and now the White House (go rogue Twitter feeds!) for the erosion as empiricism falls to “facts interfere with profits” and “I believe it, so it must be so.”
Then there’s the gutting of public and higher education, already well underway as corporate types have convinced colleges and universities they need someone with a head for business (e.g., “Columbia’s Identity Crisis”). Once the corps(es) assume control, expensive consulting firms are hired; reports are demanded where every program and person must justify their for-profit existence in the organization no matter the evidence supporting their tradition of excellence or the success of their alumni; beloved, capable, entrepreneurial chairs are let go for no cause; all chairs are replaced with interim chairs – some of whom do not hold terminal degrees or working experience to support their elevation; they replace the deans with interim deans (see a pattern here?); courses get streamlined, watered down, mediocritized to resemble what every other school does (death to innovation!); they wear down faculty unions who must either give up the school or file complaint after complaint at the NLRB — often for the same damned offense over and over; departments merge and faculty fear losing their positions; one-third the staff are suddenly cut and set at odds against the adjuncts; enrollment drops, so tuition raises, then enrollment drops again until all the nonsense actions make one wonder if the corps(e) administration wants higher education to exist at all. And don’t get me started on public education. DeVos might as well be made of granite, because she’s a tombstone.
The GOP and their corporate puppet masters don’t want an educated, critically thinking, problem-solving citizenry — a population that could actually keep our country innovative and our economy expansive (but is harder to keep under thumb). They want people who can read and regurgitate the employee manual, who are so dopey-thankful for their “right to work” (misnomer of misnomers there) jobs, they don’t question anything, not the water poisoning them, not the oil pipeline through their lands, not the heavy metals (that apparently increase violent tendencies) in their soil and air, etc. Screw the future, they want easy big bucks now, and who are we to stand in their way? I’m waiting for the wrong asshole to sing-song, “let them eat cake,” too loud around the wrong crowd.
It’s a shell game, and it’s rigged; whatever shell you pick, you lose. The disenfranchising of rainbow marriages and lives, the defunding of Planned Parenthood – really, focus on any individual shell and a dozen more slide in and out of view. Step back, take a broad perspective – wherever the hand tries to engage your attention, you can be sure of missing something important either on or under the table.
Keeping calling your governmental representatives (look ’em up here and add them to your contacts) so your views balance against professional lobbyists and corporate interests — make those politicians do their jobs, keep speaking up, keep protesting, keep talking to people on “the other side” but the surest move I can see is upturning the table in the next election, if there’s still a table.
While listing these suicide prevention numbers in response to the news of the LGBTQ rights and civil rights pages disappearing from the Whitehouse.gov website, I’m thinking about some of my former students who were horrified by the 2016 Election results. First things first, we (rainbow, Black, Latinx, artists, women, people with disabilities, the poor, people who need healthcare and don’t know where the money’s going to come from, and the list goes on…) need all hands on deck and if you want a chance in the fight you have to stay on the planet. You have to take care of your own well being. You have to breathe — keep breathing.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde*
*Thanks to Jessica Young for this quotation.
The GLBT National Help Center
Hotline: 1-888-THE-GLNH (888-843-4564)
Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-PRIDE (800-246-7743)
From their website:
Monday thru Friday from 1pm to 9pm, pacific time
(Monday thru Friday from 4pm to midnight, eastern time)
Saturday from 9am to 2pm, pacific time
(Saturday from noon to 5pm, eastern time)
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) National Hotline provides telephone, online private one-to-one chat and email peer-support, as well as factual information and local resources for cities and towns across the United States.
All of our services are free and confidential.
We speak with callers of all ages about coming-out issues, relationship concerns, bullying, workplace issues, HIV/AIDS anxiety and safer-sex information, and lots more!
We also maintain the largest resource database of its kind in the world, with 15,000 listings. Our database contains information on social and support groups, as well as gay-friendly religious organizations, sports leagues, student groups and more. We also have information on LGBT-friendly businesses including lawyers, doctors and various counseling professionals.
There are many others, but I’ll include these two for now:
The Trevor Project: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people ages 13 to 24.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This one’s for anyone and everyone
J K Rowling on the Benefits of Failure [Video, less than 3 minutes]
Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.
Just because your vision of what you (we) want your world to be was flung a bit further and into rougher turf, it doesn’t mean you stop moving toward it, breath by breath, word by word, petition by petition, hand in hand with those who see the possibility too.
We lose each other, my wife and I. This woman and I spent our first five years in an extended honeymoon, but it’s hard to continue our feral love-play when the kids constantly vie for our attention. The thrown-together siblings want their Mimi (their biological grandmother) for attention, permission, and cuddling. They narc on each other to me (the grandpa with boobs). They take our reserves and leave us with nothing—not for ourselves, not for each other. My writing sucks right now, and there’s nothing for it but to keep at it and trust, in time, something will break free.
Kev (I guess you could call him my son-in-law—not in fact, but in relative relationship) used to mow the yard, back and front, so his son could play in it. This good man could not sit still, always needed something to work on, and our backyard was a joy to him. Since Kevin’s death in November, I hadn’t needed to mow—not really, just enough to run the gasoline out of the mower before winter. But spring eased in through the cold and, damn, if summer isn’t coming–the grass was knee high, in late May, before I could make myself drag the mower out. The hedges are overgrown. Weeds everywhere. Rats have been digging under our air conditioner.
Fucking Kevin, you damned dead junkie, how will I fill your shoes around this place?
But the grass is mowed finally. And the boy loves it.
Our daughter doesn’t quite know what to do with herself—I don’t know if it’s the awkwardness of puberty or something else, but Gail and I sit on a bench swing and watch the sky roll over our heads, unable to decide if we’re going to do anything about the invading duckweed other than mow it, while Miss M sits in a swing with her knees above her elbows trying to get the boy to play some game he’s not interested in.
A day or two later, feeling cut off from myself (I’ve all but dropped out of my creative community, read lately more than written, scribbled journals more than drafted manuscripts), I dropped November’s addition to our family—Kevin’s son, a charming, tax-your-limits, four-year-old boy—at daycare and, rather than rush home to the endless list of what must be done before we rattle apart, I wheeled over to Montrose Harbor to be alone. Lately, the little guy’s been punching the rest of us without provocation and throwing a kind of tantrum I’ve never witnessed before, not even in Kmart. But he’s out of the car and it’s a relief to have him off my hands.
My wife and I used to throw peanuts-in-the-shell for crows. We’d get up before her nursing shift and, while waiting for the daycare to open (I tend to be insanely early for everything, as if lateness causes death), toodle up and down the park, feeding squirrels and crows. Even our daughter, who is now might-live-to-be-thirteen (yes, that’s a real age), remembers when a half dozen surrounded the car at a time, snatching a peanut or two and winging a short way off to peck, eat, and brag raucously. This is back when she was in the same daycare where we’re now taking the young boy. This was back before my wife’s head injury, when she was still a working RN. Back when there were enough crows to wrestle space from the insanely greedy gulls. I didn’t find any crows this time, and I missed them.
I ended up staring at the water’s chop. I’m ashamed to say the flash of shadow and light reminded my blunted mind of television static. I caught the thought as it flit through, numb and sad, and pulled out of my parking spot in hopes of shifting into a better mindset and rolled into the turn-around to listen to sailboat rigging clang in the wind.
Before reaching the end of the long arm sheltering the harbor, I came upon a goose family spread into a couple clumps in the grass swath between the main drag and the dockside parking lot. Two adults with five still-fuzzy goslings just shy of the size of grown mallards. After a three-minute rest, the geese rose to peck in the grass, their fuzzy miniatures following with similar movements (so orderly and cooperative!), then one parent walked across to the water’s edge and one gosling climbed on the sidewalk, too, while the rest lined up against the curb and the rearguard adult joined them there for a lie-down. The way the light played on their fuzz suggested how heart-meltingly soft they would be to pet, not that I’d brave adult geese to touch them. A flock of adult geese lingered across the road, but apparently only one pair had young just now.
No doubt, the kids would have loved to see them, but I chose not to share this with them, not, at least until I’d brought my sweet. The next day Gail and I found them at the east end of the harbor, near where we sometimes find a rabbit or two, and call out, “Shank!” when we do. They made their slow walk through dappled shade and sun, and it was peaceful to watch. A mother, father, and their young daughter in hot purple strolled along the harbor walk, until the father pulled the daughter with him, running, arms wide, chasing the goslings.
“I hope that goose pecks him in the balls,” Gail said, and I wished it, too.
“He doesn’t think, does he, of how he’d feel if something bigger came along and chased his daughter,” I said.
But then the people were past and the goose family collected again, goslings pecking as their parents kept their heads high, watching after the interlopers, wary of the sidewalk.
That evening, we took the kids, grabbed some Long John Silvers, and headed for the Skokie Forest Preserve.
At Long John Silvers, under a low, wide shrub, a young rabbit, no more than a handful of fur, edged into the grass eating clover. If anyone approached, it dove under the greenery, but once they were out of range, right back out it came, undaunted. Somehow young creatures—well, young animals, anyway—have a renewing effect children don’t always have. I suspect it is because young animals act in accordance with expectation, they share instincts with their parents. Human children are much more up for grabs, especially those whose home situations have landed them with relatives.
At the forest preserve we picnicked and threw the leftovers to the raccoons.
Though he showed an interest in potty-training at eighteen months, we have had to wean the little guy out of Pull-Ups (trust me, cloth training pants work better) since November, and he’s mostly got it down, but this evening the boy wet himself rather than tell us he needed to go, so we cut the stay short. Reinforcement. Luckily the fit he pitched was small, straight-forward.
And so, we’ve begun returning to our drives through Montrose Harbor and up the park toward Foster Beach and back, and to the forest preserve. There’s not much to it. If there was, we’d find it beyond our scraping-the-bottom capabilities. We linger to watch animals, take stock of changes in the landscape—the beaches are coming inland, and the forest preserve staff have cut out the underbrush, giving the trees a nakedness not there before. We don’t know if we’re disturbed by these changes.
Eventually, we showed the goslings to the kids, too, as I knew we would. My proprietary secrecy was because I had wanted to share it with my mate first, to put us first for a change.
Gail has asked what I saw in her idiosyncrasies—in her fierce, biting kisses, in the way she craved my scent—and I chalk it up to us knowing we are animals—clever animals with opposable thumbs, but animals just the same. I don’t know if this is the only reason, but one way back to ourselves lies in the out-of-doors, in whatever nature we can find, first just us, then maybe with the kids.
Someday, I will figure out how to tell these nothing drives so you see, too, how they help the soul.