Monthly Archives: January 2013

Thought for Thursday: Definitions

So, this:

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the language we use to talk about the things that are important to us.  Part of this thinking is spurred by some conversations I’ve been having with smart people about things like gun control and civil rights, and part of it has been inspired by the fact that I’m designing a new film as lit. course that investigates the ambiguous hero but I’m finding that it all comes down to one crucial idea; it’s not necessarily about language.  Certainly, the language is important and influential, but I’m pretty sure that the language is secondary to perspective.  What you see – and, consequently, what you believe and how you talk about something – depends almost entirely on where you stand.

One of the big problems with this is that perspective is a complex thing.  SO much goes into the framing of our perspective; it’s not just demographics, though things like our age and income or education level have a lot to do with how we see things.  I really do think that there’s something more, and perhaps deeper, underlying the way we perceive things around us, and I think that has a lot to do with our investment in or attachment to the systems that are being challenged or defended.

I only went to two classes for my last L.U. course before I took off on my own to finish the work as an independent study, but in those two classes, the professor said something that stuck with me; when you’re looking at something, she said, the first question you should ask yourself is, “who benefits from this?”  Essentially, she was asking the students to think about who’s invested in the thing – whatever it is – and to recognize that it’s not always the people we may think it is.

I remember thinking about this when I recalled the Occupy movement and the disproportionate response the protesters often received at the hands of the varied police forces involved (both municipal and campus).  Watching these clashes play out on t.v. and on my facebook feed  (I’m friends with someone who was (and likely will be again, if and when they ramp up demonstrations in the spring) active in the Occupy Oakland movement), I was thinking about how odd it was that the police should be involved in disrupting these actions; it seemed to me that the protestors were acting in the best interests of people like those who work as police and firefighters and teachers and regular working people.  That bothered me until the professor asked her “who benefits” question, and I realized that the police – the people in the uniforms – weren’t necessarily acting out of their own interests but were instruments of others who had an interest in putting those demonstrations down (often in decisive and harsh ways).

I mean, sure; I’m willing to concede that there were probably a number of officers who disdained the protesters as insert-stereotype-here and were annoyed with them for being a nuisance.  I know at least a couple of cops who are very by-the-book, rules-are-rules kind of people who disapproved of the demonstrations.  The thing is, though, I also know one or two (and know of several more) who respected the actions of the protesters and who recognized that they (the officers) were a part of the group that they (the protestors) were advocating for.

I find it interesting, in a bitter sort of way, that the people in Tahrir Square in Egypt and in other places during the Arab Spring were portrayed as righteous freedom fighters by our media, but the people in Zuccotti Park and Oakland were most often characterized as dirty, lazy, unemployed trouble makers.  I’m disturbed that the way our power structure looks at peaceful protests may be taking a decidedly dangerous turn.  Who decides who’s a ‘terrorist’ and who’s a ‘freedom fighter,’ and what say, if any, do we as citizens have in the making of those definitions?

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Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Mohandas Gandhi was assassinated today in 1948.

In honor of his memory, I’m going to be especially watchful for opportunities to do small kindnesses for others today.  We never see how far out a simple act of gentle kindness can ripple.

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Ten Things Tuesday

Ten apps I have on my phone:

1.  The Constitution.  Yes, I’m a dork; I have a copy of the Constitution on my cell phone.  I actually use it, too, so there.

2.  Our Groceries.  This is an app that lets us create different lists (groceries, hardware store, Target, that sort of thing) and anyone in the family can add to the lists.  I’ve found this incredibly convenient; we’ve pretty much eliminated the “why didn’t you buy granola bars?” by asking “were they on the list?!”

3.  iBooks.  I was thrilled – thrilled, I tell you! – when I discovered that the app on my iPad and the app on my phone talk to each other!  I can read my book on the phone while I’m waiting for kids to get out of school; the app will open where the last bookmark (on the last device) was placed, so I open the book where I left it on my iPad, and when I come back to the iPad that night, the bookmark is moved to where I stopped reading on the phone.  It’s awesome.

4.  My Fitness Pal.  This app is actually much easier to use on the computer, I’ve found, but I have used it on the phone, too.  It’s where I keep track of diet and exercise.

5.  Walkmeter.  This is an app that I use all the time, but I’m certain I’m not getting all that I could from it.  There are a bunch of features I haven’t figured out yet, but it gives me the basics of time, pace, estimated calorie count, and distance that I want.

6.  NPR.  It’s 50/50 whether I’ll listen to music or news as I’m walking, and having the NPR app means I can stream the news pretty much whenever I want.  I also use this app to stream through the car during my local station’s pledge week.

7.  Gas Buddy.  I’ve often been annoyed to have paid for gas at one station, only to drive by another on my way home which is selling at a (much lower) lower price.  I’ll pop open this app before I leave and figure out which station along my route has the lowest prices.  Sometimes, gas vary by as much as a dime on the same street; it’s crazy.

8.  Pandora.  I usually only open this app if I’m going to be in the car for an extended trip and I’m not in the mood for NPR.  I’ve been told that Spotify is a better service, but I haven’t really tried that yet.

9.  Facebook.  The Facebook app on the phone is easier to use than Facebook through the phone’s internet browser.

10.  C-Span.  I downloaded this to listen to the Clinton hearings on Benghazi and the confirmation hearings for John Kerry when I discovered – much to my geeky annoyance – that none of the NPR stations I could find were airing them.  I’m almost embarrassed by how excited I am to be able to get live streaming on this thing.

What are your favorite apps?

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Monday Musing: Read This Book

I was listening to Fresh Air the other day and, as often happens, I was captivated by what I heard.

Terry Gross was conducting an interview with Bruce Levine, who’s just published a new book, The Fall of the House of Dixie.  This was the kind of interview that I’ll sit in my car in my garage to listen to, and by the time it was over, I was rabid to read this book.

I’ve always been fascinated by certain time periods in history; specifically, the Civil War, the Holocaust, and the Civil Rights Era (I’ve always been curious about the American Revolutionary period and feudal Japan, too, but to a lesser degree).  I’m not sure what it is about these eras that enthralls me – perhaps there’s some sort of spiritual or energetic connection to them – but whatever the reason, I often find my attention completely monopolized by anything having to do with these times.  I can spend days at museums (in fact, one of the things on my wish list is to spend an entire week at the Smithsonian museums in DC, soaking in all the artifacts and documents), I’ll watch every movie and documentary I can get in front of my eyes, and I love learning new things and getting different perspectives about things that I thought I already understood pretty well.

Nonfiction really isn’t my favorite genre.  I’ve read plenty of it, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve usually read it under obligation – for a class or a workshop.  I picked up House of Dixie fully expecting to leave it at some point early in the narrative – in fact, I borrowed the book from the library because of that expectation; why buy the book when it was likely I wouldn’t even finish it.

I devoured it.

It is exceedingly well written, engaging, meticulously researched, and surprisingly satisfying.  I was delighted by the references to ideas and events with which I was already familiar, and even more thrilled by insights and details I didn’t know.  I have every intention of buying this book now; it’s something that I can imagine myself re-reading, and it would make a very useful resource for anyone looking to do some research into the time period in general and the question of slavery in particular.

One thing that I did find a bit unsettling about the whole experience, though, was the similarities – often baldly frightening similarities – between the rhetoric of the white, wealthy slaveholder in the mid 1800s and the rhetoric coming from the GOP in general – and the right wing in particular – from right now.  Take this line, for example:

Emancipated southern blacks would stream northward to steal the jobs, the women, and the dignity of white men.

Replace “emancipated southern blacks” with “illegal immigrants,” and you get something straight out of this evening’s news.

Much of the thinking I did with this book was about the politics of identity, privilege, and fear.  I wonder – I honestly and truly wonder – how much of the GOP’s rhetoric about women and immigrants and GLBTQ people and everything else finds its foundation in the idea that some people (a lot of people, very likely) need to have someone to look down on.  If everyone has the same rights and privileges and opportunities that I do, then what’s going to make me special?  What’s going to preserve my place (however tenuous that place might be) if we let just anyone in?

Watch this all the way to the end; I think this is what we’re really dealing with here:

If you ain’t any better’n a nigger, son, who are you better than?”  Perhaps this is the essential problem.

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Quick Hit: Sick

Ugh.

For the last week, my family has been laid low by a particularly energetic snot monster.  I have been vigilant in washing my hands, taking plenty of vitamins, and drinking my weight in green tea every day, but the bastard is catching up to me.

I got subs for my yoga classes this morning and am planning to take it easy today.  I patently refuse to get knocked down by this thing, do you hear me?  Refuse.

I’m going back to bed.

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Six Word Saturday

Vitamin chemotherapy against the snot monster.

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Quick Hit: Packing My Schedule

I really think I need to master my iPhone’s calendar function, and quick!

The fitness schedule for Local U. came out this afternoon, and I’m on it 5 days a week!  I have three yoga classes and two strength training classes, which is awesome because, let’s face it, I’m not exactly the most self-motivated person when it comes to getting my butt to the gym for my own sake.  That being said, there are a couple of classes that I want to start taking – both at the club and at L.U. – that I need to remember before I get distracted and lose track of the time.

I signed Mr. Chili and me up for a partner yoga class on the 15th of February and yes, I asked him first.  I’m kind of really looking forward to that; I’ve been wanting us to do more stuff together, and I think that a little yoga would do my stressed-out beloved a bit of good.

I started another class in my CAGS program last night, so my Thursday evenings are booked through the middle of spring.

I’m planning a couple of meetings with friends over the next week.  I’m working on a lunch with the professor of my last class, and dinner with a friend and colleague (who’s excited to show me something she’s been doing with her students).  I also need to connect with O’Mama and Boywer sometime in the next week or so.

Mr. Chili is going away for a week in early February, so I need to psych myself up for being the solo parent and householder for that time.

I’m trying to coordinate a dinner between us, the Senior Chilis, and Martin and his wife.  The oldsters really hit it off at our Christmas table, and they’ve all asked me to coordinate another dinner date.  The email for that went out today.

Finally, I’m scheduled for a fitness certification class in early March that I need to NOT forget about.

All of that happened in the last few days.  Phew!

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