So, I’m remembering, and listening, and I have this to share, even though I know you’ve read it before :

So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?
The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old. I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found. I think of Dean Moriarty, I think of Dean Mor-i-arty.”

It’s performance that makes words worth something, or it’s wank.

You reckon?

This, from that


All this captures, I think, the fundamental truth that we can never adequately understand a human performance as a product independent of the performer. However outwardly focused the performance may be, its essential meaning includes the self’s development through its own exertions. We express ourselves not only to achieve something “out there”, but also because something “in here” drives us to it, and in the expressing we strengthen and deepen our inner powers of expression. As Kass puts it, “our genuine happiness requires that there be little gap, if any, between the dancer and the dance”. And the same principle applies to our assessment of the achievements of others: we rightly value every human expression, from the pianist’s recital to the scholar’s text to the quarterback’s athletic artistry, not merely as an external product, but as part of the unfolding revelation of an expressing self. Therein lies its ultimate significance. Conversely, whatever does not arise from the expressing self is not fundamental. There are, in the end, no worthwhile “things” in the world; there are only worthwhile doings.

from that via this made me think more about this. Which is good, I think.
And yes, I have subscribed to his newsletter. Heh.

Moving, virtually

As part of the exodus (movement of jah people) of the Burningbird flock, the ‘bottle might be in for a hiccup or two as DNS changes propagate and the hamsters switch wheels and so on. If a comment or trackback goes missing, please forgive, and repost.
Thanks, as always, to my kind and generous host and friend, the ferociously, gloriously and undeniably female Shelley Powers.
Update : I think I’ve smoothed over most of the slight post-move wonkinesses, but if something looks broken, please let me know. Thankee.

What Are You?

What are you?
No, really. What are you? If you stop to ask yourself the question, let it roll around behind your eyes for a minute, what kinds of answers do you get? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Well, friend wonderchicken, I hear you say, I’m many things. I’m a human. I’m an American. I’m a writer, I’m a painter, I’m a mother, I’m a husband. I am my children. I’m a big fraidy-cat. I’m an alcoholic. I am a philanderer. I’m a survivor. I’m a thinker, I’m a lover. I am a Christian. I’m a woman. I’m a miraculous fowl. The possibilities are limitless, I know. We’re all many things all the time, and as selves die, new ones are born within us to take their places. That’s what makes life worth living, what keeps us from going snake-raping bonkers from boredom while we scamper madly around in our hamstertopias.
So, what are you first? What is the facet of your being that stands before — or behind, if you wish — all the others? What, to put it another way, is the part of you, of your self-perceived identity, that you cherish the most, that you would be the least willing to have cut away like a tumor, or wiped from your present or your past?
To be fair, I suppose I think of myself and define myself, if forced to do so in a phrase, as a wanderer, a seeker, a lover of the new and the outlandish. As a meat machine for saying ‘yes’. These are all the same thing for me. Were these things to be taken from me, I don’t think I’d be myself any more, whatever that actually is. Or even a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Your answers will differ, no doubt. This is as it should be. But I’ll bet that in response to my question above, none of you who took a moment said to themselves ‘First and foremost, I am my weblog’.
It is possible, though, that some chose as their centrepiece ‘I am a woman.’
Recently Shelley initiated some discussion about women in the digital world and whether and to what degree they (or more properly, the persistent textual avatars that are their weblogs, avatars that seem so often to be mistaken for the actual person in weblogging discussions) are or are not undervalued or pushed aside or whuffie-starved on the New Frontier. Not being ogled enough — non-pruriently of course — in our eyeball economy, not linked-to enough, despite the fact that they have just as many important and useful things to say as the wrinkly old Y-chromo dangler-waving oligarchs like myself.
I’m not sure I understand this, to be honest, and so my response may be off-target. I answered at the time she brought it up, off the cuff, that

Me, I’m less concerned with what I _am_ than with what I do, and what I say, both in life or online. This goes for my attitude towards others, as well.

I mean, I do understand that some women feel that some not-women are somehow unfairly barring them from the prominence they deserve, and that Women As A Group are under-represented in the Link Market, and that it seems natural to think that since we have a clear duality with women on the one hand and not-women on the other side of this Weblog Gender Gap, that it must be the not-women who are to blame, especially since we’re talking in the context of Power (if not power laws) here. As much as I am able with my feeble faculties, I do follow the train of thought.
But there’s a reason I asked the questions I did, above.
Although I grant that many women who read this may define themselves first and foremost as a woman, there is no real reason for anyone else, male or female, to look at them through that lens. In other words, I may think of myself primarily as a Pundit (like all these assholes), for example, while the vast majority of people I interact with, on the IntArwEb or elsewhere, may well think of me first and foremost as a f–kwit.
Now, if I am shunned and ridiculed because most people (rightly or not) think of me as a f–kwit, I can hardly accuse them of discriminating against Pundits, of withholding their sweet linky love because they are set on unfairly restricting the rights of Pundits to punditize! They’re denying me because they think I’m a f–kwit (or a Cheesehead or a WonderMonkey or something), regardless of how I want them to think of me.
Now this example was not intended to accuse anyone of being a f–kwit, other than perhaps myself. My point is this, and I apologize for the tortuous path by which I’ve reached it : on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, or cares. Unless you tell them, and even then, not much. That is, regardless of what you perceive yourself to be first and foremost, or fifth and hindmost, and quite probably regardless of what facet or facets of your identity you strive to push to the fore in your online persona in your weblog (which, to belabour the point, is your avatar and not your self) others will more often than not react to you based on what they perceive you to be. Not what you wish them to think. Would that they did.
And, further, out here in Textistan, I think it may be fairly said that your gender is less important as a cue for the way people treat you than it is back in the office, or on the bus, or on the street, even if you do make it a point of order. We are all more brain than gonad out here. Well, most of us are.
So, does being a woman (or a homosexual, or a juggler, or a drunk) come first for you? Fine. I have no problem with that, and I applaud the self-awareness that has led to that understanding. Does that apply for your internet presence as well as your Real Life Persona? That’s a fine thing too. But expecting me to interact with you in ways that are constrained or defined by the fact that you have made that choice? Don’t bother.
Shelley asked

Are women linked less because our voices are different? Are we not as confident when making our assertions and are therefore less quotable? Are we not as aggressive in our opinions, and therefore less interesting?

My answer, then, is that asking about women just doesn’t make much sense to me. Not much of an answer, perhaps, but the only one I have at the moment.

About a year back there was much discussion around the neighbourhood about ‘identity‘. I think of the above as a coda of sorts to that discussion. I was intending to come out guns blazing, but I have not, in part because I’m too busy for a fight, in part because I don’t think it’s something starting a fight over is going to help, and in large part because all that crap above notwithstanding, I actually do think that Shelley’s probably right.
The dominance of males at the Big End of The Hockey Stick in our extended weblogging family is a symptom, not of deliberate exclusion of women, for the most part, I’m certain, but of systemic undervaluing of the contributions of women out there on the streets and in this other place, this place which still bears the imprimatur of the button-and-lever gearbox mentality that men have made their domain, to the slightly disdainful laughter of most women, since the first wheel rolled out of control, bounced down the hill and ran over Og’s favorite goat.
I suppose the balance will change as the machinery becomes more irrelevant and the men less proprietary, as more women wade in and kick a few asses around the block, and the phallerati will lose some of their dominance. I suspect it is an inevitability. But for my part, I won’t be paying any more attention to anyone’s gender — even if they ask me to — than I do now.

Hanguk Hamlet

It’s been a week of firsts for me.
I started the first job I’ve had in Korea where I feel like I am a valued professional rather than another Disposable English Monkey™ (parse, monkeyboy, parse!), and where I am treated (and compensated) accordingly. I did my first television interview, kicked interview ass, and got my first comments about how (inexplicably) good I seem to be at it.
Although I’ve eaten raw octopus before, I ate it for the first time seconds after it was killed and chopped to bits, in the casually cruel Korean style, tentacles wriggling obscenely on the plate, suckers gripping fiercely to the insides of my cheeks and my teeth as I chewed.
And tonight, I saw a Shakespeare play, on stage and in real life, for the very first time.
Not only was the play — a performance of Hamlet, directed by Korea’s most famous and lauded theatrical director, Lee Yoon Taek — my first Shakespeare, it was my first play in Korean too.
Not having much to compare it with other than a vaguely-recalled Death Of A Salesman about 25 years ago, it’s hard for me to say if it was a masterful interpretation of the material or not, but hell, I loved it. It was affectingly (and athletically) acted, beautifully designed, and, for lack of a better word, crunchy. Although I couldn’t understand more than one word in ten thanks to my pathetic efforts thus far in mastering Korean, I knew the story, of course, and though it may be sacrilege to say so, I didn’t mind the fact that my Shakespearan cherry-buster was essentially mime, with music.
I was wondering before we went if the translator would be able to preserve the music of the language, the rhythms and surge of it, in Korean. Sadly, they couldn’t, for the most part, not, I would assume, because of a tin ear, but because the music underlying Korean plays such a different song than the one that makes us dance in English.
The setting, at least in its cultural accoutrements, was Korean — the samulnori drums and percussion played a major role, and there were countless other references that anchored the performance firmly in Korea; in music and dance, in costume and prop, in set design and approach. The costumes were a mix of traditional Korea, ye olde Denmarke, and 20th century styles both modern and archaic. I was pretty sure that the suit that Guildenstern was wearing at one point was supposed to be a reference to the Japanese emperor during WW2, for example, although I may well have been farting in an interpretive windstorm on that one.
Regardless, I found myself wondering how many references I simply wasn’t getting, or getting entirely wrong. There I was, watching a play I haven’t reread in a decade, in a language I can’t speak worth a damn, chock-full of cultural references I almost certainly wasn’t catching, and I was in pig heaven! In part I suppose that was due to the Korean-crowd-pleasing song and dance routines, the swordfighting and the broad comedy, but not entirely, I don’t think.
What I mean to say is that there were certainly scores of well-educated Koreans in that concert hall who were soaking in the myriad subtleties in Lee’s directorial choices, in the deliberate linguistic felicities of the translation, in the references deliberate and merely fortuitous to matters of Korean history and culture in the dance and music and set design and in the ways that the actors delivered their lines, and whose minds were awhirl with the buzzing intelligence of this cross-cultural artifact. While I was just happily watching, with perhaps the thinnest rivulet of drool dampening my goatee a bit.
And it doesn’t matter. While their take-away from the performance was certainly different in perhaps every aspect from mine, and in both kind and degree the experience they had and the one I had were incomparable, it’s of no consequence at all.
This is why I could never have studied art or literature or film or anything of the kind at university. Because nobody has ever been able to convince me that even if (for example) you’ve studied a Shakespearean play for years, until you know the history and context of each and every nuance of the language and can name every innovation in every performance in the last 50 years, until your encyclopaedic knowledge of the author and his works dwarfs that of any other living human, until your wife has divorced you rather than hear another goddamn work about that scribbling bald f–k come out of your mouth….no one has ever convinced me that you the ‘expert’ are any closer to the kernel of the art than me, unschooled and unsophisticated, if I roll up to the show in my pick-me-up truck never having heard of ol’ Willy before, and leave the theatre 150 minutes later with my head ringing like a bell.
I’m funny that way.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Not Responsible

Given that Koreans are inclined — except in those areas of Seoul where us freakish, hairy, buttery barbarians are commonplace — to stare unblinking, or point and giggle when spotting a non-Korean, and are also known on occasion (when they’re pretty sure we’re not in earshot) to make westerners-as-apes jokes, this made me giggle. I don’t mind the stares as much as I used to, unless I’m having a bad day. I’ll probably have to get used to it again, living out in the boonies as we do now.
Anyway, I am so getting this made into a T-shirt.

lessons learned.jpg

The writing is Japanese, not Korean, but that’s OK. I’ll get that added in later. [found at The Site Which Must Not Be Named]