Morning of amazing dance

Sleepily flicking through Instagram this morning I got a glimpse of an amazing looking dance and had to look up the full video. I saw Loyalty Dance Team at the International Hip Hop Dance Fest in San Francisco a couple of years ago (doing their stunning 101 Dalmations number). This is their Black Panther – 6 and a half minutes of pure shining talent – Fantastic choreography!

Here’s their Instagram if you want to follow!

I am now feeling very energized!!

Bonus video because I LOVE BIG FREEDIA SO MUCH

Some recent Internet reading

An interview with Jaron Lanier, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/delete-your-account-a-conversation-with-jaron-lanier/#!

So the problem is that when people say, “Oh, we use social media for social justice,” they’re typically correct. And yet in the longer story they’re really vulnerable to a far greater backlash than they would have gotten if they used another technique. At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether they really benefited or not.

I disagree with what Lanier seems to be trying to say here. Of course if your activism reaches more people you are going to get more backlash. Are the specific people advocating for change ever going to be the ones to personally benefit for that change? Rare!

What they want to do is take whatever input people put into the system and find a way to turn it into the most engagement possible. And the most engagement comes from the startle emotions, like fear and anger and jealousy, because they tend to rise the fastest and then subside the slowest in people, and the algorithms are measuring people very rapidly, so they tend to pick up and amplify startle emotions over slower emotions like the building of trust or affection.

Interesting, and makes me think of Stardew Valley and its slow building of relationships between the player-character and the NPCs, relationships that have to be maintained. I also thought of the first example I was aware of, of the seemingly pointless exchange of tokens of approval in a social network, which I think was my friend Yoz creating something called “Sweeties” in Ning. And tangentially, of all the feminist sf utopias where there are barter based economies. Build in and opting into “slower” economies of attention could be possible – Excuse me while I go invent actual real life friendship, and the postal system – But seriously, I like this point and the only real answer to it may be to point this out to folks and for us all to seriously think about how we want to spend our time.

I am also thinking of my essay on culture clashes and the underlying assumptions of the trolls of the 00s with particular feminist communities. One assumes that showing that you are harmed is evidence you need to be harmed more in order to do you the favor of toughening you up. The other values its “hugbox” (a term used as a pejorative by the trolls) ie, its social contract to be supportive, kind, and to value the courage of vulnerability.

There is something to thinking “well, we SHOULD be alarmed and upset” about how things are – I think that is mistaking the early or middle phases of consciousness raising for a desirable steady state of being. It is normal in my view to have something of a breakdown as we try to integrate awareness of our participation in harmful, terrible or evil events and systems. As we see these truths we have to form some kind of narrative about what is happening and what we’re doing. That is where we’re at right now in public discourse – we are in a phase of rolling chaos and dis-integration.

Another article: This particle physics news was neat to see, as my ex partner used to work on these sorts of experiments (including AMANDA, the precursor to Ice Cube).

There is an open call for submissions to Cripple Punk Zine:

Our goal is to continue spreading radical disability acceptance to as many people as we can. We want to help raise disabled people’s self worth and self esteem, support disabled content creators, and create more spaces for disabled people to unapologetically be themselves. Every single disabled person deserves to feel empowered!

We are currently accepting submissions for the first issue, which will answer the question, “What is Cripple Punk?” and what cripple punk means to different people. The first issue should cover topics central to the cripple punk movement, like fighting ableism, embracing diversity, becoming empowered, and rejecting the roles mainstream society expects you to fit into.

I may write something and send it on.

I enjoyed this essay by Harry Giles (a rec from Sumana) on nurturing vs. shock in performance art.

Learning how to care for your audience is actually far more aesthetically interesting and politically disruptive than working out how to shock them.

This fits well with reading Lanier’s interview.

On shock and harm in art:

In each of these works, it is clear the people are actively harmed by the art, and this raises vital artistic and political questions. Who is it that is harmed, and why? Is it worth it? In Pussy Riot’s case, the punk gig offends worshippers and people who believe in a certain sanctity of the church space, who feel violated, but I would argue that in this case the violence is justified in the cause of attacking a patriarchy whose foundations rest in part on that very sanctity. But these are not easy arguments to make, and they are not artworks that I think can be taken or performed lightly.

I thought of myself and some of the activism I have done, for example, times I have been naked for a cause. Was my going shirtless at riot grrrl concerts or stripping down for a picture for body positivity with Nakedjen in various places a positive, transgressive act, or a rude, offensive, illegal, non consensual violation of other people’s space that possibly harmed someone? Is it different from Kavanaugh flashing Ramirez at a frat party and if so, how? My view here is that the potential harm is important to acknowledge, and that the expression, intention, exuberant joy, humor, etc. was worth the risk, and the context has to be considered.

thumbnail of two women

The Future Is Fluid

Enjoying my visit to New York a lot already. This morning I had breakfast in our super nice hotel (Townhouse Inn). Tonight will be busy and I get tired easily, so I didn’t want to try to do anything big. I set off towards the nearest museum, which I knew nothing about – The Rubin Museum of Art, a few blocks away, picked out from Google Maps. It’s a museum dedicated to Himalayan arts and culture.

Along the way I browsed in a vintage jewelry store which had a lot of little wooden drawers full of stuff (like, a drawer for the 5 dollar tie pins, and 10, 15, and 20+ pins) There were drawers for brooches with people on them, animals, leaves, circle pins, birds…. I got a tie clip that is a very cute enameled bus from the 50s and something called a scarf clip that has morpho butterfly wings in the design that said it was from 1944. Anyway, I needed a clip because, all the way to the museum, I had to keep feeling at my neck to make sure my nice silk scarf didn’t fall off. Now the clip can make sure (or, I will lose a scarf AND a clip!)

At the museum I enjoyed the wrathful deities who represent wisdom and the small gold statues from the 13th-14th centuries especially the one of a historian and translator, Zhonnu Pel.

But I especially loved the the animations by Chitra Ganesh (The Scorpion Gesture), and The Road to Sanchi by Ghiora Aharoni. Of Ganesh’s animations I super loved the large glowing panel called Metropolis (must be in reference to the movie with Maria the robot) I watched it twice – get ready for the somewhat inaccurate/incomplete description from memory. It started out in sort of cosmic space/time in the stars with a Buddha and a writing (woman’s?) hand, some scrolls/books and a giant glowing flower and buildings which looked old (a monastery I think). More buildings arise in a mountain backdrop and then giant black feet stomp on everything so that the land and mountains fracture (I suppose many disasters including colonialism and invasions or diasporas) It is all a gorgeous technicolor neon collage. The giant feet are like Kali trampling and I also thought of the Monty Python foot. Felt that there were a lot of inter-references to stuff I missed but that didn’t lessen the impact – clearly more depth, but accessible to the ignorant. There is a rainbow, more buildings, an airplane, tall buildings and urban life appearing over and along with the older buildings and temples, then I think the 2nd buddha appears in a golden statue form, its face changes to a woman’s face (but I don’t know who specifically) and her body is like a cyborg goddess body which raises an arm and some sort of energy (weapon?) appears in her hand. It was gorgeous and apocalyptic and many-layered, with a relentless quality to the action. Loved it so much!!! Science fiction feminist visions are the best. My head exploded! I could have watched it 10 times! Thank you future historians of the (im)possible!

The other exhibit that really struck me was The Road to Sanchi by Ghiora Aharoni. It is a curving array of battered taxi meters in glass bell jars. The meter has a small strip of video screen playing and if you go around the back of each one there is a digital camera attached to the meter, playing the same video, full screen. Each one is a journey through busy crowded city streets (though in at least one, a more rural road) to a sacred place of various religions, in India and I think maybe Nepal.

I was pretty tired by this time so did not watch each of the 12 or so videos of the journey. I spent a fair amount of time with it though. My mind had already been floating through my own journey to new york from san francisco & through the street this morning on my scooter mingling with the crowds and enjoying the many layers of time of this city where on every block there are buildings in stages of dereliction and renewal built on geologic-feeling accretions of cement and tunnels and asphalt and pipes. Purple glass “light tunnel” windows inset into older bits of sidewalk. You can feel the infrastructure just seething.

Then, just before I got to the Road exhibit, I had sat at a desk by the elevator, where you can write a letter to a future museum visitor. On seeing that I realized that someone had handed me a letter from another visitor on my way in (I took it with thanks but assumed it was a sort of “please donate” brochure) So, I sat at the desk, got out the letter, and read it. Very sweet: “Dear Visitor, Don’t leave the museum without taking an idea that can impact how you live your life! Enjoy the wisdom of an ancient culture, whether you believe in religion or not. – Batya” Nice, as I am in fact not religious – only a poet. Maybe someone will enjoy the letter I left in the box.

So the idea in “The Road to Sanchi” of someone centering the pilgrimage (rather than a destination), through these multiple cameras/videos of specific places and times, but all playing at once, where I could wheel around their graceful arc (of time and space) made me very happy, feeling even more pleasantly catapulted in my awareness out of linear time and connected to many times and places. (Thinking of the artist’s, and by extension, everyone else’s, experiences of their lives). The somewhat chaotic street scenes, sense of not being in control (as a passenger not the driver) but in control as the viewer of art. And the battered, gritty, homey feeling of the iron taxi meters, of a place I have never been so they are not familiar to me, but from their being more or less the same made me feel they were familiar to others who are not me, another sensation/thought that is beautiful.

In a small library exhibit there were shelves of books on culture and history, travel journals, and science fiction, especially noticed the heavy amount of Octavia Butler’s books and then the book Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler (edited by Rebecca J. Holden & Nisi Shawl) just leaped out at me. I may have pulled it off the shelf to put it on top of the book stand display!

Notes on access: The museum is spread out through several floors with a small wheelchair lift to the main lobby and then a separate bank of elevators to 6 other floors. It was pretty accessible but larger powerchairs may have trouble with the somewhat narrow hallway to the bathroom (i.e. you could not turn around, and would have to back out of the bathroom and hall). There were a lot of free headsets with audio descriptions for some of the separate exhibits. The front doors were heavy but well balanced enough that I could (barely) open them but there were people in the lobby standing by to help. So all around, very accessible.

Now getting ready to meet friends for dinner and go out to the performance of Descent which I’m looking forward to quite a lot.

Reading Weeklypedia

Every week I read through the list of most updated Wikipedia articles, just out of curiosity. You can subscribe to Weeklypedia’s handy mailing list if you don’t have enough email or want to casually monitor trends in news and culture.

Most of the very active articles are related to sports, movies or TV shows, and military conflicts. And of course, any sort of natural disaster or extreme weather event. Sometimes, you can spot a group of friends or a Wikipedia editing party/workshop in the list of new articles. It’s interesting!

And there is neat metadata too. Last week, 40,167 registered users and 78,263 unregistered users made 814,642 edits to 361,740 articles.

I was riffling through this email last night during a bout of insomnia and thinking back to the fun times from running Wiki Wednesday events, and the creative things people would do with data from Wikimedia.

I want to recommend Weeklypedia here even if I don’t have any deep insights. It’s a nice additional source to reading the news, to know what people around the world are interested in at this moment, even if I’m mostly interested in the (rarer) political/military conflict articles. I found out about it from Mahmoud at the Free Bassel picnic in 2016 and have been reading it ever since.

Riot Grrrl documentary in the making!

It was super important for me to know about & be part of the riot grrrl movement – just to HAVE something culturally to identify with was amazing. I especially loved how multidimensional and spontaneous it was and is. People would hear the littlest thing about it and then declare they were part of it. It meant that we had context for our creative work that was lacking for us. 70s and 80s feminist work (which never stopped) for me were missing something that would include me as a young person. Here we had our movement that would refuse to devalue the cultural production & voices of young women and girls. Zines, music, discussion groups, all the amazing letters and mail art, taking punk to make it our own. It felt like an explosion of fertility & creativity!

Talking about something as history can feel wistful – like it is over. From my perspective it didn’t stop, there is nothing to have missed out on. The possibilities are endless & still going strong.

There is a new documentary in the making, GRRRL: 25 Years of Riot Grrrl and it needs our support! Please donate towards the making of this documentary!

You can see some of this work already in shorter pieces such as Lost Grrrls: Riot Grrrl in Los Angeles.

With every book on Riot Grrrl I read and every new zine I see popping up, I learn something new about how people see themselves in relation to the movement, to feminism and activism and politics. The more films and books, the better!

riot grrrl sticker

Informal register

I miss “real blogging” and was thinking that one reason I have been having blog-like posts and conversations on Facebook rather than here is that this blog feels more “formal”. I intended that from the beginning, but what if I were to be a bit more quick and casual in how I post here? It won’t feel like a conversation since comments are rare and our methods to find and consume people’s unmediated or unedited public writing have shifted to happen via tumblr/facebook/twitter/medium. I also use Dreamwidth for informal posting.

Here is a commitment to continue the pleasant ramble of my long posts on a platform which I sort of control (though not with the ideological purity of running my own server under my desk or whatever, since I use a hosting service).

Is this now an actual move of resistance?

I have a feeling the conversations will happen on FB and Twitter. The FB conversations especially will be lost in the mists of time and proprietary control and unsearchability and crap API. Alas. The Twitter stuff is at least reachable and searchable and I believe it has more chance to be archived for the future.

This, also, because I am increasingly annoyed at which people and posts Facebook shows me and doesn’t show me, even on the “See all” setting.

liz-flipping-off-with-funny-tshirt

The wtf-ological imperative

On the last day of Open Source Bridge I had a hilarious random encounter. I was taking some notes and making badges while listening to the lightning talks (which were great). A guy came up to me and gave me a post it note where he had written, “Wikipedia:” and then some links to articles on the categorical imperative, Karl Popper, and a couple more.

He said something like, “You might benefit from reading these, young lady.” Not sure what I said; something like “Ummm thanks. Why are you giving me this?” He said “I like SCIENCE.” I agreed that I also like science, asked his name, and shook his hand. Then I told him it was weird to call me young lady since I’m obviously old enough to be his mom. He went back to where he was sitting and the lightning talks carried on.

I really wondered what was going on. Had I ever met this person? Was he doing this with everyone or was he fixated on me for some reason? I looked at his web site. It didn’t seem odd. Maybe this was just a slightly socially awkward act, and not a Gift of Fear moment from a member of some odd corner of the manosphere. Maybe this is how Dark Enlightenment people try to make frenemies!

At some point later I was standing next to the same guy reading the unconference schedule. I asked him why he called me young lady and why he gave me those links. “Did I do or say anything in particular, at the conference, during my talks, blogging somewhere, that made you think I am in need of special education about empiricism?” He said everyone should have it. “Yes . . . but why me today? What is it? And why call me young lady? I’m 45. You look like you’re in your early 20s.” The guy said it was because of my tshirt. I was wearing my “End Patriarchy” shirt where the word patriarchy is in html markup as an “end” tag; a mildly nerdy feminist joke. He explained that he dislikes postmodernism. I said it was an odd thing to do. He then explained further that he calls every woman “young lady” and that even if I were 70 he would still call me that.

I had to leave the conference to catch my flight so missed out on this puzzling conversation, but I added as I went away that it wasn’t very polite and it seemed even not very empirical of him to classify me as young no matter what. I don’t always care about politeness, it isn’t that really; it’s that his action and the way he talked to me were mind-bogglingly condescending!

I thought about how communication generally happens. I have passed out flyers to people on the street or during rallies or events but usually not as a shorthand to tell them that they’re wrong in real life. Argument at that level generally happens in something that is framed as, well, argument, or public discourse, or has some other teaching, learning, or activist context. But perhaps my tshirt with its feminist joke is like an invitation to philosophical debate! Yes, I asked for it by wearing this outfit…. *snort* I think if this is going to be a movement, the enlightened ones need something more catchy than a torn pink post-it note. There should be some Kantian Chick Tracts for budding deontologists to hand out on the street to anyone who expresses some identity politics or looks like they might edit the Geek Feminism Wiki. Like creeper cards, but you just hand them to people who are sitting in a chair minding their own business! There could be a whole series of philosophical and political comic books that let feminists and other wrong headed folks know where we missed the logic train. It would be especially great as part of a cult to save our scientific souls! Like Less Wrong, but *even sillier*!

Maybe trading cards or a collectible card game so that I could whip out an Instant and like, counterspell the dude’s Karl Popper with a Paul Feyerabend card drawn by Katja Foglio. It really needs more elegance and fun to be playable!

In short I could not take this moment seriously and had trouble believing it even happened. So I honor that WTF by pausing a moment to record it for all time and make fun of it on the internet.

Chick tract

The Superfest Dissie Awards

I had a great time last night at the Dissie Awards, part of Superfest, a very long running disability community film festival! Lawrence Carter-Long MCed and presented 3 or 4 short clips for each category like Worst Portrayal of a Disabled Person by Non-Disabled Actor and The Worst Disabled Villain. It was nice to see a bunch of local community leaders get on stage to accept the awards — some of the fake acceptance speeches were hilarious! Audio Eyes did an outstanding job of funny, sarcastic description that felt like watching Rifftrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than a boring documentary narration. Would listen again. It was great.

Dissie acceptance speech

My favorite was definitely the “So Sweet” which was about cute little white girls sweetly helping disabled people so I got to give several hearty rounds of booing to Heidi and Pollyanna (who along with Katy from What Katy Did, take up way too much of my brain with their angel in the house internalized ableism).

The event started off with a cocktail hour which I missed and then Lawrence opened up with a charismatic speech about how we would discern, disrupt, display, and discover as we Dissed.

Lawrence MC-ing

I can’t remember all the nominations but I did tweet most of the award winners for posterity. The Worst Performance of Disability by a Non-disabled Actor Dissie went to the guy playing the blind old man in Young Frankenstein. Prof. Georgiana Kleege accepted the award. In the world of Young Frankenstein, apparently blind people cannot get anyone at all to come over and share their soup. So sad! It was lovely to feel the audience reaction all around me as we cheered and booed how bad all the performances were as they played off stereotypes and made disabled people the butt of humor. It was often a hard call which movie to boo the loudest for as the judges watched and listened to the crowd, because the spectrum of Hollywood badness was so vast!

Shirley Temple in Heidi as she teaches Klara how to walk and then ends up being more important to Klara’s family than she is, won out over Pollyanna. It was a very hard call for me. Was it worse for Heidi to be telling Klara she could walk if she just tried hard enough? Or worse that Pollyanna told her sick neighbor lady, the one disabled person in town, that she wouldn’t die if she wanted enough to live, and then stormed out in a huge ragequit? The deciding factor for me was that it was extra, extra horrible for Klara’s dad not to love her until she could walk! Christina Mills from the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers accepted the award pointedly remarking that ther are great organizations like California Youth Leadership Forum where Klara could hang out instead of being with that poisonous little brat Heidi.

Crowd for the Dissies

Joshua Miele then took the stage to accept the award for Worst Miracle for the actor playing the paralyzed guy in Monkey Shines. I think it was voted up because the movie’s badness outshone the actor’s bad portrayal! Personally I was rooting for Forrest Gump and the moment where his leg braces exploded off his legs as he ran like a world class athlete. But hey, we’re taking this super seriously, can you tell? Josh invited his alterego, or friend, Manny Zannasshole, to give a speech about his sensitive directing and producing of this miracle moment inspired by his knowledge of “the differently crippled, or whatever you people are called these days, people with crippledness” provoking a giant laugh from many of us in the audience.

Most Tragic was a painfully stupid display as we saw Clint Eastwood feel the terrible pain of the actor in Million Dollar Baby asking him to put her down like her family’s old dog because she could never be on TV again. Wow! It had to win for being most actually horrible and harmful to people’s lives. For me it is a matter of people telling me to my face that they think it is better to be dead than like me, that they would kill themselves, etc. But for many of us it is directly a life and death matter that threatens our survival as nurses caretakers or even family members decide to express their mercy or support a person’s suicidal thoughts instead of getting them help or fighting to change their situation and society at large. So Million Dollar Baby just had to win. Victor Pineda took the stage for the award and was super badass and funny as he told Clint Eastwood he might be better off dead than that ignorant and Hilary Swank’s character in the movie could totally have better friends if he would get out of her life. I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it.

Dr. Strangelove then beat out Mr. Glass from Unbreakable for Worst Villian. There are SO MANY. Strangelove has to win for popularity and for the thing that most people want to joke about when they want to joke about your wheelchair. But Mr. Glass was more truly the winner for his villainy being based on his internal bitterness over being disabled! Reverend Scott (?) went up on stage to take the award with his one black glove! You would almost think he had expected Dr. Strangelove to win. . . do I smell a fixed contest here?

Accepting the Worst Villain Dissie for Peter Sellers

The Crips Gone Wild category for buffoonish portrayals of disabled people causing havoc (AS WE DO) gave us clips from Other Sister, Radio, and Blind Dating. They were all horrible. Blind Dating with a very extended scene of the guy trying to fake that he wasn’t blind on a date in a restaurant. Comedy gold!??? Aaaaagh! Then the last category was “Hey, Only We Can Laugh At That” for truly bad comedy that is “Satirization without representation”. They were all awful and I have forgotten which one won because by that time it was quite late and I was tired.

My teenage son came with me to the Dissies. He enjoyed it a lot. He laughed his head off and I was happy to share some good political awareness and humor with him. He gets enough of it from me day to day just doing things like riding the bus. How nice that he knows it isn’t just me making my usual sarcastic muttering comments. He will grow up knowing quite a lot and being a good ally for others, as well as having gotten all the awesome wheelchair and scooter rides possible.

I hope this event happens again! Thanks to the Longmore Institute and the SF Lighthouse for sponsoring Superfest! I hope I can come out to more events and meet people — I often feel totally disconnected from whatever Bay Area disability activist communities are out there as I flounce around in my own little world. I have the community feeling and solidarity online but not in person and hope to connect more in the future. Anyway, if this happens next year I will wear a sparkley tuxedo and do it up in real movie award style !!

Squeezing dragon

My son and I spent some time this morning lying in bed, me with a big cup of coffee, still both in our pajamas, going through the blog archives of Johnson Tsang, a sculptor from Hong Kong. Our minds were blown as we paged through the many stages of construction of “Painful Pot” which is a dragon coiled around and squeezing a porcelain vase; and then “Convergence”, a pair of hands holding a melting gun balanced over a ravaged half melted face of Buddha. Both Milo and I liked Tsang’s politics, of peace and compassion over war and violence, and combining human contact with natural forms with all the ways he worked with faces and splashing liquids.

I love this blog especially for its exposure of process. How did Tsang get from this plain form,

plain-clay-pot

to this incredible complexity?

coiled dragon pot

The holographic thought had to live first, in Tsang’s mind. Through the exposure of his technique step by step, we can follow a little bit of how the reality of that vision came to be. For the vision to be possible the knowledge of what was possible had to live in his hands, the practice of playing with materials and ideas. I love that with material and words, music and art, performances and even just daily life, there is space and we have infinite potential to fill that space. The next five minutes could be a calm silence or there could be a revolutionary speech that fires your soul or a piece of art so beautiful and complicated you cry at the joy of being alive.

Process exposure shows us possible paths for us to take potential into reality and make amazing things. As artists or conscious agents of our own reality we can take that steering wheel, though not every moment can hold that weight. We could fill our lives a little more with those moments or commemorations, reminders, of them in the form of what we make or in public art. Looking at this site with my son, neither of us are sculptors, but I came away with a renewed sense of commitment to my own craft and life. (Or maybe it was just the coffee….)

Thanks for the gorgeous blog, Johnson Tsang!