Crabs in the Swamp // 11.02.17

D.Va Room by artist/cosplayer Jenni (Pixelninja)

Why are women still sexualized in cyber-punk fantasies? Why do scifi artists still imagine worlds on the ground as we approach our over-heated climate reality? Why do our imagined fantasies still revolve around colonized/privatized spaces? What about the outback, the badlands, or decolonized/uncolonizable spaces? Exclusion causes misery, but the excluded still find ways to survive. The same people who are crying about institutions falling are the same ones who chose to deny or accept who moved through said institutions in the first place. They don’t get to imagine the future, we do. I do.

We don’t control our own data/internet footprints.

Joy is so necessary. Don’t deny yourself joy as the world falls apart. Don’t aid in your oppressor’s goal to kill you faster.

We must leave eek out space in the badlands of the net. We must decolonize the boundary between capitalist publics and authoritarian privates.

I’m being transformed by my grandmother’s passing. She left me blessings as she moved into the pantheon of the ancestors. I can feel it. Another magical femme powerup.

mine&mine // 9. 01. 17

I had a really relaxing break? With minimal stress, excluding select instances that turned out to be minor? Usually I don’t do valley-girl inflected statements, but this is unironic because THIS ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS TO ME ;____________; Truly! During undergrad, I worked or had to focus on some kind of research project year after year, and families usually just dysfunctionally family it up during the holiday, so 🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃 Instead, I got to sleep infinitely better, not cook ever, not pay to do my laundry, be around my family and not combust (except that time I went to Ikea with my boyfriend and Mom and she embarrassed the fuck outta of me ;___;;;), eat good food with friends! Upgrade my phone, and  now my whole iTunes library finally fits ☺️☺️☺️

I also had the best nachos of the year, and they were vegan! The restaurant I was blessed to receive them at substitutes dairy cheese with cashew “cheese.” Cashews? I know it sounds suspect, but I swear by it: cashew cheese sauce is a fantastic substitute for regular nacho cheese, which I say as the King of Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce. As long as you can put good filler in the nachos and use your spices, it tastes fantastic! Perhaps vegan food gets a bad rap because white people have trademarked veganism, and they still refuse to use spices in their cabinet drawers

I made a strategic plan for 2K17, filled with ambitions, goals, and plan pathways along career, health, and personal lines. I think I’ve spoken about this on social media, but there is a strange irony in how folks are either apathetic or terrified out of their minds right now. Additionally, I feel like the world is accelerating faster than it actually is, via social media outlets reinforcing that feeling. I do believe in being well-informed, and I’m an obsessed information nerd; but it got super draining with time to read Sarah K or Paul Krugman’s tweets. Of course, the world is terrible and the coming admin (minus 11 days and counting) will induce some incredible suffering; no buts about it. Something does have to give, though. Will I feel better knowing everyday how bad things are going to get, even though I’m a historian and my background in US history already tells me I know what is coming, just with some tech updates? Or, do I just live my life, wanting and trying to hope for the best, but still expecting the worst? Furthermore, do I do the later and just prioritize my well-being and those of the folks I love?1 

Duh, the second one. Stress kills, I don’t want to be stressed out, and I need some good buffers that affirm my humanity while i’m working on my doctorate degree. And I already know what those things are + I left some of it by the wayside years ago because I thought I needed to be a “serious person…” which was actually some bs about how scholars become scholars and is some white supremacist trash tbh. So I will pick back up web-coding, re-teach myself Adobe Suite and drawing, learn new code languages, among other things (I see knitting, zine-making, and food crafts in my future). My domestic sphere needs to be my refuge from the world. It’s a brave thing to do!

Speaking of refuges, I think 2K17 will be the year that I do sever my ties with big social media. I think I’ve given up on the idea that I just delete them outright (lbr nobody wants to read e-mails anymore), but using them as small branches that re-route back here. I do believe we are being robbed and scammed out of our online lives, which are transformed into cash cows without compensation.2 Of course, I’ve written about this numerous times, but I’ve also realized that the importance of carving out a personal space online is the fact that all of those websites are a ticking timebomb: like Livejournal, they will also die. Interestingly enough, they may enact it themselves, by not taking care of their tr*ll problem. Anyway, that’s that. Point: let’s save ourselves lol.

#miscellaneous stuff: podcasts & footnotes & fandom
☁ Yuri!!! on Ice is perhaps the best anime of the 2010s. Watch it.
☁  Listen to dadfeelings: the episodes on Vegeta and Professor Utonium killed me.

☁ 1. Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Ezra Klein show 
2. Melissa Gira Grant‘s episode on Woodland Feelings expands a lot more on my social media net takeover feelings

byeeeeeeeeeeeee for now 💖💖💖

Internet Roundup // 4.12.16

Poster for Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue (1997)

You think I’ll be the dark sky so you can be the star? I’ll swallow you whole. – Warsan Shire

“Why do we have to live in an anime?” I’ve asked my friends this in frustration, cynicism, and humor the past month. Later, I switched it from “anime” to “Final Fantasy X.” I think you can keep swapping it for something else over and over. In most anime and Final Fantasy X, there is some semblance of a happy ending. No happy ending is guaranteed at this moment, and perhaps not in our own lifetime. Only the suggestion that we may perish en masse.

I believe in radical optimism: it may fluctuate, but it is always with me, eternal. It does not mean willful obtuseness, like in the Panglossian sense, but rather that understanding justice, accountability, and renewal as long processes, which improve despite the likely possibility of being unable to see it. James H. Cone elaborates on this in his book the Cross and the Lynching Tree.

See, whites feel a little uncomfortable because they are part of the history of the people who did the lynching. I would much rather be a part of the history of the lynching victims than a part of the history of the one who did it. And that’s the kind of transcendent perspective that empowers people to resist. That’s why King knew he was going to win even when he lost by human sense.

I believe in myself. ‘While There is Despair, I Am Not Hopeless.’

Photo credit: Clitselfie

☁ Normalize joy.
☁ This really is a great tribute to Jet Set Radio & Jet Set Radio Future.
☁ Why the folks who were dying to say how they really felt about the most vulnerable social groups’ visibility need to remember that they, too, are also a social group. This is the reason why they refuse. The United States is worse off for it.
☁ Stop blaming everything on young people. It makes baby boomers and their destructive bullshit invisible.
☁ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us to say what we really mean, no longer hiding behind pretty phrases to become smaller in the face of unequal cordiality.
☁ This episode of PhDivas really touched me. “Remember that we are our ancestor’s wildest dreams[…]What if we were our own wildest dreams?”
☁ Chani‘s readings for me are, as always, on point:

No spiritual practice can be liberating if it isn’t also deeply challenging in its nature. To only listen to teachings that lull us to sleep isn’t spiritual in nature. Spiritual practice is meant to jolt us awake. Disrupting our lives. Interrupting our complacency. It is a call so loud that it stirs the same kind of howl within us. It engages us with the world. As it is. As imperfectly as it appears. As difficult as it can be to contend with[…]

There are certain roles that we can’t get out of. We have to play them out. We are someone’s child. We are someone’s family. We are someone’s hope. Someone’s point of envy. Someone’s misunderstanding. Someone’s wildest dream. The roles that we inhabit aren’t always negotiable. We can’t always get out of them. But how we inhabit them is entirely up to us.

(more…)

Internet Roundup // 6.10.16

I am enamored with A Seat at the Table. It has acted as the needle that threads together my entire being, and all the links to my family, my spirit, my rage, my struggles, and power. It works beyond representation: not only do I see myself in the mirror, but I am recognized as regal. So much to unpack and learn, which I am gaining more context from Solange’s interviews and subsequent essays from others musing on this masterpiece.

A Seat at the Table stages artful, grounded pictures of the ephemeral. Phenomena like institutional racism and other indignities are entrenched in the fabric of the country. It is in the air here. We know its strategies well. The knowledge doesn’t preclude that at any given time, the air can coalesce into a “metal cloud,” can freshly distress you. A Seat uncovers these moments, gives loose shape to both them and the consequences they wreak. So much of this album documents, with colossal beauty, the way environments conspire to ruin or lift the moods of black people. For Mathew Knowles on “Interlude: Dad Was Mad,” the surroundings are the fallout from school integration. For Lil Wayne, clarified and vulnerable on the twinkling “Mad,” it’s general despair. Whatever the cause, Knowles makes room for the effects, the weariness, and the defiance. Knowles is unmoved by didacticism, by referential storytelling. She prefers traditions like anguish, annoyance, aggression, pride, haughtiness, and jubilance, and in that order. She maps the escalation of feeling.

Doreen St. Felix, “In Solange’s Room

She recognizes that anger can be a burden on our souls, that it can keep us from our true potential as black Americans. This is why she invites her mother, Tina Lawson, to remind us that there’s “so much beauty in being black.” The conversations with her parents harken to a black childhood of hearing your elders sit around the kitchen table, engaged in conversation, sharing grievances, and laughing over joyous shared experiences. When Solange named her album A Seat at the Table, it wasn’t about black people clamoring for a seat at the proverbial table of whiteness. After all, as Erykah Badu once sang, “Don’t feed me yours / ’Cause your food does not endure.” We don’t need a seat at any other table — we have our own. And once we’re nourished, we’ll juba down.

Ira Madison III, “Solange’s Feast

Diamond Sharp, “Sonic Healing
Bim Adewunmi, “‘A Seat At The Table’ Contemplates Black Life’s Contradictions
Judnick Mayard, “A Seat With Us: A Conversation between Solange Knowles, Mrs. Tina Lawson, & Judnick Mayard
Anupa Mistry, “An Honest Conversation with Solange Knowles

Cribs – Master P from The CF on Vimeo.

By the time this piece comes out, you’ll know that Master P actually narrates my album. I remember being a teenager, much like many teenagers at the time, and seeing Master P on MTV Cribs, and it being one of the most gaudy, incredible displays of wealth that I had ever seen in my life. It really impacted me that, out of all the houses on MTV Cribs, this was a black man from New Orleans, and he got this by completely staying firm in his independence. As a teenager, and my family being in the industry, I would hear my dad talk about No Limit and how they never sold their company and how they started from the trunks, from nowhere, from nothing. It left a huge impression on me. I saw a lot of my father in Master P, and him in my father, as young black men who dreamed really big and manifested those dreams. Although I, like everybody else, loved “Hoody Hoo” and TRU and all of the No Limit jams, I, at a very young age, felt a deep, deep connection with his story.

Solange on Master P, from “Solange Shares Her Inspirations for A Seat at the Table” by Tom Breihan

Other links:
Review: Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by Jeff Weiss
The Anti-Blackness of Interracial Porn” by CiCo3
The Final Countdown – Getting Ready for the final PhD Years” from PhDivas Podcast (XIne Yao & Liz Wayne)
First episode of season 2 of the Pineapple Diaries!

If this white man offer me a million dollars I gotta be worth forty, or fifty…

And they offered me a million dollar deal, and had the check ready. Said I wouldn’t be able to use my name. I was fighting my brother, because “Man, you shoulda took the million dollars!” I said “No, what you think I’m worth? If this white man offer me a million dollars I gotta be worth forty, or fifty… Or ten or something.”
To being able to make “Forbes” and come from the Projects. You know, “Top 40 Under 40.” Which they said couldn’t be done. Had twenty records on the top “Billboard” at one time. For an independent company. Black-owned company. You know, going to the white lady’s house where my Grandmother lived at, and say, “Look, you don’t have to work here no more Big Mama! We got more money than the people on St. Charles Street.”
And I, I took that anger and said, “I’mma put it into my music.” I tell people all the time, “If you don’t understand my record, you don’t understand me, so this is not for you.

Scammers in September, Arrested.

Bad Hair Day patch for purchase, by tittybats

September was a really rough month for me, like a routine Dragon Ball Z beatdown. The kind from all directions where all your senses and defenses are affected. Even when I am not surprised by the lows to which people sink, it’s not as if I’m not affected by it, and I haven’t figured out how to push forward beyond it (not really sure that I want to be numb to that kind of behavior). But I survived!

Today is the start of a new month in the calendar. I have better plans and better back-up plans, and the warmth, wisdom, and love of friends to help me. That foundation is where the blessing bloom and rise to my face, and then the reminders that visit to keep me on track:

May I learn all the ways in which I do not really see me. All the ways I rush through me, past me, over me. May I learn to pause in my presence. May I learn that witnessing me is witnessing myself. The more I do one, the more I can do another.

May I learn all the ways in which my self-obsession inhibits me from being able to experience me as I am, not as I think I should be. May I look for all of the assumptions that I have created. All of the prejudices I have been handed and that I consciously and unconsciously perpetuate. All of the limited understandings of me that I project on to me everyday. May I commit to rewiring my mind to be humble enough to know that I don’t know me but that I am willing to learn about me. May I remember that getting to know me is an honor and a blessing.

May I know where to draw the line for myself. May I remember that being in balance in my relationships requires my ability to first and foremost be in relationship with myself. The moment I forfeit that relationship, I can’t be there for me.

Original by Chani Nicholas for Aries, edits by me for my needs.

Cool stuff I like:
Have You Told Your Parents” by Vivek Shraya for Buzzfeed, on disrupting the unreasonable expectation to come out to your parents.
Racine Carrée Live in Montreal by Stromae

Messy Blogging In An Internet Wasteland, Revisited

By way of conversation – both online and offline – I have been revisiting my thoughts on the internet. In all honesty, I don’t believe I have departed much from my post a couple of months ago. Currently, I think what I said, about forging our own path past electronic, capitalist waste, is now even more imperative. Everyday I think about leaving social media: deleting accounts, leaving a twitter or tumblr to die, creating such a complex password to my Facebook that I will never be able to log in again. And than pushing it aside because I know it’s essentially impossible: if I want to keep up with my local pole and aerial community updates, if I want to pop in and see longtime friends’ updates, if I have to keep “family appearances,” etc – I have to keep these accounts open. Things otherwise are so much more difficult and complicated; or at least, that’s the trap.

And so the battle has shifted to resistance in some sense. Unfollowing everyone on Facebook so I can only see my posts (are you aware of that creepy thing on your newsfeed that allows you to see posts your actual friends like, of other people?), turning off my phone when I go to a social outing so Facebook doesn’t suggest if I magically now these people afterwards (Instagram too), updating less, saying less, and trying to be less present. Diminishing my “perceived self.” It’s not preferred to write about your entire self, because of the possible material consequences with your employer, your academic community, etc.

The “perceived self” versus who I am has been more of my issue on Facebook than elsewhere, leftover from people who perceived to know me via college. It is frustrating to know that you are a whole human being, but for others to selectively interact with you because you don’t just post cat pictures or food porn, but also things relating to racial discrimination (the so-called “social justice” posts). On some platforms more than others, a non-topical format does not work, and of course, an algorithm pushes that framework even harder into those unconsciously using the platform. It’s why (in addition to the realities of race, gender, class, region, sexuality, etc) when you try to present your real self, the perceived self cracks to the viewer. “Why are you so cold in person when on the internet you’re so alive and extroverted???” Or when you have had your security/trust compromised and decide to cease posting for personal safety, people flock to you to express how empty their lives would be without your posts.

Not empty without you, or even the care for your personal wellbeing. But what you post – your production, your emotional labor. Uncompensated labor instead of intimate space. That deserves to free of charge. An individualized Gawker/the Toast instead of a person who just posts whatever comes to pass. You are cheaper than the 24 hour or less think piece. I’m so fucking tired of think pieces. I’m not a think piece.

Someone once told me that nobody uses Facebook the way I use Facebook. I believe her and disbelieve her. I believe her in the sense that the format that Facebook and other social media platforms do facilitate that environment of individualized Gawker accounts, or at least curated spaces to perform oneself. It’s a form of cordiality culture. I disbelieve her in the sense that everyone is fine with it, or that there is no one else who also hates it and feels alienated by it.

Eline has said to me that perhaps it’s not about resisting anymore, as much as it is about moving beyond discomfort and fatigue, and doing something about it. Making intentional spaces, and adapting to your needs rather than trying to find a work around the current environment. I can this space, this blog, what I need my internet life to be. We can never go back to our nostalgia, but we can always move forward to create what we desire – this is the agency we have in all of this. There was always a “better, easier” time, but perhaps what we fear is that the future could be better, because it is in our hands.

Deep breath.

And now, onwards! I’ll be updating this site shortly. Welcome aboard.

See also:
And Now for Something” via Eline’s blog permae pupa
Is the beauty industry losing its touch?” via Saffron’s blog Saffron Sugar
Hand’s Up If You Have Beauty Fatigue” via British Beauty Blogger
Let the Frog In: On Guilt and Emotional Labor” via Katherine’s blog Just Call Me Shrew
Carmen” music video via Stromae

Messy Blogging in an Internet Wasteland

I just completed my first year in my PhD program, and I’m back at home in my parents’ house visiting for a few weeks before I go do summer research/language acquisition in South America. The novelty of eating your mother’s food and not having to pay for anything gets old very quickly, especially when none of your friends – high school or college friends – live in your hometown to help you blow money on chili cheese fries or underwear deals.

I have been reminiscing about those times, my adolescence and early college years, as I sit around and figure out what to do with my time. A friend recommended doing absolutely the opposite of productivity culture: something she terms passionate culture. What did I love to do without guilt, shame, and mental self-mutilation before I became consumed in “how to adult” as an aspiring (and now current) grad student? What was I so actively passionate about that I had multiple lives, not just one as a student? Can I do these things again?

The irony is that my passion for things I loved to do in my adolescence was primarily due to having a similar lack of access to the people and things I wanted to be in conversation with. If I couldn’t access a zine, I would make it. If my mom wouldn’t let me develop my own wardrobe, I could visit fashion blogs and see what I liked and didn’t like. If I couldn’t watch the latest indie or art house films, I would check out their predecessors and influences through the public library and interlibrary loan. I could talk to other folks around the world on LiveJournal and tumblr about black women, feminisms, diasporic melancholy, food packaging design, and 90s Björk remixes and Blur b-sides.

I’ve been re-reading old blog posts that friends and folks i used to follow wrote back in 2013 and before. Julia’s post on the internet and presence stand’s out to me: she identifies the earlier moments, like i outlined above, where sharing yourself on internet platforms didn’t feel too stressful or performative. In the age of apps, streaming, and microblogs/140 characters or less with reduced privacy rights, the internet moves at extremely fast rate. In the age of think pieces, there is less time to reflect, digest, and sit. Curated lives on Facebook and Instagram are full of clickbaity photos, links, and statuses designed for viral appeal. You cannot even browse social network websites a la Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest without an algorithm “suggesting” content to you. Is there any possible way to craft a presence online in such a climate (or era)? Can I even go back to recapturing the spirit I felt as an adolescent online?

I don’t think so. For one, we can’t turn the clock back to a time where we knew less than we do now. But secondly, the internet from 2000 to 2012 was not peachy keen either. LiveJournal and Xanga accounts (blogs and communities) wielded influence similar to web celebrities and personalities now on Twitter and Instagram. In fact, some of those current folks actually came out of the LJ/Flickr years.They wanted to be like the folks they idealized on fashion communities on LJ and fandom rings on blogger, and this new moment has brought them the opportunity to become that. Yes, there weren’t think pieces or countless selfies, but there were the time period’s equivalents. We’re in a kind of neoliberal internet.

Having said that, there were blogs and internet presences that were just anonymous time capsules. Not explicitly meant to capture an audience or wield influence; but to just share what they wanted to the world, whoever would listen, or to no one in particular. I think this is what Julia was speaking to in her post.  The non-curated, messy, typo-ridden, slice of life posts mostly did not have the buzz of “make this viral” all over them; it could be a quiet contribution to knowing the intimate details of someone’s mostly mundane life. Through the quick death and rebirth of memes and vines, the mundane is obscured from view, and maybe isn’t even around because it’s not [socially] profitable.

But then, don’t we have to ask ourselves what we do these things for? If we want to return to slice of life writing, why don’t we just do that? I don’t mean to suggest that an individualist, run against the current approach is the way to turn the tide; the tide is here to stay until a possible internet 3.0 (or the internet ending, somehow). But what do you like to do, who do you imagine are the folks that you will share or not share it with (your audience), and how will you proceed? Do you have the will to proceed? I had to wrestle with this question through a different medium, with regards to academic writing and research. Would I write what I wanted to write, or what I anticipated people wanted me to write? Would I write for myself and people I wanted to be in conversation with, or the folks who I thought I needed to cater to? It was painful to acknowledge that I had even internalized a lot of the behaviors I thought I was above, but eventually I realized I would lose my joy, confidence, and self-respect if I didn’t do the work I wanted to do. So I made it work for me, regardless of whose eyes settled onto the page.

That is the way I also want to approach the rest of my loves. I cannot go back to the past but I can cultivate an outlook that informed the reason why I loved my passions in the past: I gave myself the permission to be messy, non-linear, and curious. Maybe that’s how you get into something again, or at least learn to relax into yourself and leisure.

Supplementary:
* On Self-Respect by Joan Didion

Moodboard: Indefinite

PS, let me back up really quickly and say that I had it in my mind, i had put it out to the universe as a known fact, I was like ‘universe, I’m gonna write this book before I turn 25.’ In my head that was the truth. It hadn’t happened yet, but it was truth as far as I was concerned. I don’t know how this is going to happen, but this is gonna happen. I feel like that’s kind of the person I have been, somebody who’s like ‘this is my passion, this is what I want, and it is done, because I say it is is done.’Virgie Tovar

“My will is mine…I shall not make it soft for you.” – Aeschylus