17 December 2007

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story by Chuck Klosterman

We all have the potential to fall in love a thousand times in our lifetime. It's easy. The first girl I ever loved was someone I knew in sixth grade. Her name was Missy; we talked about horses. The last girl I love will be someone I haven't even met yet, probably. They all count. But there are certain people you love who do something else; they define how you classify what love is supposed to feel like. These are the most important people in your life, and you’ll meet maybe four or five of these people over the span of 80 years. But there’s still one more tier to all this; there is always one person you love who becomes that definition. It usually happens retrospectively, but it happens eventually. This is the person who unknowingly sets the template for what you will always love about other people, even if some of these loveable qualities are self-destructive and unreasonable. The person who defines your understanding of love is not inherently different than anyone else, and they’re often just the person you happen to meet the first time you really, really, want to love someone. But that person still wins. They win, and you lose. Because for the rest of your life, they will control how you feel about everyone else.

03 December 2007

Sex Trafficking

The rise of sex slaves in America
The rise of sex slaves in America

NBC's Today recently did a piece on the Sex Slave industry, interviewing a 20 year old woman from Russia who was brought to the US under false pretenses and then forced to work as a stripper in a club.

This piece really exposed just how manipulative men can be. And while the piece paints these men as menacing and malevolent, I believe there is more to blame here than these men. The report shows how men were in fact more concerned with money than with the women. These women were forced to bring in a certain profit each day; they were brutally beaten and raped if they did not meet their quota. Moreover, each man was able to use these women for sex when ever he pleased.

So why didn't these women just leave? Fear. Plain fear. These men used violent force coupled with convincing stories to terrorize the women, keeping them fearfully in their place of abuse and marginalization.

So what's to blame? I believe that, once again, it is our concept of masculinity that is responsible for the actions of the men and the treatment of the women. This hyper-masculinity that views women as secondary sets up a power inequality, allowing for the men to exercise dominion over the women. Men in the sex trafficking industry use traditionally masculine tactics to keep their position of power: fear and physical force. Both of tactics reduce the women to objects, dehumanizing them completely. What's worse is that this formation of masculinity forms a vicious cycle that maintains the power structure. Hence why the women in the Today's story felt there was no way to escape.

Once again, I believe that society needs to revision masculinity. Profeminist organizations need to take up this issue to help make a redefined masculinity a social possibility. It is no longer enough to report these cases of sex trafficking. It is no longer acceptable to be passively sympathetic. It is time that we push for equality of the sexes but allowing men to reject hyper-masculinity as a self-definition. It's only when men can actually look at women as completely human beings that we will see an egalitarian world.

30 November 2007

La faute?

I'm a few days late on this one, but I read this morning that there has been another "national tragedy" in France involving a police officer and two young children. France has since been in upheaval, responding to judicial findings that the police were indeed not at fault for the deaths of the two children.

What's interesting here, more than the French love a good riot, is how this incident brings to the forefront all the social issues present in contemporary France. Immigrant peoples are flocking to France, setting up camp in the banlieues of larger cities and struggling to find work. France's unemployment rate is staggering: its destroying their economy while causing stress among the people.

This is not new. Look at the Revolution. France has a history of a wavering economy and the people have shown their violence. This incident is about more than two boys killed in an auto accident. This is about people who are economically oppressed, forced to live in unacceptable housing while working dead-end jobs that do not cover the cost of daily living. France's society needs to re-evaluate its structure and allow for full integration of immigrant peoples. This means that France must do away with it hierarchical elitism and learn to view all peoples as equal. This means that France must revision its policy on work while seeking to create new jobs that provide the opportunity to advance while paying enough to meet the needs of life.

The people of France have every right to be outraged. Perhaps no one is at fault in this specific incident, but the deaths of these children have become a national symbol of the mistreatment of the "other".

29 November 2007

The writer within

As finals approach, I've been amazing myself with my ability to beautifully organize complete bullshit into a decent paper. And sadly, most of my professors are happy, even surprised, by my bullshit. Which leads me to wonder: Is this what college, and by extension life, is really about? My (in)ability to organize shit into something that isn't superficially shit? If that's the goal of college, then I've succeeded.

But all of this writing is also causing me to questions my future. It seems like I just moved to Louisville, and I'm just now getting used to the city, but it's already time for me to be thinking about going to grad school. The GRE is next fall and I'll have to begin the application process in October. Not only does the immediacy of grad school scare me, but the fact that I have no idea what I want to do horrifies me.

I know that writing is going to be a huge part of my future - but in what way? Do I want a PhD in English? Gender Studies? Something that combines both areas? Or would I like to be a critic? Someone who works heavily with literary theory?

And then there's a small part of me that wants to just quit and get a job now. Do I really want to continue with school when the job market for teachers is already so saturated? Do I really have what it takes? Moreover, what would a man be doing in Gender Studies? I'm afraid that I would become the epitome of the "glass escalator" in that field. Because I'm a male feminist, I would be pushed further in the field - and I'm not entirely comfortable with that.

So many things to think about.

19 November 2007

Fleeting vestiges

Lately I've been reading a lot more for pleasure. The semester is winding down and I finally have the time to pick up some of the long forgotten books that have littered my bookshelf since last year. And fortunately, a couple of friends of mine have lovingly made a few additions to the list. Unfortunately, however, this has caused me to read in small spurts, picking up this book only to be come bored enough to pick up another one. I guess I've lost some of my attention span that I worked so hard to cultivate in high school. And since I'm constantly connected to the internet here at school, I've been more involved in the blog world, reading what all my friends can write - which usually ends in a bit on envy...

By far the most fascinating reading of done this past week was reading the memoirs of Virginia Wolf. Her prose is enveloping and leaves you with a sense of wholeness that I cannot explain. Most notably I love how she proceeds to describe the people of her memories. For her, you can never truly describe a person as they were; it is not possible to create a photograph of words that can accurately capture a person for one moment. Rather the author of the memory is only able to provide an acute approximation, a description of an outer shell, a fleeting vestige of the person that once was. This poignantly gestures to the persons wholeness and humanity while providing a sense of nostalgia for the person as they were present in the memory. Wolf notes too how the nostalgia can cause romanticized versions memories to replace the actual/factual ones.

I guess I rather like this view since I have been thinking of my father a lot lately. I have some very fond memories of him, and yet I feel like I fail in accurately telling someone about him each time he is brought into conversation. I miss him much more than I thought I would; I thought I would be okay, yet his death has left a hole in my being that I cannot quite explain and that I think will never fully mend. And I guess in a way, I think back on my relationship with my father with regret. I wish that I had been more forward with him from the beginning. When I came out to my family, he was the accepting one, he was the one that loved me without reserve. Why was he taken from me so soon after? There are so many things I wish I could have said, so many things that I wish I could have done: but I can't.

Memories are all that I have left. And with each passing day, those are becoming more obtuse, distant and fuzzy. They are something that I can no longer control, form, and recall at will, but rather dizzying images that seem to come from nowhere, causing moments of an intense sense of loss.

I miss him.

13 November 2007

Prehistoric Fassion?

I may be developing a proclivity towards reading MSNBC.com, but I was intrigued by and article published today that announced that prehistoric women had a passion for fashion. All assonance aside, I believe that this article is anything but believable.

The author writes that " 'According to the figurines we found, young women were beautifully dressed, like today's girls in short tops and mini skirts, and wore bracelets around their arms," said archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic.' Fallacy number one: both the author and the archaeologist just evaluated a past culture based on our contemporary ideas of what culture is.

Moreover, this article disturbs me because it seems to give a prehistoric notion that women were indeed meant to care about fashion. And interestingly the author quips that this culture was "[a] community was especially fond of children. Artifacts include toys such as animals and rattles of clay, and small, clumsily crafted pots apparently made by children at playtime." Again, women are characterized as having always already been mothers, which serves as another justification of sexism today.

This article serves only to perpetuate sexist notions of the feminine and tells us nothing of value about this past culture. I would argue that both the author and the archaeologist need to ask different questions about their work while being wary of sexist ideology within in their own interpretations. What power structures were present that called for these women to wear such clothing? Why are they pictured as mothers? Why would mothering be relevant to fashion?

Perhaps I need to rethink from where I get my news. Or if anything, I'll continue to write about these articles that are continuing to marginalize women.

Article can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21758213/

11 November 2007

A reluctant reaper

In a recent article on MSNBC.com, it was reported that the national average of executions has gone down over the past few decades. The report notes that even the numbers in Texas, a long-time record holder for executions - killing sometimes more than one inmate in a week - is on the decline. So why are these number falling? Why is our judicial system sentencing fewer criminals to execution?

MSNBC.com says that the falling numbers of execution is part of a historical trend - "What is acceptable in theory seems less and less tolerable in practice." Here we see that what is mandated is often not in line with the reality of death. Moreover, I believe there is much more to this than the executioners suddenly developing a weak stomach.

The masculinity of death is faultering. In fact, you might go as far as to say that some executioners are being feminized. Beware, emotions are running rampant in the courtroom! How could we as men be emotional about the condemned? How could we care a criminal's life when he as done such terrible things?! This hyper-masculinity that has for along as we can remember prided itself on its ability to be impartial and unemotional is no longer holding under the realities of death. The executioners are seeing just how brutal, how gruesome death really is.

And as emotions are seen as feminie, judges and executioners alike are seen as soft and losing touch with their job. Bullshit. Emotions are not feminie, but rather have been characterized as such. Forget it! Lose your stone-faced attitude and look into the face of reality! Death is not pretty - nor should it ever be reduced to a number on a page. Once again, I say we need a revisioning of masculinty that allows for men to be emotional, that allows emotions to help in the decisions we make.

I applaud these men in our courtrooms that are choosing to let their emotions guide their rulings, and for looking at death as a reality, not a distant objectivity.

06 November 2007

A Time To Kill?

I just read on MSNBC.com that 2007 is the deadliest year for American's fighting in Iraq. As out news media continues to print these staggering figures, printing more and more death tolls each day, I wonder how it is possible for us to continue to "stay the course". Is there not a certain point at which you decide that it is no longer worth fighting, that the loss of life does not justify the desired outcome?

Maybe I'm losing my identity as a man here, but let's stop and think about what's going on here. Those numbers reported are numerical vestiges of someone's life. A real human being. Shot, killed. Numbers are simply a method of being objective about death and do not accurately represent what death on the battlefield is like. Let's take out the numbers; let's put some emotion back into this thing call war and death. That person had a family who will miss him terribly. She had a life, one that will no longer exist. I don't doubt that fighting for one's country and dying for one's country is a high honour, but there comes a time where common sense must rule.

We need to call attention to the individuals fighting this war. I recently watched a television broadcast of a memorial ceremony for the Iraq war. Each individual name of killed American was read aloud. This is a start, but not enough. We need something that will give all of us back home a loud wake up call. This war is not something that we can hide in numbers on a page, but rather something that we should measure by the individual.

Then, I believe, we will realize that this war is not worth fighting. That staying the course is a bull-headed ploy and that we need not just a new direction in Iraq, but a full removal from Iraq. The damage done is, at least for the time being, irreparable.

Think of your daughter blown to bits, body parts scattered across a field. Then ask yourself when it's time to pull out of this war.

22 August 2007

Several other figures of speech

Since its commencement on Monday, school has been my life. I've chosen to take - I have nothing else to take - several English and Women and Gender Studies courses this semester. Since Monday evening, my nose has been deeply buried in a book of some sort, and I'm sure that I have read the words "gender", "inequality", "sex", and other various terms more than I could have ever wanted.

This is only day three.

While I'm excited by my classes and their subject matter, I'm apprehensive when I think of the course load. This will be by far the most difficult, but potentially the most rewarding semester I've had thus far at UofL. For once I'm actually going to be challenged academically while testing just how well I'm able to juggle all of my calendar pieces. But this challenge hold a high risk: my GPA cannot lower. Once again my perfectionism reigns. Anything less than A's is not acceptable to me. Not only will I feel like I somehow did not apply myself enough, but I could potentially lose my scholarships if I fall below a 3.5 GPA for the semester. I can't afford to lose anything right now - my scholarships are keeping me afloat.

I guess it's time for me to buckle down and bite the bullet and several other figures of speech.

08 August 2007

And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos by John Berger

According to whether we are in the same place or separated one from the other, I know you twice. There are two of you.

When you are away, you are nevertheless present for me. This presence is multiform: it consists of countless images, passages, meanings, things known, landmarks, yet the whole remains marked by your absence, in that it is diffuse. It is as if your person becomes a place, your contours horizons. I live in you then like living in a country. You are everywhere. Yet in that country I can never meet you face to face.

Partir est mourir un peu. I was very young when I first heard this sentence quoted and it expressed a truth I already knew. I remember it now because the experience of living in you as if you were a country, the only country in the world where I can never conceivably meet you face to face, this is a little like the experience of living with the memory of the dead. What I did not know when I was very young was that nothing can take the past away: the past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.

In the country which is you I know your gestures, the intonations of your voice, the shape of every part of your body. You are not physically less real there, but you are less free.

What changes when you are there before my eyes is that you become unpredictable. What you are about to do is unknown to me. I follow you. You act. And with what you do, I fall in love again.

02 August 2007

Oscar Wilde, The Disciple

When Narcissus died the pool of his pleasure changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, and the Oreads came weeping through the woodland that they might sing to the pool and give it comfort.

And when they saw that the pool had changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, they loosened the green tresses of their hair and cried to the pool and said, 'We do not wonder that you should mourn in this manner for Narcissus, so beautiful was he.'

'But was Narcissus beautiful?' said the pool.

'Who should know that better than you?' answered the Oreads. 'Us did he ever pass by, but you he sought for, and would lie on your banks and look down at you, and in the mirror of your waters he would mirror his own beauty.'

And the pool answered, 'But I loved Narcissus because, as he lay on my banks and looked down at me, in the mirror of his eyes I saw ever my own beauty mirrored.'

30 July 2007


As the summer is quickly coming to a close, I guess I could update this thing one last time.

I'm really not too sure how I feel right now. I'm no longer upset, lonely, confused, but rather indifferent about everything. I've been existing and nothing more - and I don't know if that should bother me more than feeling as I did for the past few months. Should it? Where has my passion for life gone? I'm hoping that it will return with the beginning of classes - once I get back into a routine. The summers are so lazy and seem to have no goal, no point, no purpose. And to that extent I find no comfort in them. Instead of finding rest I feel restless, trapped, nervous. Perhaps I'll take summer classes next year to help assuage my longing for structure.

Band, in one form or another, is slowly chipping away at my time. I've been a happier person since the beginning of band season. The guard is doing well and I predict that we will have a decent season - the guard at least. The band has a LONG way to go. These kids need to learn what intonation is... And how to play loud with a nice, supported and IN TUNE sound. But then again, I'm not on staff for the band, so I'll stick to the guard.

In addition to Corydon, DCI has been taking up some time. DCI Indy was this past weekend. I was nice to see the corps finally perform all of their shows. Phantom has the best horn line I've ever heard... What I would give to have that dark, rich sound... The Cavies guard was amazing, as per usual - though I could be a bit biased. I'll be traveling soon out to California to see DCI World Finals in Pasadena. I can't wait! I've never been that far west, nor have I ever seen the Pacific Ocean. Joyce and I have decided to spend at least one evening at Venice Beach, and I'm sure Charles will beg to go there before we leave.

One thing that hasn't occupied as much time as I wish is reading. I've done almost no reading this summer. I was hoping to have read at least four novels and a number of non-fiction articles this summer, but alas... I was lazy. I'm working on the new Harry Potter book, though I'm feeling a serious lack of motivation to read it. Perhaps on the plane to CA I'll finish it. I need to finish Angels in America before the start of the semester, as I'm sure it will play into several of the classes I'm taking this fall.

I guess this is it for now. I hope to update on a more regular basis now... The whole routine thing again...

05 July 2007

Function Lust

A few years back I received an album from my horn professor entitled "Function Lust." I've always been slightly put off by the title, know full well the implications of the word "lust." Yet now as I grow older, I think I'm beginning to understand that part of the human soul that the horn player was trying to explore, that pure joy that comes from performing an action, over and over again, perfecting one's execution with each repetition.

This Function Lust becomes and all-consuming passion. We've all experienced it - you might have loved to play basketball or create something from paper and glue. But what about those obsessions that last into adulthood? These actions as object are what is meant by Function Lust. And as adults, we can let the action replace what was once gained from performing the action, that is we lose sight of the action's original purpose.

In most cases, this Function Lust began as something that helped us escape the quotidian, the mundane. And perhaps this activity was supposed to enrich us and those around us. But when is it that one crosses the line from helpful and health activity into Function Lust? It is my belief that the line of Function Lust is crossed when one neglects either themselves or the people around them, or both.

This is what I'm afraid I see in some people close to me. And once healthy activity quickly transforming into Function Lust. And it breaks my heart that one day they will be faced with the decision feeding their Function Lust, or keeping the ones they love. To me it is obvious what one should choose - people should always win over objects, but sadly Function Lust can become so powerful that many of the people who suffer from it will be blinded and choose to continue their passion, rather than continue to love the people that should mean the most to them.

This is simply an obersvation: nothing more. I wish I knew how to correct this issue, knowing that even talking about an affected person will more than likely result in feelings of contempt... May both our mind and our spirit within us dwell as one, making one music as before...

But vaster...

28 June 2007

How much longer?

I'm quickly realizing that this summer - at least thus far - has been a gigantic waste of my time. Outside of working, I've really done nothing that I deem worthy of anything close to a good memory. Perhaps it's because I'm working too much. And believe it or not, I'm completely broke. So my busy schedule coupled with my limited funds has caused this summer to be a bust. A joke. And what's worse, fall semester is coming soon and I'm going to feel like I've had not time to recover from last semester, setting myself up for yet another disappointing year academically.


Life just seems to be a constant battle right now - a battle to stay on track and reach for the goal ahead. When I get depressed like this, I keep reminding myself that things will be better in August. Once Charles is back from touring God knows where, and once UofL pays me, then things will be better.

But will they?

I would like to believe that money and having the love of my life back will solve everything, but I doubt that it will. I foresee perhaps one week of bliss before its all ruined with classes, tests, and papers galore. And no matter how much I wish to believe that I can hold down three jobs while balancing Charles and school, I know that it simply cannot be done; not without sacrificing myself physically and academically. Something has to give.

So let's get my priorities straight:
1) School - I MUST complete whatever I've started here, regardless of how pointless it may feel now. No BA = no life. Period.

2) Charles - I have to remember that I'm no longer planning just for myself now, but for my partner as well. Our shared future must be in the front of my mind, meaning that I must plan my academic future - no matter how meager - around him. And, ultimately, a relationship cannot happen without time. I know that he and I will be living together, but doesn't mean that I can let up on making time for him. And I hope that he will feel the same way. In light of this time issue, I'm going to have to give up the hotel job - just to keep myself sane. We work together, we go to school together, we share the same room at home, but we still need time to ourselves: away from school, guard, etc. I've always said that I'm very protective of what's mine: this is something that I don't want to lose.

3) Guard - I've come to love the guard at Corydon. Yes, I have many headaches and sleepless nights, but I love working with the kids. It is by far the most fulfilling job I've ever had. Many people have advised me to give up this job - the pay is low and I have to actually pay to be at competitions/rehearsals, etc... But to me, it's all worth it. The kids are what make it worth it. They all love to see me and I love teaching them, not only about guard, but about themselves and what they can expect out of life. I wish now that I had had a teacher like this in my life back in highschool. I want to provide them with someone that is close to them in age and understands their unique positioning in life. Many of them have come and talked to me about things over the past year, and I'm both honored and humbled that they trust me enough to talk to me, that they see me as more than just their guard director.

So perhaps this summer will get better in the next few weeks. I'm going to try to treat guard and band camps as my vacation from work here in Louisville, and perhaps that will put me in a better mood. This may be some misdirected emotions that are coming through now... though I can't say exactly what those may be. I now I miss Charlie terribly, and that I would love for him to be home. I also feel very unsecured with my finances in such bad shape. I guess I'm just looking for a little assurance that things will be okay come August - that money will come in and that Charles and I will be able to pick up right were we left off.

How much longer must I wait for the assurance that is due me?

22 February 2007

An obscenely large pool of drool.

I'm beginning to find my English classes to be a bore. I feel as if nothing is actually accomplished. Nothing. As the professor tries to direct the conversation, the majority of the class is sleeping in an obscenely large pool of drool. They don't get it.

It seems to me that people don't think anymore and will do anything to avoid even the thought of meaningful thought. I am awe-struck by my fellow students' ability to read something and have absolutely no reaction, flat line, dead in the water. Or, as it have been pointed out to me, they could simply not be "engaged" by the class discussion. However, it seems to me that the themes present in these novels (race, class, sexuality, gender, sociology, etc.) are pretty universal and should evoke some form of reaction, no matter how minuscule.

This inability to think clearing for one's self, the inability to put all the pieces together comes from our fat-assed society. Our minds are constantly assaulted with this barrage of images (news, media, entertainment, etc.) that really doesn't matter. As a result, we are so accustomed to having all things spoon-fed to us that it is impossible for us, as a society, to do anything of meaning for ourselves. We are simply too lazy. Any form of mental work, any actual, meaningful, and engaging thought is scoffed at. We'd rather sit on our fat asses and stuff out ever-growing holes with potato-chips, wiping our greasy fingers on the seat beneath us.

I'm sick of it. I'm sick of being one of the few in class with anything even close to a critical question. What has happened to thought, and, by extension, to our society? It truly bothers me that some people are unable/unwilling to address certain critical issues of our times, even while in the safe and controlled environment of a classroom. And is there and answer to this? Not one that I can clearly see. Perhaps you have one... oh... wait. That would require thought.


15 February 2007

Wo(men)? Looking at the "Undefined"

Imagine you're walking down a busy street. Amongst the traffic and noise, people quickly pass you left and right. On your way to your destination, you look askance at these people - that boy has short, brown hair and that girl has long, blond hair and sports a fashionable mini-skirt. You think nothing of it: This is normal. This is what you're supposed to see. Yet what if the table was turned? What if that boy wearing baggy jeans and sporting a short crew cut had a high-pitched voice and small breasts? And what if that girl you saw wearing the skirt had a pronounced jaw line and high cheek bones? You'd think you had stepped into the twilight zone!

Now more than ever gender roles are being blurred. And many researchers and theorists are claiming that gender is performative, that one simply performs the gender role that society has set out for male or female. And, if gender is truly a performance, then it is implied that one can choose at will what gender role to play. This creates a new fluidity in society that is shocking to most of it's "normal" members and creates a space for "in-betweens" in a society that prides itself on a strict dichotomy system: black/white, male/female, etc.

But is gender really performative? And for that matter how does one define gender? It is simply what ever sex one is at birth - you have a penis, therefore you are male; and you have a vagina, therefore you are female? Or is there more to it than simple biology? Society obviously impacts the definition and execution of gender roles. From time immemorial men have been the hunter/gather of society and have carried the burden of providing for the family. Women, on the other hand, generally reared children and were subordinate to their male counterparts. It's here that the gender precedent was set. Society has imposed certain actions as acceptable for members of one "physical" sex and not acceptable for the other. In short, societal premise has attached abstract meaning to the physical body.

So how have we gone from a society that sets a very fixed definition of gender to one that moving more and more to ambiguity? In a culture that seeks a nicely packaged definition of identity, younger sub-cultures are seeking to live outside of the rigid lines of society, favouring an "undefined" existence and - taken to the extreme - an undefined identity. These "undefined" choose to live outside social premise, rejecting the boundaries imposed by molding one's self to fit a pre-packaged definition. Instead they claim the liberty to move in and out of social spaces at will and thereby giving themselves a carte blanche to all sides of gendered society.

So what? How do these multi-gendered people affect society? As they carve out their own space of non-conformity, they challenge the rest of society to redefine how they conceive gender and its function in society. So the next time you see that boy walking down the street, don't assume it's a boy. Rather challenge yourself to look beyond societal premise and allow that person to be "undefined."

09 February 2007

Comment est-ce qu'on peut se définir? Cela c'est une question qui n'a aucune réponse claire. La définition est différente de l'un à l'autre. Comment est-ce que je peux me définir? Je suis un homme, un jeune, un homosexuel, un frère, etc... Mais comment est-ce que cela me définissent? À mon avis, c'est une question de sociologie - comment les autres personnes me regardent. Et, enfin, ce que je pense de leurs avis. Pourquoi est-ce que je fais ceci ou cela? Pourquoi est-ce que je parle tantôt comme un homme, et tantôt comme une femme? Qu'est-ce qui change? Et comment est-ce que tout le monde me voit dans chaque situation?