Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is internet addiction hitting ludicrous new highs, or is the “net” such an ingrained part of our lives, that living without it is tantamount to starvation? A recent report shows that at the very least, people would forgo the pleasures of physical contact rather than temporarily lose access to the info-deluge. According to a recent Intel study, many people would rather give up sex for two weeks than stay off the internet for the same amount of time. The survey of over 2000 adults showed that 48 percent of women and 30 percent of men prefer the internet to sex.

From PSFK.

Personally, I don't see any difference between the two possible explanations mentioned in the first sentence! True, most of us organize our "real lives" through the internet, making a net addiction less a sign of trouble in Cyberland and more an understandable reaction to the convenience of the tubes. For example, my fiancé Stephen lives the "Google lifestyle"– his calendar, address book, and now even his to-do list are all available only through the google.com domain. When he suggested that I start to use the new Tasks function, I said that I preferred my free trial of the wonderful To-do list application Things.

"For example," I said, "I can use it offline."

"Why wouldn't you have the internet?" Steve asked. "That sounds apocalyptic."

I mentioned use in the car and at my dial-up-only lakehouse, but there's one situation that I didn't even account for at the time: an extended power outage.

Marlboro is notorious amongst its students for losing power at least annually, it being an isolated campus on a blustery hill in cold Vermont. The song "Marlboro College No Power No Water" is a campus favorite, and particularly the lyrics "Thirty-thousand dollars a yeeaaarrrrr!" which is now one-thousand dollars out of date to boot.

So, a couple of days after classes ended and a few days before finals started, Marlboro was hit by a killer ice storm and lost power. Luckily I live in the one dorm that has a strong generator, so I had plenty of heat and searing hot water. Still, I was without lights, electronics, and most notably the internet. The entire campus was without electricity.

It was amazing.

The first night, the power went out during Open Mic. We took it in stride (we'd been expecting that the frequent flickering of lights would eventually lead to the extended loss of power) and began to clean up the Campus Center and rearrange the tables and chairs. When every beer bottle was in the recycling bin, we left for our respective rooms. I noticed the lack of working internet on my laptop (which still had an hour of juice left at this point) and hoped that it everything would be restored soon.

The next day I woke early and lay in bed as I heard trees crashing outside under the weight of all the ice. Eventually I suited up for the cold and braved the walk to the dining hall in hopes that the toaster would somehow be working.

I walked to the restored barns I take my meals in and found it to be very nearly empty– not unusual for pre-7 AM. What was different is the lack of dining hall staff. The roads were too icy for anyone to drive to the hill without seriously risking their safety. But guess who was in the kitchen?

Ellen Lovell, the president of the entire fucking college, had braved the extremely dangerous roads to cook food for hungry students without electricity. Marlboro College is the most amazing school on the face of the earth.

I told her how amazing she was, a compliment which she of course deflected, and began to make pancakes with her. KP, the master electrician and love of everyone in the school, unlocked everything for us, and student dishwasher Joan told us where everything was. I chopped fruit and put out cereal. When people started to slowly funnel in, I greeted everyone by name and told them that pancakes and tea water were being kept warm for them in the kitchen.

I sang "Fever" for Ellen while she flipped pancakes (KP insisted that she make them from mix, not scratch) and played jazz songs with what was left of my laptop battery. I gave Joan my flashlight, which would become quite essential over the next few days, so she could make it to the freezer and prepare for lunch. Ellen, I will mention, stayed all day, several days, to help cook meals. We all gathered for each meal in the warm dining hall, shining our flashlights, playing board games, making music, having conversations.

No one needed the internet. We all kind of missed it, but none of us so much that we really wanted it back. Everyone found diverse ways of entertainment. We became more of a community. We spent more time together, we walked to people's dorms when we wanted to contact them, we spent time together instead of staying in our rooms lit up by the glow of a screen.

I left school after a few days of no electricity, at the same time that the school put everyone up in hotels that wanted to leave. I offered my room in Howland, the generator dorm, to anyone who wanted a space to sleep. In no other school would my room be taken up by my roommate of next semester (who moved in early to escape the cold), two of her friends, and two young fellows who lives on campus. Students sleeping in the same room as professors? I don't even know if that's allowed at other schools, never mind if students and teachers are close and kind enough to share quarters.

I would never choose the internet over sex for two weeks, nor would I give it up for romance, writing, reading books, singing or sitting close to friends and talking withe excited voices. The internet is wonderful, of course– why else would I be blogging right now?– but is it better than real, physical companionship? Not in my opinion.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Video Excerpt of "The Rebirth of Communication and the New Distribution of Authority"

View me reading a short excerpt from a recent essay on Youtube. I talk a bit too fast in it, but at least this way you can hear what I really sound like in conversation!

While you're at it, I just recorded myself singing "Fever."

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Finals week. Okay.

You can tell by my strong, let's-get-'em posture and my bold choice of condom wrapper earrings that I am ready for the threat of damnation that finals week suggests. But wait, look closer; my eyes betray my true feelings: those of trepidation, absolute terror even. My mouth is twisted into an expression that can only read as "dear God, I am so utterly fucked, Duncan Sheik is going to want to write a rock musical about my terrible existence." Those aren't muscles you see bulging out of my flexed arms; they are the knots that stress has placed there over the sleepless nights that have made up the past week.

This Prius has run out of gasoline, and the electricity is going to last me only so long. Let's hope I have enough in me to write six poetry responses, write a 15-page paper on some poem I haven't chosen yet, read the Aeneid and write two responses, and finish my social psychology paper by Monday. That leaves Tuesday through Friday to finish my 3D map of campus, record a video walking through it and record an audio tour for Digital Multimedia.

I am a grocery list of academic tasks. My only response is to make jewelery out of the containers of prophylactics. Science save me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Development of Love in the Symposium, and the Theory of Its Ultimate Fruition

Geraldine, if you have found this through some online plagiarism-finder, I myself am Rachel Knight, your beloved student, who I am sure you trust anyway.

Now here is the first final paper of the semester to be completed and turned in!

The Development of Love in the Symposium, and the Theory of Its Ultimate Fruition

In the Republic, Plato expresses disapproval of the methods of Homer and other popular poets of the time, particularly their tendency to “imitate.” Yet Plato himself employs imitation, much to the advantage of his dialogues. The Symposium takes place at a small party attended by men of thoughtful natures. The men, who are actual people from ancient Greek times and not fabrications of Plato’s, expound upon their personalities in their speeches. This is the work of Plato, who uses the public personas of well-known men to express ideas about love from different perspectives over the course of the Symposium. There are few historians who believe that the Platonic dialogues actually happened, and even less who propose that Plato wrote down the conversations word for word. Plato is imitating, though not necessarily in the fashion of Homer, who employs special diction and speech patterns to make his characters true-to-life. Plato has his characters speak in the way that they might in reality. Aristophanes the comic playwright, for example, says funny things in his speech.

Dialogue is a staple of Plato’s. Sometimes translators publish his work as a treatise sans dialogue. This is a shame. In Plato’s works, the opinions of different speakers borrow from and branch off of the speeches prior to theirs, a process which ultimately results in the formation of a philosophy that most of those present agree with. This dynamic is the reason why discussions started with the aim of using the contributions of everyone present to arrive at a collective conclusion are referred to as “Socratic seminars.”*

*I have come across this term infrequently, but did spend some time attending a high school in which Socratic seminars were a typical classroom activity referred to as such. I recall them working very well when all parties involved had equally balanced contributions, which may refute the theory that the men who discuss matters in Platonic dialogues only arrive at the same conclusion because Socrates gets them on his side.

These dialogues allow for not only the formation of an opinion acceptable to everyone present, but also, in Plato, the development of the original subject into something of greater magnitude than what it began as. In the Republic, the subject goes from justness in a single man to justness in a city to the theory of Forms. In The Symposium, the philosophy of love as it is shared between two people develops into a theory of universal love shared between all people.

Phaedrus makes the first speech, beginning the dialogue on the importance of love between two people. This will be referred to as “couple love” henceforth.

Because of [Love’s] antiquity, he is the source of our greatest benefits. I would claim that there is no greater benefit for a young man than a good lover and none greater for a lover than a good boyfriend. Neither family bonds nor public status nor wealth nor anything else is as effective as love in implanting something which gives lifelong guidance to those who are to lead good lives. What is this? A sense of shame at acting disgracefuly and pride in acting well. Without these no individual or city can achieve anything great or fine.

Having started his treatise for the beauty of couple love, Phaedrus proposes that if there was more love in the world humans would be stronger. This theme of humans achieving great power as a result of love and togetherness starts here and will be carried on throughout the dialogue, being used on a greater scale with each speech.

Take the case of a man in love who is caught acting disgracefully or undergoing something disgraceful because he fails to defend himself out of cowardice. I think it would cause him more pain to be seen in this situation by his boyfriend than by his father, his friends or anyone else. We see the same thing in the case of the boyfriend: he feels most ashamed in front of his lovers when he is caught in some disgraceful situation. If there was any mechanism for producing a city made entirely of lovers and boyfriends, there could be no better form of social organization than this; they would hold back from anything disgraceful and compete for honour in each other’s eyes. If even small numbers of such men fought side by side, they could virtually defeat the whole human race. The last person a lover could bear to be seen by, when leaving his place in the battle-line or abandoning his weapons, is his boyfriend; instead, he’d prefer to die many times. As for abandoning his boyfriend or failing to help him in danger—no one is such a coward that he could not be inspired into courage by love and made the equal of someone who’s naturally very brave. When Homer speaks about a god “breathing might” into some of his heroes, this is just the effect that love has on lovers.

He goes on to say that only those in love choose death over harm to another. After this Phaedrus cites the honorable Achilles as a good boyfriend to Patroclus because Achilles chose death over shame (apparently, in Plato’s eyes, so that he would make his lover proud.) Phaedrus furthermore suggests that lovers are divinely inspired, and therefore are even more cherished by the gods than boyfriends are. (Boyfriends are the younger man in the pairing.)

After Phaedrus’s speech comes that of Pausanias, who says “I don’t think our project has been specified properly, Phaedrus, in that we’ve been told simply to praise love. If Love was a single thing, this would be fine, but in fact it isn’t; and since it isn’t, it’s better to define in advance which type we should praise.”

This is the beginning of the transformation of the topic of discussion from something relatively simple, the bond shared between two people, to something that is on a higher scale. The topic of universal love is not mentioned until later in the dialogue, but the evaluation of love, and the idea that love can be roughly qualitative and better or worse in relation to another type of love, is presented. Thus the Platonic dialogue feeds off of previous speeches to arrive at a natural conclusion.

Pausanias posits that there are two types of love, just as there are two Aphrodites. This sets the stage for the theory that there are two levels of love, that which is shared between two people and that which is shared throughout the world. The idea that one type of love is better than the other is also foreshadowed by the claim that one Aphrodite is better than the other. The Heavenly Aphrodite might be compared to the ultimate conclusion of love, love shared throughout the world, while Common Aphrodite (which is “genuinely ‘common’” ) can be compared to love between two people. “Of course, all gods should receive praise” Pausanias says, “but we must try to distinguish between the functions of these two gods” or forms of love, as they come to symbolize. Heavenly Love is to Common Love as universal love is to couples love. Pausanias has not yet begun the discussion of universal love; that will not come until later. However, he is asserting ideas that, once the party has reached general agreement on them, will assist them in understanding what universal love is and why it is possible.

There is one distinct difference between the concepts of Common/Heavenly love and the concepts of couples/universal love. Pausanias says that “not every type of loving and Love is right and deserves to be praised, but only the type that motivates us to love rightly.” Pausanias is still talking about couple love, which can be flawed. Universal love, being an archetype of perfection, cannot be. However, his speech is a useful literary tool which, although the concepts expressed do no perfectly coincide with the concepts of universal love which will be brought up later, help prepare the reader for a theory of a sort of love that is better than another kind of love. Couple love is not intrinsically flawed as Common Love is, but it is definitely below universal love.

Pausanias continues to add to the treatise of love’s goodness, saying that love causes human beings to “have big ideas [and] develop strong friendships and personal bonds.” He says that tyrannical regimes limit love amongst their subjects, because the strength that love creates would give their subjects enough power to conquer their oppressors. This adds on to what Phaedrus said about the army of lovers and boyfriends being undefeatable, and it will be added to by Aristophanes’s tale of how the original humans nearly defeated the gods.

Eryximachus uses his expertise in medicine to form his speech on love. The medical nature of his treatise exemplifies Plato’s literary use of actual men as characters in his dialogue. Because Eryximachus was known to be a doctor, he could be trusted to have legitimate medical insight on love.*

*Plato also uses Eryximachus’s profession as an opportunity for comedy, when Aristophanes comes down with a case of hiccups and Eryximachus prescribes several ways to cure the silly ailment.

The magnitude of love is again expanded upon when Eryximachus says

Love is not only expressed in the emotional responses of human beings to beautiful people, but in many other types of response as well: in the bodily responses of every kind of animal, in plants growing in the earth, in virtually everything that exists.

In the above quotation, love takes on a weight greater than that which can be held by two people, and spreads its influence over the entire world. One might even say that Eryximachus is the first to present the idea of universal love in the Symposium, though his idea of it is scientific rather than philosophical.

So Love as a whole has great and mighty—or rather total—power... it is the Love whose nature is expressed in good actions, marked by self-control and justice, at the human and divine level that has the greatest power and is the source of all our happiness.

Since Eryximachus is the first to suggest the possibility of universal love, he must also be the first to explain how it works. An explanation is particularly necessary from Eryximachus, since his theory is of a universal love that is already present in the world rather than a universal love that is possible. He explains love through harmony. To illustrate harmony, he makes use of the examples of bodily health and music. “So in music, medicine, and in every other sphere, both human and divine, we must pay attention to these two kinds of love [Heavenly and common], because both kinds are there.”

“Here the same principle again holds good: you should gratify and promote the love of well-ordered people, or people who are not well-ordered but may in this way improve.” Eryximachus continues the theme of valuing a better type of love over that of a worse kind. This is Plato’s device for ensuring that the reader understands what good love is. The reader must understand the right way to love on the level of couple love before universal love can be achieved.

Aristophanes’s speech follows that of Eryximachus. He continues on with one of the popular themes of the night: love causing the strength people need to conquer mighty opposition. This theme was, as we have seen, touched on by Phaedrus and Pausanias, and Aristophanes takes it a step further by suggesting that humans nearly rival the gods when love is at its strongest.
The original human beings, Aristophanes says, were made of up two faces and bodies, so that two personalities were completely attached to one another. Togetherness was at its most fulfilling state for the original human beings. “They were terrible in their strength and vigour; they had great ambitions and made an attack on the gods.”

Agathon begins his speech by saying that Love is the youngest of the gods, and that he knows this because the gods would not have done such horrible things to each other if Love had existed. Love would have caused “friendship and peace between them, as there is now and has been ever since Love began to rule amongst the gods.” This implies that love can do the same thing for human beings as it did for gods: cause peace and friendship in humans instead of hatred and destruction. Of course, this requires love to move beyond that of couples love and into the realm of universal love.

The main point of Agathon’s speech, he says, is to describe Love as a god and not love as it benefits humans. This movement from the mortal to the divine broadens the scope of what love is, and so the stage is further set for the proposition of universal love.

Agathon is an actor and a playwright, as Socrates makes clear when he says that he performed his own work for a large audience not long before the night of the symposium. In fact, the party is in honor of Agathon’s recent on-stage success. It is very fitting, then, that Agathon’s speech is dramatic, uses verse, and is met by “shouts of admiration from everyone present.” Including a speech from a playwright (and not a comedic playwright like Aristophanes, who of course presents a very different speech from that of the tragedian) is a useful literary technique. Because the playwright is Agathon, the “shouts of admiration” are appropriate for developing the scene of the symposium, which is thrown in honor of his success. Even separate from this context, including a speech presented in the voice of Agathon is a useful way to keep the reader engaged late into in the treatise on love, for he is naturally an exciting speaker.

The last speech, and by far the longest, is that of Socrates. He praises the phrasing of Agathon, but hints that he has not told the whole truth about Love, opting instead to “claim that [Love] has the finest and greatest qualities, whether it really does or not.” Because Socrates essentially implies that all of the eulogies that came before his speech were untruthful, it can be suggested that part of the role of the speeches is to be refuted by Socrates.

Socrates goes on to assert, through asking questions of Agathon, that love desires something. This assertion allows for the theoretical formation of love’s ultimate realization. Couples love exists already, but love as we experience it is lacking something. It needs to be shared by everyone, throughout the world, and felt not just for one object but for everything.
“Our human race can only achieve happiness if Love reaches its conclusion.” This quotation is the perfect expression of the need for love’s ultimate fruition. If human beings can love each other as couples, and move on to loving each other as fellow human beings, displaying Eryximachus’s model of harmony, there will be global happiness. Nothing but love can bring about a world that is entirely kind and peaceful. Each speech leading up to Socrates’s claim that universal love is ideal love readies the symposium guests and the reader for the attachment of great magnitude to the importance of love.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Final essay titles for the Fall semester

I have three final essays to complete this week, and one mysteriously impossible Digital Multimedia final project. Here are the titles of a paper I turned in today and a paper due Thursday, respectively:

The Development of Love in the Symposium, and the Theory of Its Ultimate Fruition

The Rebirth of Communication and the New Distribution of Authority

Ancient Greek men lying on couches and flirting with one another mixed with the psychology of Facebook... what could be better?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mary Anne

I read this at my school's open mic last night. There is certainly a lot of talent at Marlboro. I'm beginning to think that I measure up!

Mary Anne, you are my favorite lover
you read from your book of poems, your poison thick as honey and
as hard to swallow as bile
and after reading a linguistic murder weapon sick enough
to rival Plath and kill her twice
you look up at me with that immediate, casual smile, like
"but of course I don't feel that way anymore, darling
wasn't I a sad silly girl."
your tongue, six split swift and licorice-licked by those
cloves you smoke and the
pencil end you chew on as you work
finds the salt on my skin and you mine, mine, mine.
and your eyes have just the faintest yellow
and the faintest amber
and the sickest, most silvery blue
your hands are like rain on my manhood
you dampen and soften and soak me, soppen and pour yourself
demasculate me and make me Adam on a different night
in a different bed
you are nines and elevens
you are more myself than anyone else
and in conversation you please and defend and offend all
in arguments you tear off the skin of your opponents
you argue in the painter's bars and spend obnoxious hours in
the bathroom primping
you pimp out your ideas
and you are New York
you swivel your hips like a TV King when you fuck
and you are all the sex of back Memphis
and all the fucking trash of LA
you are inside of me and Inside of you I want nothing but you
tracing chalkmarks of the disturbed dead on my skin with that
reaching, retracting, retracting, seeking feeling tongue

The voice posts are absolutely coming. Not in the next week, though! My darling is coming to visit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I'm all for anything that makes art collecting more accessible to those with limited budgets. "20x200" sells small-sized prints of charming works at $20 each.

Found at kottke.

New, improved and ineffective

The line breaks are displayed incorrectly in the following poem as well, this time due to my layout. Hm. Perhaps the "artist" overthinks such things, and you will all enjoy my poetry just as much as if the appropriate line breaks were preserved. As Oscar Wilde said, "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." However, I am inclined to think that Oscar Wilde was making an extremely important revision both times!

new, improved and ineffective. loved. yellow yarn.
engendered and defended by commas or hoardes and hoardes of full and complete stops
bus stop blue and the bench stopped turning
revolving bench
revolving tree
revolving right side of

and how!

the master’s teacup is chipped into a perfect topographical depiction of new hampshire.
i ski it on the andes side

EDIT: Oh, God, looking at the last stanza as three lines instead of two, with New Hampshire jutting out on its own like some grotesque version of the formerly-intact Man in the Mountain make me so sad for my bastardized creation! I am amused at my perfectionism.

I was born today three-hundred years from now

It looks like Blogger will mess up the line breaks a little bit for this one. Ah well!

I was born today three-hundred years from now
of an atom and an eon on the verge of collapse
one triplet of three surviving, thriving sperm
a baby spread beef-like, dripping juicy and fresh, unappetizing
arranged as part of three on white paper hospital sheets
crinkling our arrival like so many royal trumpets blasting

I’ve grown old, my face is nice suede
folds on face and neck wrinkle and hide nooks of flesh
that wait alone, blind to the sun: the sun which brought my skin to such a prime state of puppy face wrinkling
I am the christmas present bulldog
with fold upon fold of
wrinkles and jowls denoting wise elder status

along with the sun beams,
my age spots and facial creases count other causes:
sleepless nights during which I just could not remember
the fourth line of “Howl” or a different poem
and fancied myself insane; also-
movements, uprisings and revolutions.
they spring up year after year, annual, perennial, flowerless plants pollinated by cash and sowed by
casualties of capitalism
and movers and shakers that would soon become tyrants
women’s. black’s. immigrant’s. women’s again. disabled.
I worried for all of them
til my lungs turned black out of chronic anxious smoking
tried to quit and see a therapist instead
it was even more expensive.
I sold my TV and have felt better ever since.

Revolutions come in smaller scales
some I went through all on my own
These were the Nourishment Revolutions:
born, I drank only breast milk,
first from the tit of my mother or the milkmaid
I weaned early
because my mother needed anti-depressants again,
and the milkmaid was stealing from our house.
so my two brothers and I
revolutionized and drank the same milk from fake nipples-
later an uprising occurred
and my baby teeth joined forces
to organize, revolt
and decompose the structure of solid foods
it went on like this for quite awhile
until the bourgeois came out of patient waiting
and seized my kidneys and stomach in a vengeful war.
now I am back to mush and milk,
and diapers at that
but I maintain a few teeth to soothe my pride.

I cannot wear dentures with those gnarled-end canines jutting out of elderly gums,
the structure of false teeth demand a valley-smooth slate
but I find the absence of solid food worth it
my steady-standing teeth are relics of younger days

curdled brain cells!
I can see you now
laid out on egg shell colored bed sheets
in a Dartmouth autopsy room
or else under a glass dome for observation
a snowglobe which medical students lean over
like children .
oh will their expressions reflect the same wonder
that darling faces light up with on christmas eve,
peering into those half-spheres of glass?
snowglobes swirl with flakes of plastic
but organs under similar domes, well, I hope that they are just as wonderful. they could save a life
if they held the right secrets
and the scientists and students had the key
to discovering them

I was born yesterday
eighty-eight years ago
the one surviving twin, an immediate successor to
my still-born brother Charlie Parker
oh god where have the years gone
too few revolutions and too many
sun spots and slabs of drooping skin…

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Opening Line exploded

Soon I'm going to go through past entries and post audio files for poems that don't have a recording of me reading them. (I'll post links when I do.) Unfortunately I cannot bring myself to read these poems as passionately while sitting in my room as I can when I'm performing for an audience. Ironically, I feel self conscious that my dorm neighbors will hear me! Also, I just can't unleash my emotions as much as I can when I'm actually performing.

I read this piece for a slam two days ago. It may have been my best performance yet! I screamed, I whispered, I put on voices and really gave it my all. I shook like nothing else under the weight of the passion that reading this poem gave me. And all this over a piece that describes a situation that has never happened and probably never will! I don't know how I bring it out in myself.

I'm pleased to report that I did fairly well at the slam, tying for fourth place out of eight in the second round (the one that counts) and tying for first place in the first round. I read the following poem for the first round, and "An Essay On Beauty" for the second.

the opening line exploded
when the curtains drew open and each lip of the unlikely actress parted ways
her voice shot like sparks,
zapped along under-stage wiring and microphones
and reached the audience, whose dresses and suits caught fire.

the sound was sickeningly girlish
yet frighteningly hoarse
and each aristocrat, as they fanned off their singed bustles and
dusted their blackened monocles
could see without imagination
the faraway lips of the painted puppet,
cracked beneath stage lipstick,
blistered with syphilis
pronouncing the words of Desdemona
as though she was still back on Left Street
leaning over car windows and propositioning likely clients

no black sheep amongst the cast,
the prostitute, nay, headliner Veronica May
was at home in the critically-christened “riffraff Shakespeare”
Othello was a Center Street pimp
insistent on draping his plate-gold chains
amongst the Moor’s ruby-gilded sword and African necklaces
talent if the New York stage ever saw it,
was a former bum
(currently put up in a Park Avenue suite)
whose drunken rants and delirious, mystic ramblings
nearly contested the soliloquies he’d been instructed to recite

that audience,
still smoking from the initial burst of flames,
cried at the mastery of the bum,
who they had all seen and ignored on the MoMA steps.
they laughed as the sword fights became impromptu gang rumbles
and sat in awe at the notion that the theater had given hope to
these otherwise hopeless creatures

Each addict, whore, dealer and hustler
had a score of understudies,
as they tended to die regularly.
This was not mentioned in the rave reviews.
New York Times:
“Experimental to the extreme. Such a cast does not outshine the mastery of the play, but displays performances equal to the veterans of the stage.”

count this true:
every unconscious body scraped off the sidewalk and unto an endless journey on a stretcher—
every woman bruised amongst the eyes and bruised along the arm—
every chauvinist dripped in chains and lacking in shame—
is a small-time actor
in pursuit of attention
and they are not discriminating.

Intellect and fancy dress
written reviews and eloquent compliments
erased not the need for heroin or the lifelong self-hatred
but every production went on on schedule
and the audience never noticed
no, no one ever noticed
that they were not lifesavers

One more piece of information about this poem: I submitted it and another piece, "I was born today three-hundred years from now," to the Citizen at the beginning of last semester. This was in my freshman year. Then-editor Gabriel stopped me one day in the Dalrymple hallway and asked if I would like to be on staff. I had applied my first semester, when he apologetically said that there were too many seniors and veteran staff members who applied for him to allow me a position. (Positions on the Citizen are paid and therefore limited) Of course I accepted.

Look at me now, editor-in-chief, and nominated by Gabriel by the way. The November issue is coming out Monday. There was a lot of controversy dealing with this issue, and I had to make some tough ethical decisions. I'll write more on that in a future post.

Let's Talk about Privilege, Baby/Let's Talk About You and Me

So reads a large sign now posted in the Dining Hall. The sign was originally mostly blank, adorned simply by those words and a couple sheets of paper printed off of Nook, the school message board. Though Nook is a private forum, the dining hall is not, and I don't think that resident feminist and all-around awesome person Lily Sage would mind me re-posting her words here:

"There is a myth at Marlboro: we live in an ivory tower in the clouds, where we are above and beyond and able to transcend issues of race, gender and class that are prevalent in our society. We are somehow “counter-cultural” subverters, of what is perceived as the inhospitable and intolerant atmosphere of the dominant culture, which we flee to this hill.

Think about it. Is there an ongoing, reflective dialogue about privilege in our community? Who are the people who live in our community? Is there a disconnect between the theory that we learn in class and the way we conduct ourselves in our interpersonal relationships?

This space has been provided to raise awareness about everyday sometimes veiled and usually unconscious oppression at Marlboro College. By this it is meant that as a community, which is a microcosm of society at large, we are (largely) complicit participants in an institutionally sanctioned and executed hierarchal system of dominance. This dominance manifests itself in many ways. Feel free to list, anonymously or not, and always respectfully, what you’ve noticed. This is a safe space that is open to any member of the community: that is, staff, students, faculty, and anyone else who may stumble upon it."

Now the once-white sheets of paper stapled on the bulletin board have been scrawled on in cherry-scented red marker, and this morning the "Privilege Board" has been expanded to fit the entire bulletin board. The comments range from anonymous to signed, defensive to ashamed, specific to obscure, but there are few to no comments that are simply jokes. And at every meal, there are people that gather around the board, talking seriously and candidly with each other about privilege and personal responsibility, about racism and misogyny, about whatever feels appropriate and uncomfortable. Every so often during our conversations we pick up the marker and write something down on the board. It isn't the same people that gather around the board every time, either.

I've always thought of Marlboro as a liberal place where ideas free flow all the time and discussion is encouraged, but in the past 24 hours the school has really opened up and started talking about things we've been avoiding in our everyday conversations. Nook's really been a place for serious conversation too, both on the privilege thread quoted above and on another thread which deals with an issue really pertinent to the community right now. (I don't feel comfortable talking about it on an open website, but it deals with transparency within the administration among other things.)

At Town Meeting (actually a student/faculty/staff of Marlboro meeting, bi-monthly) we did something other than vote on funds requests and talk about changes of legal language in our school Constitution andf Bylaws. The president and political science prof set aside some time for us to discuss, as a community, what we should do to self-reflection alive. The privilege board was brought up- I think it may have been the inspiration for the discussion.

It's incredible how Marlboro has changed in the past day or so, from being something that I thought it was to something that I now know that it is: a place of self-reflection and true consciousness. I just wonder when these discussions will turn into real change, and how. Today I received an email about the photo prof's friends on a reservation in South Dakota losing power and heat, and were burning their possessions in order to stay warm. I gathered up a good deal of my money and trekked over to John's office so he could send it in with the money that he would be mailing them. Would I have done this two days ago? Maybe; I am an altruistic person, and every so often I give money to charity. But would I have given so much money in relation to the amount I actually have? Maybe not.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Beautiful Campus

The photo blog of my good friend Amanda is dedicated to snapshots of the Marlboro College campus. To celebrate the beauty that this little hill holds, here are a few photos of my own:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Growing Up Woodland (unfinished, perhaps), and another stanza

Growing Up Woodland

We climbed the boulders and grabbed fistfulls of pine needles
Cracked twigs with every step
Emily Callahan said she liked Old Blue Eyes
I told her I liked Sesame Street
at the edge of the woods right before the road
there’s a flower i’d never seen before
Emily says stop its illegal to touch it
it’s a lady’s slipper and why didn’t I know that

this was the greatest thing i’d ever seen
bright yellow and so shiny in the sun
it wasn’t so much a flower as
a drawstring pouch like the one dad keeps his fortune cards in
it stooped like an old lady
under the weight of what might be fairy dust
i wouldn’t touch it but i knew
it would give a wish to those who dared

Life is so beautiful, wonderful, so amazing and sweet. Sorry to post two poems in a row without audio, but I promise you that I could never let such behavior become habitual.

Oh, as long as I'm posting maybe-unfinished-but-possibly-not poetry, I should include-- what shall I call this poem?-- perhaps "Stephen", but then, there will be so many candidates for this title as I write more and more under the spell of love for my one and only.

I only regret the lack of rooftops
from which I can shout of my love
and that underwater, my mouth filled with rocks
in the trick of the old orators
my exaltation of a life in your arms
would be muted, softened by the tides

Thursday, October 23, 2008

An Essay on Beauty

I always disapproved of bringing computers to class. This is Marlboro, not a thousand-kid university where you can play flash games during discussions and be met with indifference from your fellows.

However, having enrolled in a Digital Multimedia course this semester, I've had to refine my viewpoint on bringing a computer to class. Because, you know, I'm taking a computer class.

So now, when things in class get boring or begin to fly over my anachronistic head, I turn away from the lecture on computers and begin to spend independent time with my computer. And so this blog entry was born.

An Essay On Beauty

short hairs that form a crescent around the knee and curve towards the ankle like ocean waves, just barely overlapping each other, the color of earth.

dirt under the short fingernails of a gardener whose hands are thickly calloused in all the places that brush against hoe and shovel.

red lipstick that has been dabbed off to near transparency by the cloth of a thousand kisses from a lover

curls like ribbons, curls like boat wakes, curls like rosebuds

breasts the color of unpolluted coffee that slope like mountain peaks

breasts as heavy and pale as fog above the mountains that swing in dance and rise with breath after exertion

long male fingers with knuckles that stick out like adam’s apples, resting on the stomach of a woman with child

eyes like night skies, with the glimmer of a single star that shifts in a sped-up universe of turns of the chin

plastic pink nails with blue glitter, falling off the fingers of a little girl

uncompromised nature, where no changes are needed or welcomed, and the body born with is the body lived with and loved

fire hair, smoke hair, hair as black as embers and white as heat

tightly curled hair that runs down the vulva and reaches, like thickly packed branches, down upper thighs

eyelashes that are wishes and toes and fingers used for counting in grade school

the moon that holds the weight of a million sentiments

the woman that holds the weight of a million ambitions

and the god that holds the weight of expectations

and the arms that hold an infant who is sleeping

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Christian, you need not wait much longer for a second poem.

Even Satan from his grip did let slip a ribbon of promise
yelled from hills outside of schoolhouses, "let enough be enough!"
dusty light that slid in and out of the midwife's perception
as eyelids opened and closed in morning fatigue
before the chime of her alarm gave way to the ringing of station bells

promise, promise. ever heavy.
so many blankets in the armload

and to water do bovine hooves arrive,
every trembling, ever driven, ever promised relief of circumstance

children in the margins

I have been very busy today. The sociology prof performed Marx in Soho after my two classes this morning, and now I find myself rushed to get to town and run errands. The day has been kind to me, though, other than the student bank closing after half an hour.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Next Citizen cover

I'm editor-in-chief of the school magazine, entitled The Marlboro Citizen. I may link to scans of it sometime, if I ever find the time to contact IT about putting up a Citizen website. My staff and I are currently working on a November issue. A 4:30 AM collaboration with a school scanner yielded the beginnings of next month's cover, pictured above.

The bottom of my palm originally read "Oct. 2008" (oh, my ambitions!), but Stephen edited it for me. I think the finishing touch will be a simple whitening out of everything behind my arm and hand. I could have Steve make everything transparent instead of white and put a layer behind it of a school building, but that would be too busy. I like keeping our covers striking and simple. Many people expressed thorough satisfaction with last month's cover-- a white-letters-on-black affair with a center-middle drawing of mine of an easily recognized dorm building. Of course, many people expressed thorough satisfaction with the whole damn thing.

I was nervous about running the Citizen when I first started out, but with the October issue being such a success I stopped worrying about things like not getting enough submissions. Well, apparently I just got lucky with the first one, because I've only received five submissions so far, and that's after extending the deadline for both staff and guest contributors.

Five submissions plus the two I'm expecting to receive is plenty for one issue, but there isn't a lot of diversity among the submissions, and they're mostly creative writing as opposed to articles. Creative writing is more than welcome, but really well-thought-out hard news and editorials is what I want to focus on this year.

Plus, my photo editor is in the hospital, and while the photo prof emailed all of his students, I haven't gotten a single photo submission. Looks like I'll be writing two articles, doing layout, getting people paid, making sure I get submissions, holding staff meetings, planning deadlines, going to the printer's AND taking my own photos. Luckily, I don't let myself get stressed-- allowing myself to get nervous about responsibilities won't help anything. Everyone should try controlling their negative emotions instead of letting things get to them. It isn't easy, but it's possible.

I think that maintaining a quaint little Citizen website might be a nice idea. I received an article from a staff member yesterday on an obscure genre of music, and I'd really like to direct people to a place online where they can hear examples of the music and find links to related websites. I should probably hold off on that idea for now though, considering how much extra work needs to be done for the November issue.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Art is Everywhere is oriented towards global awareness of the visual world. The linked post reminds me of a one-shot class I sat in on recently with my parents on Family Day. It was taught by William Edelglass, the new philosophy prof that seems to be adored by every student who has come into contact with him. Personally my appreciation of William is centered around the conversations we've had, on Buddhism and Oscar Wilde (not at the same time), as my only philosophy course this semester is the 6-credit monster of a workload that is RLP. Attending the class gave me evidence to his coolness in relation to his teaching methods.

My experience with the class, titled "Philosophy of Art", was very interesting. At the beginning of the session, William pointed out several different objects he had on display. There was a Buddhist silk painting that pictured deities which he described in detail, a Tibetan box he used to hold chalk, part of a tree stump that had been polished, a stick that a beaver had chewed on, a painting done by his friend, half of a used tissue that he had taken from the men's room earlier that morning, and my favorite, the other half of that tissue inside of a picture frame. He asked us which ones were art. I can see now why it is that he is so beloved amongst philosophy students!

The most amazing part of the class was that the group work wasn't treachurous. I usually abhor group work assigned during class, with group work outside of class being more bearable but not often appreciated. I prefer individual efforts mixed with optional but frequent discussions on the course material. I don't know if I should give William credit for the phenomena of beneficial group work, but the questions that he asked of us probably helped. I was paired with a wonderful older woman named Willow and Nathaniel Doubleday's lively mom, both of whom had wonderful insight on the concept of art. Actually, I wasn't paired with them per se, we were merely instructed not to pair up with family members. The questions we were asked to discuss after picking a piece was:

Is this art?
If so, why?
Does it give you an aesthetic experience?
What is an aesthetic experience?

The most memorable topic we covered, as a group and as a whole class afterward, was whether or not human effort was significant in deeming things "art" or "not art". The tissue was not so much art, for it was not intended to be so and no effort or statement was put into either piece of the tissue. But what of the stick that a beaver had chewed on? It was certainly beautiful and interesting, but it seems that no effort went into making it either one of these things. What do you think? What makes something art, and where does effort fit into the equation?

I brought up Dadaism, which often does not display a large amount of human effort into making pieces pretty, but has evident effort put into the statement behind the piece.

Link found through swissmiss.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

عيد الفطر

Here I am with Emily and Amanda during a celebration of Eid that took place in the World Studies Lounge. Eid, or Eid ul-Fitr, is the three-day celebration of a successful Ramadan fasting period. It was hosted by Ahmed, the Arabic language fellow, who gave an informative speech on the holiday that I scantly remember at this point.

Part of the celebration of Eid involves wearing new clothes and eating sweet foods. The idea of treating oneself after a month of strict restraint struck me as delightful, and although I had hardly been refraining from food or drink that past month I allowed myself a few treats as well. Ahmed's pastries filled with honey, nuts and coconut were magnificent, and judging by the swarms around the tables the Lebanese food from New York was great as well.

The most wonderful thing about the occasion was the gathering of a community far larger than Marlboro. In addition to staff, students and faculty of Potash Hill, there were many guests, wearing their new Eid garments and toting adorable little children. At Marlboro there are about 350 students, and seeing unfamiliar faces on campus is a strange phenomena that should be embraced.
This poem should be prefixed with the honest assertion that I do not consume illegal substances of any kind. This is not to say that I have never done so, though it is indicative of my decision to never do so again. Incidentally, when I wrote this poem (in November 2007), I was prescribed a form of Ritalin for ADHD.

Little College on a Hill

here i am at my Little College on a Hill
i’m not in good spirits as my first semester draws to a close,
but at least i am well provided for.
i have a good friend who loves ceaser and ancient greek
i have enough acquaintances to keep me company
(even if i always, always feel alone)
i have cigarettes i bought at one in the morning
when two people I admire intensely and I
drove to price-chopper during an all-night study session.
i usually have coffee to drink and
i have a dealer
who yesterday was inspired spontaneously
to read six chapters of
moby dick to me
and i have
good grades and
plenty of ritalin
and i have some talent and i have my health at least

i walked down a hill from class to my dorm
and saw esther playing in the first snow she’d ever seen
i am not surprised by the weather
half of all my years have been white
(but i have those childhood memories at least)
she frolics like a little kid
the right thing to do when vermont replaces ecuador
i remind her to make a snow angel
she doesn’t want to get wet
but the seed has been placed at least

i’ve new experiences of my own at least
experiments become habits
everyday i utilize my lungs
but these things keep me going at least
i hold on to a lucid reality

i’ve been trying to change my reality at least

i think of marlboro college as my home
i call it my home
it is strange to call anywhere else home
so i still remember that i have loved this place at least
winter break is coming
i hope i miss this place soon
either way
i have a family and
i have this place to come back to
and i have some talent and i have my health at least

All-nighters I have known

I searched for and found an old post of mine on Nook. There are words and concepts expressed in the following blog entry that, much like Nook, is unfamiliar to people who are not associated with Marlboro College. It matters not; I will catch you all up to speed in my posts to come.

It's reaching the brink of Wednesday, and I am one among many students sitting here in the Rice-Aron library amongst textbooks and tins of Bali Shag. My many nights of academic mastication have brought me close to the fruition of a successful school year, but I still need to complete a Geraldine Paper (oh, that iconic concept!) for a class just half a day from now. If I finish my 25-page defense of an unpopular tragic heroine before the darkness dissipates into cold morning, perhaps I will sleep. More likely, I will dilute my time spent studying with internet forays and distracted conversations, then finish and print with just enough time left to eat breakfast with friends who stare ahead with sober eyes at the exams awaiting them next week.

I've never seen the sunrise look as pretty as it did from the first floor of the grand quiet room on the morning of my first Marlboro all-nighter. Writing requirement was two days away, a full night's sleep about three. From the table furthest from the window one can see the rising sun from both floors, all the stereotypical colors associated with the daily turning of the earth glowing from behind the mountains.

Last night I left the library before the sun rose (but not before Jon Sheehy did), my body addled with the various health problems that sleep deprivation has been known to cause. Before I unplugged my laptop and resigned myself to an early rise, I dreamily watched the Gushee creation suspended from the library ceiling spin dreamily around and take shapes that only a college student on the verge of hallucinogenic fatigue can see.

When studying at night, one's perception of late and early relies on the amount of work that needs to be finished. A glance at the clock: it is 11:52, nearly always an "early time". Eleven fifty-two... it is getting late. This Nook post, a testament to my bouts of dedication and a record of my current procrastination, need finish here.