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the drop that controls the ocean

I realize I've fallen prey to magical thinking, believing that if I fail to do X or Y activist thing, then the whole resistance will fall apart. It arises from erroneous logic that goes like this: "This situation is so bad it caused me to cancel plans with a friend to go protest. I'm not alone; other people feel that way too. That's why there are so many people protesting. But if I let up, then they will, too, since they're like me. So I have to prevent that from happening by not letting up."

I am the drop that controls the ocean!!
world in a dewdrop

But of course, my actions don't actually control other people's.1 I doubt I'm even a very good indicator of what other people will do, but if I were, my actions still wouldn't control other people's; they'd merely be predictive. And it's grandiose to assume that my action or inaction is going to spell the success or defeat of, for example, resistance to the executive order2 on refugees and incomers from those seven majority-Muslim countries. Maybe this exhortation is something that only I need, but I'll put it out there anyway: Do whatever stuff you do because you want to help change something that you find intolerable. *Don't* do it because your action magically controls the outcome. It doesn't.

1It's true that our actions can influence other people, so if you do something or refrain from something, it may ... pick your verb--cause/push/induce others to follow suit. But you're still not controlling them.
2I wasn't entirely clear on how executive orders work, so I read up on them (well, mainly I read one Washington Post article) and created a two-page summary of what I learned, which I can email anyone who'd like it.

ETA: Please read also what rachelmanija writes here.


Copley Square Protest, Boston

I'm making a T-shirt. On the front it will say, "I was a stranger" and on the back it will say "And you welcomed me." I haven't finished it yet, however, so I just carried a sign that said "Welcome Refugees."

I took a bunch of pictures, but this is my favorite:


This woman's message, at Alewife Station (on the way into Boston), was very moving:

At Alewife station

"I am: Arab Irani American"

Iranian American

This looked like the rugs you can see in the prayer room of a mosque. They're set out by a statue of Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal clergyman.

prayer rugs, Philips Brooks

"All Muslims are terrorized by this presidency"

Terrorized by this presidency

A game of hat-steal going on

a game of steal-the-hat

There are some more here.

May you grow up to be righteous

One of the women I work with at the jail is in the choir there. I got permission to go in for the performance. The jail choir group is called the Majestics, and they've been mentored by a senior-citizen choir called Young at Heart, all of whom were wearing T-shirts that said "We put the 'zen' in 'senior citizen.'" Young at Heart performed as the opening act, so to speak, and they were delightful and good, singing things like the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" and Bananarama's "Venus" and totally carrying it off.

Then the Majestics took the stage. There were six women, and they covered a great age range (three in their twenties, two in their thirties-forties, and one who was even older than me) and ethnically diverse (two Black, one Hispanic, three White). They sang well-known songs with lots of different flavors (hip-hop, pop, blues, soul), and all the choir members were featured at least once--even the older woman, who I thought would remain relegated to the background, but she came forward and did "Drift Away," and it was a huge success. The entire thing was a huge success; the audience was **so** supportive. They sang along with all the songs, even the fast rap portions of the rap songs, and clapped out the beat, and gave standing ovations.

At the end the programs director called for an encore, and there hadn't been a song laid by for that, but the Young At Heart choir sang "Forever Young," (Bob Dylan lyric; the Jay-Z song is good too though) with various choir members singing solos, and each time someone sang a solo, he or she linked arms with one of the members of the Majestics and brought them forward, and I could see tears in my student's eyes and I had tears in mine, because--as the chaplain who was present pointed out--that song is a benediction, and it was so great to hear those words of blessing and hope and expectation directed at the audience in the jail:

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
And may you stay
Forever young

ETA: I didn't realize until dudeshoes commented that the choir is the same one that had a documentary made about them in 2007. Also, at the group's website you can see a video about their work at a different jail. (We are a nation filled with jails...)

What I learned, week 3

There are things I learned related to the marches on Saturday, but I think I'm still working on that learning, so I can't really post about it, though, tangentially, my apolitical neighbor and friend has sent round an email to a bunch of her friends (me included) about staying active and engaged after the marches and after the anti-bigotry potluck that a group in town sponsored last Monday, so one thing I learned is: this is how people become activists. I was full of awe and respect.

At that potluck I found out that the longtime town clerk (now retired), an archetypal Yankee type, lean, with white hair, reserved, but with a nice smile, had been in the Selma march, had been on the Edmund Pettus Bridge with John Lewis. He's such an understated guy, a dedicated, quiet civil servant. I think I (re)learned something about who heroes are. Maybe they're the guy you're getting your dog license from.

Here, serving on the Board of Selectmen

It ties in with the poem "Ars Poetica #100," by Elizabeth Alexander (available for reading and listening here), these lines in particular:

Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,

overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way

to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)

is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.

Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,

and are we not of interest to each other?

Now that we have Apple TV, we can watch Netflix on our TV, which is great, as we don't have cable. We've watched a few series and tried others, and we're getting pretty good at the quick reject. Below are three we rejected, plus two we're currently watching.

Travelers--quick reject No, change of plans! We're going to give it a chance.

This came highly recommended, and since I've liked other things the recommending friend has suggested, I'm willing to bet that the storyline is good, but it had the violence turned up to high within the first ten minutes. When we watched Continuum, each show had to have its five minutes or so of kicking and punching, and we put up with it, like we put up with the gross-out body horror stuff in Fringe, but when you *open* with vicious violence, that probably means it's going to be embroidered throughout the entire show, rather than making an obligatory appearance once or twice per show. You're signaling to viewers what your show will have. Therefore, not for us.

ETA: All that was true, but when Little Springtime joined littlemoremasks in inhaling it, we decided to give it another try, and at the end of the first episode, we're feeling much better about it.

The OA--quick reject

Started out okay--a blind woman who disappeared from her home as an adolescent is rediscovered--with her sight restored--after she apparently tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. AND WHAT ARE THOSE SCARS ON HER SHOULDERS COULD SHE MAYBE BE AN ANGEL??? That seemed to be the working premise for the first half of the first episode: she looks Deep Into The Soul of the drug-selling golden-haired bully boy who lives near her and later pop-psychology-heals his burned-out teacher. She needs five agile, strong, able-bodied folks to help her perform a ceremony that will let her return to ... something. The bully and three of his pals show up--and then the teacher (who doesn't seem at all agile, but details, details), so the ceremony can begin. BUT FIRST LET ME TELL YOU MY STORY the woman says, and suddenly we're embarked on a long, involved backstory involving a Russian kleptocrat father (turns out our heroine is adopted) and visions and a neglectful auntie and .... too much. My engagement plummeted as the baroqueness of the main character's backstory skyrocketed. For his part, wakanomori was put off by the bully character. So, not quite as quick a reject as Travelers (we watched the whole episode), but still: a no-go.

Sense8--quick reject

I liked the pun in the title and the title graphics--how are those for criteria for trying something? But the opening scene was shot with a purple/blue filter and was sexy-vampire-types making out--just not a scenario that interests either me or wakanomori. (This was the quickest reject of the three, as we didn't even watch to the end of the first scene.)

3%--Hey Mikey! We like it!

This is a Netflix original series made in Brazil, with a Brazilian cast. It has a Hunger Games premise: most of the world (? Or Brazil?) in the future live in squalor, but if you've been registered at birth, then when you turn 20 you can undergo "the process"--a series of tests. Three percent will succeed and be allowed to go to the blissful, almost mythical "offshore." The rest return to squalor.

First, it's just such a pleasure to see a cast of non-Hollywood faces, many of them people of color. It's a treat for the eyes. They're all beautiful (young people are pretty much always beautiful), but refreshingly unretouched. And the storytelling is good. We've watched three episodes. Each one has focused on one of a cohort of young people who are going through the process together. All of them have secrets, have done things they regret. Several have cheated or betrayed someone to stay in the process--but those same have also helped out others. There's a guy in a wheelchair who's more than an object of pity or inspiration. After so many shows where you can predict who's going to say what, with what outcome, it's refreshing to watch one where the details are unusual and (some of the) twists are unpredictable. The overseer has secrets of his own, and an auditor has been brought in to see how he's running things. It's gripping! This review has it right: "3%'s ability to captivate relies on both acting and storytelling, and succeeds on both counts."

But set your watching preferences for subtitles, because the dubbing is *very* stilted. (It's a tribute to how good the show is that we were putting up with the dubbing. Now that we've figured out how to get subtitles, we're going to enjoy hearing the actors' own voices.)

Joanna's story is featured in the third episode

Atelier--Hey Mikey! We like it

This is a Japanese show (this one automatically had subtitles rather than dubbing--yay! This allows us to keep up with our Japanese) about a recent college graduate, Mayu, who goes to work for a designer-manufacturer of custom-made lingerie. I feared there was going to be lots of sexist how-important-beauty-is-for-a-woman talk--there was some of that in the first episode--and lots of male-gaze-y stuff, but on the contrary, discussions about beauty and style end up a lot more nuanced. The main character is more than just a pretty face--she works very hard, apologizes a whole lot, but also stands her ground and asks questions. You get discussion of business principles and markets, and about, well, underwear. The side characters are all interesting and likable. We've watched three episodes of this, too, and really enjoy it.

Have you seen any of these shows? Maybe you had a different experience with one of the quick-reject ones? Any of you seen the other two? What things are you enjoying (if anything) on the small screen these days?

Full heart

Very moved by all the photos and reports I'm seeing from all over the United States and the world, and I'm very, very grateful to family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who are out there. Thank you, everyone.

Special issue of Not One of Us

Any day that I get to share a table of contents with Sonya Taaffe and Patricia Russo is a good day--and today is one of those days! This is that rare beast, a print-only zine, so you can't read it without buying a copy and waiting for it to come through the mail, but I'm eager to have other people experience the alien, outsiderly goodness, so first three non-subscribers who send me an LJ message, I'll have a copy sent to you! ETA And I have three takers, so that offer's off the table now--thanks everyone!

Here's publisher John Benson's post about the issue:

“People who need care sometimes find it in strange places. In this collection, people variously get care from a cabal of busybodies, a demon hand in a suitcase, a dead girl spouting Moby Dick, and a stone filling in as psychiatrist. We have food you can’t eat, spiders on the ceiling, conversation and cardboard boxes, chalk outlines, and free things that come with a cost.”


Nice and Tuesday, by Patricia Russo
The Conversation (poem), by Sonya Taaffe
Old Tom Bedloe (poem), by Herb Kauderer
Did You Pack Your Own Case?, by Dan Crawford
Spider on the Ceiling (poem), by Kent Kruse
Repast (poem), by Davian Aw
Joyride, by Matthew Brockmeyer
Chalk Outline (poem), by Neal Wilgus
Doctor Stone, by Francesca Forrest
Free Universe (poem), by Gene Twaronite
Art: John Stanton

What I learned this week: wayfinders

wakanomori and I went to see Moana this past week. (I arrived at the theater first and bought the tickets. "Two for Moana," I said, and the ticket seller said, ". . . Two adult tickets?" "Yes," I said. Yes, two adults can go see a Disney film, unaccompanied by a child. IT CAN BE DONE.)

I enjoyed it very much, mainly all sorts of small things that had nothing to do with the overarching story or even the characters, really. One part that really swelled my heart was the song of Moana's wayfinding ancestors, which you can listen to below. (It won't spoil anything about the movie for you.)

The sense of huge adventure, of traveling to worlds unknown, guided by the stars--just, so moving. And the sails caught my attention, the care that the animators had taken to show the weave of them. And I thought about how I know someone who once worked making sails, and it got me wondering about how the wayfinders' sails were made. So I dug around, and I found two great sources. This PDF from the British museum describes repairing a Tahitian canoe sail and describes how it was made from a series of mats, made of woven pandanus leaves.

Figure 5, Construction features of the sail, from Sailing Through History: Conserving and Researching a Rare Tahitian Canoe Sail, by Tara Hiquily et al.

And then this great blog post from the blog "The Art of Wayfinding" talked about the different parts of a Marshall Islands outrigger canoe, including the sails. An organization called Waan Aelon in Majel (WAM), which means "Canoes of the Marshall Islands" in Marshallese, teaches kids how to make traditional canoes. (In a case of unrelated languages having similar-sounding names for the same thing, "aelon" means "island.")

Here are some girls with their model canoes (photo from the blog post)

And here is a pandanus tree, with those handy leaves (Photo by Eric Guinther, courtesy of Wikipedia):

I also loved that the start of the song "We Know the Way" was in some Pacific-islands language, and I wondered which one. Turns out it's Tokelauan. Tokelauan is spoken in Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand that's north of New Zealand, and also on Swain's island in American Samoa. Wikipedia says there are only about 4,000 speakers--but one of those is Opetaia Foa'i, who, with Lin-Manuel Miranda, wrote and sings "We Know the Way."


PS--one other (galling) thing I learned: In the 1840s,the French forbade inter-island travel in their colonies. Isn't that just like a colonial power: denying people the right to travel from place to place freely. After that, people in the French colonies stopped making woven sails because they weren't needed for the level of travel that was still permitted.

"He can't bite"

You may remember this clip from The Pink Panther:

I had a similar experience a few days ago, and in trying to decide what thing to talk about this morning (other contenders were Moana and Aslan's remark about only telling you your own story, both of which maybe I'll talk about later) this is what won out.

I was running in my neighborhood, and a little dog--very little--came running across its yard toward me. Its owner was calling it, but it charged on into the street and bit me on the calf.

"He bit me!" I said, shocked.

"He doesn't bite," the owner said. "He can't bite."

"I'm saying he just did," I said.

"No, no--he can't bite," the owner said.

"Well, he did something with his mouth on my leg," I said, and we were at an impasse. She scooped him up in her arms and apologized while continuing to say that he didn't bite. I was thinking, well, maybe the bite didn't break the skin; it didn't feel like much. I'll run home and check. So I did, and damn it all, it had broken the skin.

(Here, by the way, is what the bite looks like today, three days later.)

So I put on street clothes and went *back* to the woman's house, and knocked on the door.

"Look, I'm not here to cause trouble, but your dog did bite me," I said, and I showed her the bite. Her husband showed up behind her. "Did you see it happen?" he asked her. She had a deer-in-the-headlights look and said, "He did run over to her . . ."

"I just want to know that he's up-to-date on his rabies shots--that's all," I said.

"He has his own insurance!" the woman said. "It's at [can't remember] Veterinary Clinic."

"And he's had rabies shots?" I asked again.

Well, so, in the end, they were able to show me that yes, the dog had had his rabies shots.

"Thank you!" I said. "That's great. That sets my mind at ease. That's all I wanted--I just wanted to be sure I wouldn't get sick, you know?" And they nodded, looking a bit dazed, and I left, and everything was, I guess, more or less copacetic.

I've just finished a great book on restorative justice--that's where the harmed party and the person who's caused the harm meet up directly to make things right between them. Obviously this can't happen all the time. For one thing, it takes both parties being willing to engage in good faith, and a lot of times that's not possible. But if it CAN happen, it can be much more healing for both the victim and the perpetrator, and for the community as a whole, than our current justice system. For me, that's what the encounter I had felt like. I could have just gone home angry and stewed, or I could have called someone and made a complaint, but instead I talked to the people directly.

It's not a perfect outcome. I told this story on Twitter the day it happened, and one person noted to me privately that because I didn't contact authorities, the dog was likely to just do the thing again. And that's true, but I feel like there's a limit to how much responsibility I have to take for their dog situation. And who knows? Maybe they'll be more careful to have their dog on a leash before letting it out from now on.

It was among several artworks on display in the Blue House at the College of Our Lady of the Elms (known in brief as Elms College, but the long name is so marvelous), where I was for most of the day yesterday. It tells you exactly what it wants from you.

(Artist appears to be someone called Cavagnac.)

There were others in a similar style:

Cupcake, cog, hammer, nails, plus sign, gravestone--the poetry of things, arranged.

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