On Distractions

Toni Morrison speaking at “A Tribute to Chinua Achebe – 50 Years Anniversary of ‘Things Fall Apart.'” The Town Hall, New York City, February 26th, 2008. Photograph by Angela Radulescu.

Now, let me tell you what Toni Morrison said. She said racism was a distraction from her work. We can’t be distracted by their foolishness. Let them look for the problem.

Let them look for the problem. Don’t you look with them. You already know it’s not a problem. We already know critical race theory is not being taught in public schools.

Listen, that is a distraction. While they’re arguing about critical race theory and social and emotional learning, culturally relevant pedagogy, let them look for that problem.

Guess what I’m going to do? Teach my ass off.
I’m still going to teach. I’m still going to teach the truth, and you won’t distract me.

Dr. Tip, “Ep 66: Finding What You Seek,” tellemtiptoldyou

my morning is summer.

The Joys of the Summer Neon Slushie

I didn’t get car culture when I was younger. As a teen, I didn’t have a car to drive to and from high school. I didn’t wait for senior year to take my car out to whatever fast food joint for lunch (didn’t sneak out for lunch in junior year either). I wasn’t hoping I could speed without getting caught but eventually getting a ticket anyway. I lived a block away from my high school, so I didn’t drive to go anywhere until I went to college.

But in the pandemic times, I get it (let’s be real: I loved the metro but I missed driving when I lived in São Paulo). The thing that has brought me joy is cruising down the street in my parents’ car, going wherever I can go instead of feeling confined and claustrophobic. It is the best thing in the summer to drive aimlessly: to the park, to a sunflower field, on the highway to stop in front of horses and cow farms. Maybe these are the most Midwest summer things to do, but stopping at Sonic and ordering a deeply dyed strawberry syrup slushie probably takes the cake. I get why my classmates did it. What else is there to do?

But it goes beyond the lack of “lack.” It’s taking pleasure in the manufactured comfort of suburbia, the slowness of Kansas summer. The stillness and renewing clarity of home.

The Great American Blog™ Returns!

I’m back! For the folks who get e-mail notifications, I hope this was a nice surprise. For everyone else, new or old readers alike, welcome back.

Logging back in here was a trip. For two years, I have been inundated with spam comment alerts in my e-mail, notifying me that Russian and Nigerian bots post AI speak comments about self-help books, cryptocurrency, and still Viagra pills. In this way, the Internet has remained the same since I started using it…in 2000.

But so much has changed! super relax in all its manifestations (tumblr, blogspot, wordpress) is about ten years old ‼️‼️‼️ I pay for this domain + web hosting and I have let this space collect dust and then have the gall to repeat the perennial “I need to revive my blog/ i miss blogging / i miss writing for myself” on twitter. I spent this morning going through my old entries (soon to return here) with a lot of good memories, surprises, curiosity, and laughter. It’s good to return.

So here I am. I’m happy to revive the blog but I feel weird and uncomfortable. The discomfort is because I changed:

  • I do not really remember code anymore, which was integral to my blogging experience. Like right now, I just updated WordPress (I use WordPress.org) and I haven’t figured out yet how to make bullet points ;__; Never mind, I figured it out (took a while though) :/
  • It’s not clear who is reading your blog when you revive it. Who reads long form shit in 2021 unless they are a professional writer, academic, or troll? Blogs died because the public sphere moved to social media, facilitated by the even quicker speed in communication and free “content” production (I H A T E this word). The people who read this blog in the 2010s now make newsletter formats (substack, medium, buttondown) and maintain a visible social media presence, notably on Twitter; utilize tumblr and Instagram as personal blogs, or have left the internet almost completely (pulling up once in a blue moon to send me an e-mail or text).
  • I have aged. super relax began circa 2009/10 on tumblr, evolved into compact fuku on blogspot (with super relax still being on tumblr), then super relax became a permanent indy blog (my own web-hosting) sometime in 2015 or 2016. Over the arc of my late teens to mid-twenties, I wrote about internet subcultures (those I participated in and those I critiqued), visuals and designs, aesthetics, and cool shit I found on the net. I posted fragmented thoughts, discourse on discourse, self-help, playlists, and moodboards.

Funnily enough, I still do all of those things. I just spread it out across social media accounts for different publics. The topics I have discussed/documented/preserved in 2021 are those I explored in 2011 and before that. The only difference is age: super youth versus youth with time to cook.

What has changed is that I am no longer an anonymous person writing into the ether of the internet. I am a somewhat public-facing educator, scholar, and intellectual. People take what I say seriously. I am conscious that, even as I pretended not to know, the anonymous age of the internet ended long ago. Sometimes I feel self-conscious even tweeting.


Does some senior person in my field/adjacent field think I’m immature for tweeting about a new journal article one minute and then five seconds later retweeting “[Megan Thee Stallion throat effect]”? Do people think I’m making light of Brazil’s current crisis whenever I talk about Lula’s Scorpio tendencies in his tweets? Are the people who hate what I do waiting for me to say something so they can screenshot what I said and show it to my employer five years from now out of context so I can lose my job??? Do people notice the terrible grammar or mistakes when I write something????? Are they sick of me posting memes, even though that’s what they come to Twitter for?????? Do people even??????

Yeah, probably.
It is what it is. I am still tweeting.
But most people read or follow what I say because I contain multitudes. I am abundant in what I contribute. So:

Mase gif

super relax is back! It is the Great American Blog™, meaning the blog is heterogeneous in material: academic, discourse, advice, documentation, resources, and whatever else of relevance. Think the modern newsletter, but not monetized because that is literally a blog. The Americas are messy and so am I. Welcome aboard.

In case you’re wondering: the name “super relax” came from Cibo Matto’s 1997 EP of the same name. “low femme theory.” is a reference to A Tribe Called Quest’s sophomore album The Low End Theory (1991), but replaces “end” with “femme.” My web moniker “tropigalia” is wordplay on the music genre “tropicália,” replacing the “c” with a “g.” I think of it as reference within a reference, as the artist Gal Costa was a heavy hitter and central contributor to the genre. I had an online friend who went by the username and lent it to me when she retired it. Thank you Mary ♥️♥️♥️

Can I Nap? Can We Nap? Let’s Nap.

Carrie Mae Weems, “The Kitchen Table Series,” 1990.

So how does a black woman combat burnout? Black girl magic, right?! I love this phrase. I use and repeat it often. I love the song by Janelle Monáe that repeats this phrase even more. But I can’t stop honing in on that word, “magic” — the idea that black women have had to subsist on their mystical powers to persist. Black women have had to rely on wizardry to make it through this tumultuous life. We must harness magic to succeed and thrive through this bullshit. After all burnout for black millennials is not just tiresome, but deadly.

The data is bleak. Not only are we paid 61 cents for every dollar our white, male counterparts make, but our telomeres (the ends of our chromosomes, which control aging and other key biological functions) are literally shrinking due to excessive oxidative stress factors like everyday racism. According to the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, “black women are 7.5 years biologically ‘older’ than white women.” Couple that with rising black maternal death rates, especially for black academics. If I succeed and push myself harder, I will increase my chances of fraying at the seams on a cellular level. Not only will I age faster (see: portraits of Obama before and after his presidency) and get sick faster, but I will also increase the difficulty of conceiving and then giving birth — all of this while hurtling faster to my death with more debt than any other group in American history. Burnout for white, upper-middle-class millennials might be taxing mentally, but the consequences of being overworked and underpaid while managing microaggressions toward marginalized groups damages our bodies by the minute with greater intensity.

[…]

What scares me now is that I’m starting to make the transition from middle-class to upper-middle-class, but most days, it still feels like I’m heading to the back of the bus: financially forward, but psychologically Rosa Parks in reverse. No matter how shitty a restaurant’s service is, I’m still compelled to tip over 20%, because I don’t want to exacerbate the stereotype that black people tip poorly. Or remember when Oprah was in Italy and worth billions, but the salesperson wouldn’t show her a $38K handbag, because she thought it was out of Oprah’s price range? Mmmhhhmm. Insert my permanent side-eye, which has been my fixed mood since birth.

Another question I’m afraid to ask myself: Am I burned out because I’m still subconsciously wanting the American dream to be true, despite the odds stacked against my skin color? Do I want to be the exceptional black person who actually makes it out of my circumstances? Or am I wanting to be something I will never be: a rich, white man — seemingly carefree, with a sizeable Roth IRA, unafraid to walk to his car at night without his keys Wolverine-d in his hands?

But if the American dream isn’t even possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore…then what the heck I am even striving for? Where do I actually see myself?

Excerpt from Tiana Clark‘s essay, “This is What Black Burnout Feels Like,” for Buzzfeed News.

Further reading and listening: 
¹ Roxane Gay, “The Price of Black Ambition,” VQR. See also: Discussion on For Colored Nerds.
² Anthony James Williams, “Blackademia: navigating depression, desire, and deadlines,” Student Voices.
³ Sheldon Pearce, “Earl Sweatshirt Does Not Exist,” Pitchfork.
⁴ James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Davis,” New York Review of Books.

If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own—which it is—and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.

Therefore: peace.

Giving Myself a Chance // Softness, Hardness, & the Binds Between.

I sent a prayer to my ancestors. I asked for insights into my personal life and doors to walk through to begin my journey to another path. A path to be healthier and more secure in myself, and to be a better relation to the folks I am in relation with. I prayed to my grandmothers to help.

AND THEY DELIVERED GODDAMMIT!!! At the beginning of the year, I made a grave error, and it blew everything up. Cassandra as I knew her blew up…or did she/I? I literally do not know: I’m in the process of the process of trying to figure out what happened to me and what I did/did not do. Doors in the corners of my mind opened to more doors, until I came to the ocean floor. I’m not sure if I’m Asuka or Rei, or just a combination of them both. But I got there by going into the Pearl inside the Pearl inside the Pearl inside the Pearl inside the Pearl inside the Pearl of my body.

So now I sit with myself and my selves. Xangô is here, whereas Exú, ironically, has been here the entire time, in Cass₁. There is also a Cass₂. I don’t know which Cassie I am: it could be anywhere from Cass₃ to Cass₉. But they have all, excluding me, climbed out from my throat to force me to reckon with them: an intervention of sorts, but with cakes and notebooks and tea, on the surface floor.

One thing that has become clear in this intervention is that I have needs. I have ignored my needs for a long time, and right now I want care. I need care to be soft again.

Andi Schwartz, who I already profiled on this blog, published an essay on cultural politics of softness. It poses a number of points, especially that softness as a conceptual framework can be a real solution to addressing harm. Softness does not have to be a stand-in or short-hand for anything. It instead requires “vulnerability, emotionality, and earnestness” as a pathway to securing safety. Schwartz continues:

This stands in contrast to hardness, an approach that often relies on irony and sarcasm to shore up the image of infallible impenetrability. Hardness wants to appear unattached and unaffected. Hardness wants to believe it can pull itself up by the bootstraps. Hardness wants us to see this as strength.

Hardness, as an extension of neo-liberal and classic liberalism, encourages the breakdown of community ethos by tricking populations into believing they are individuals, and that individualism is the primary way to be. “Acknowledging our vulnerability,” Schwartz writes,  “foregrounds our actual interdependent human nature, rather than pretending we could live without each other.” (more…)

It’s Been A While!

Rocío Sagaó (1950) by Nacho López


It’s been a hot minute. Where have I been?

In 2018, I:

☁ went into a freefall depression.
☁ had a major breakdown and resulting PTSD.
☁ took my comprehensive exams in the same period.
☁ applied to several fellowships.
☁ completed and passed said exams, including one with distinction.
☁ won a prestigious dissertation fellowship.
☁ became a doctoral candidate in history.

So that’s where I’ve been. Where am I now?

Cleaning up a mess I made and working on how to be a better person (a forever journey). Watching the demise of Internet 2.0. Looking forward to the blogging and zine revival. Admiring and analyzing design. Living with my partner. Enjoying brie and fruit.

I’ll follow up soon, because: this blog is now live. The webmistress has returned.
¡Viva super relax!

Internet Roundup // 21.1.18

Welcome to the Working Week ☁ Sunday, January 21

I continue to be impressed with Google’s “Google Doodle” initiatives. Many of the artists are folks of color, which is a interesting dynamic considering Google’s oscillation between neoliberal multiculturalism and white dude hostility to poc cultures.

I’ve been feeling off this week, and feeling bad about it – that nudge of not “being productive,” or rather, not performing it. But once I checked in with everyone, it became clear that my expectations for myself were unrealistic. I just got back from traveling a week ago, and didn’t get to catch my breath until this weekend! So yes, there’s more shit to be done and w/e, but I got this.

Cannaday Chapman did Google’s MLK, Jr. Day doodle for Monday, January 15th, 2018. Her work is really gorgeous; in addition to her interview, check out her artwork!
Tasty Japan‘s twitter feed has been my favorite thing to watch recently! I can’t read Japanese, but the visuals of the portions and the directions are easy enough to make out (I can recognize some characters for time, as well). Here’s some recipes: homemade sorbet, matcha macarons, and fruit tarts.
☁ The many spheres of hell as seen in Japanese art.


☁ ALLLL THE FEMME STUFF 💖💖💖 Sal Muñoz‘s Femme Project interview with Richard, Scarlett Shaney‘s photography, and Andi Schwartz‘s Femme Archives, especially her writing on soft femmes.
☁ Podcast Spotlight: Locatora Radio’s “Loca Epistemologies,”Femme Too Deep’s “Gratitude Attitude,” the Last Adventure’s “More Oral, No Morals
☁ “‘Getting Away’ With Hating It: Consent in the Context of Sex Work” by Charlotte Shane.
☁ Black holes continue to be fascinating.
☁ Trees are migrating away (maybe into the sea? Away from us?).
☁ “Why I See A Black Queer Therapist” by Steven W. Thraser.
☁ I am listening to Nelly Furtado’s discography and IT IS PERFECT. Favorites include Whoa, NellyFolklore; and the Ride. “One Trick Pony” is my jam, potentially for the rest of the semester.

Yaeji is me.

Reminders:
🌸 Call your parents (or equivalent).
🌸 Eat your vegetables.
🌸 Hang out with your friends.
🌸 Pay your taxes.
🌸 Drink water if you have the privilege to have clean water.
🌸 Remember your purpose.
🌸 Embrace all of you.

until next week!

Internet Roundup // 14.1.18

Welcome to the Working Week ☁ Sunday, January 14

I’m back from Rio de Janeiro, and the new semester starts this week. I’m in preparation mode for many things, and I will move head on into all of them. Here’s a linkroll:

☁ A guide to dissertating; I think it’s a good guide for everything grad school-relevant.
☁ “I Started the Media Men List,” by Moira Donegan. See also: shitty men in academia list.
☁ Korean and Chinese recipes for dayyyyyyyyyys. See these recipes for arepas, date + guava grilled cheese sandwiches, and eggplant salad!
☁ Get a hobby for yourself, and try not to monetize it if you can help it.
☁ Logic is a really cool webmag on tech. This interview with Fred Turner on Silicon Valley’s ideological origins and foundations is fascinating and confirms how morally dead the industry is as it tries to institutionalize itself. Information is not neutral. Coding workshops are probably bunk and use similar traps to for-profit schools.
☁ If you can’t take an African diaspora class, take a peek at this resource on the African diaspora in the Caribbean.
☁ Blogs still live, especially in the form of lifestyle blogs. Lifestyle blogs aren’t really my thing (they’re like instagram before instagram), but these, design-wise, are visually interesting. Thank you Kailey for sharing these! oh happy dayscathingly brillianti want you to knowaww samkeiko lynnin my sunday best
☁ I watched Devilman Crybaby on Netflix and I have very strong feelings about it. I’m very happy Masaaki Yuasa is getting his shine, so in the meantime, watch Ping Pong the Animation.

Tchau for now (〃´∀`〃)ε`●)

Personal Archives

Screencap from Wayback Machine’s copy of “GIRLYROCK,” a Yuki Isoya fansite by NatsukiGirl.

I recently wrote a longform essay on the history of web communities pre-social media. Or rather, I argued that despite being understood as ephemera, the fragments left over from dead websites provides folks (historians, archivists, whoever) great material to piece together the histories of digital life, especially since conflict and memory are the glue that puts them together.

While that paper was for a class, I’ve been left thinking about how that paper could have grown. I’ve realized that that meditation on web communities was informed by several themes I’ve been meditating on in the past and present; especially the presumption that “blogs” or other old form web community spaces (LiveJournal, BBS/forums, fansites, etc) are a lost art at best and dead at worst. (more…)