The Consequences of Tiananmen

The China Girls

Goddess of Democracy Built by students, the 33′ high Goddess of Democracy was built assembled in Tiananmen Square on the night of May 29-30. Shelley found this picture in a shoebox.

The words “惊天” (today) are blocked on Weibo right now. Because we all know what today is. If you’re on this blog, you know what today is. Even the least attentive have been counting down to it while going about our daily lives. And now, the time has finally come to take stock, 25 years later.

My entire life has been lived in the looming presence of the Tiananmen Massacre, but I didn’t understand that until I grew up. It’s not just my life, either. All of China lives there, in the shadow of it. The current regime constantly fights to censor it and keep it suppressed, but even where the Party line succeeds you can still see it from the…

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Back Again, I See

my school bus is my limo

This is my quilt. It literally has nothing at all to do with my post; I’m just putting it here because I really hate that when I link to this on Facebook the WordPress logo will show up. I really, really hate the WordPress logo for…no actual reason I can justify.

I suppose I failed pretty spectacularly with that thing I had been trying to do: blogging and writing and such. The thing about failing though, is that once I’d already failed I didn’t really get back on the horse.

A contributing factor is that I had a bunch of things to write that weren’t for my own pleasure. Some of them were amazing, but those ones were simultaneously daunting so I procrastinated those as long as humanly possible. And some were quite tedious and I’m still, somehow, managing to procrastinate those ones.

But Annie From HR actually requested a post, even if I that request is mostly made in jest, and seeing as she is in HR I kind of want to stay on her good side. So, Annie From HR, this is for you.

This still is not that treatise I’m promising about how artistic literacy is a requirement to combat homogenized onslaught of advertising culture and the general mind-numbing suck of society (wake up sheeple!), and it’s not even something kind of entertaining like a separate post I have planned about the physical letters and packages I’ve been receiving in the mail: gifts from friends that I truly appreciate.

But whatever it is, it’s all I have. It’ll just have to be enough.

Code Monkey came by from California and the gang got together for lunch. We ate at a bar called Smithfield, which is in that weird area between Midtown and Chelsea that I think may actually be Hell’s Kitchen? (I just looked it up, it’s actually kind of juuuuust in Chelsea. Side note: if Hell’s Kitchen ends at 34th St and Chelsea doesn’t start until 30th St, then what the heck is that area in between? No Man’s Land?!)

The food there is surprisingly good, as everyone already knew because we all eat there all the time since it’s spitting distance from where many of us work. Well, I don’t exactly work there very much anymore. But what’s notable about this meal in particular is that, within our mutual circle of friends, there were people who Code Monkey (being from California) had never met in person before, which I guess can’t be uncommon in this day and age, but it’s still interesting that we can know more about each other’s lunches than we know about each other’s faces. (An example occurred when someone told Code Monkey that they were frankly expecting someone taller.)

There were other memorable things about that meal, like the moment Annie From HR cried out that she still didn’t know what Python was, even though we had repeatedly informed her it was a computer language (or, as someone falsely stated a “computer science”). She then professed that in her head she was forming an idea that it was short for Pythagorus, as in the venerable mathematician. Seriously. Maybe, she thought in her strange Australian brain, that’s what Americans call Pythagorus. 

Needless to say, this was met first by stunned silence. Then by me choking on a mouthful of bread. Because guffaws just happen: they don’t care that your mouth is full and something could potentially fall down your throat and make you die horribly.

But Annie From HR’s statement is a great example of the total honesty that allows us to study the world. Because that moment was a great insight into how people from outside a culture (in this case, American culture) and a field of study (computer science) try to parse what’s going on within. She was, of course, terribly off course (and by the way I immediately informed her that I was going to tell the Internet what she did so don’t look at me like that) but mistakes are so much more interesting than truths sometimes—are more interesting than someone being astoundingly, perfectly right.

Because the truth is so much weirder: Python is a computer programming language developed by a dude named Guido in the Netherlands that’s named after a British comedy troupe that specialized in surreal humor. How could anyone guess that? You couldn’t. And so you reach for the nearest thing you know in your frame of reference.

But this process that Annie From HR went through is exactly what we all go through every time we try to guess what’s going on in someone else’s head. Granted, we usually aren’t so ridiculously far off, but sometimes we are. And the chance that we’ll be completely wrong is radically higher when we don’t know the person well. But we do it all the time, anyway.

We are all Annie From HR.

After lunch everyone else went back to work, but my shift wasn’t until six so I third wheeled it pretty hard with Code Monkey and his girlfriend Veggie (who, I need to mention, was my friend before they were dating and so you shouldn’t just think of her as Code Monkey’s girlfriend—which is an uncomfortably patriarchal signifier—she’s my friend Veggie who’s dating Code Monkey).

And Code Monkey doesn’t really care for New York, but for some reason Veggie and I really wanted him to like the city. So I took them down to see SoHo and Greenwich Village, because those are my favorite neighborhoods…and also the ones I’m least likely to get lost in. Honestly that was probably the most significant factor. Code Monkey, though still not a professed fan of the city, latched onto the food: we hit up Financier and Ippudo, Yogurino and Dean and Delucca. Actually, we hit up Dean and Delucca twice. 

And over a slice of green tea crepe cake thing (I’m so not a foodie) I articulated my idea of New York City as an open manhole.

At first, you think you’re above it all. Which, in this analogy, means you’re at street level. But one day you’re not paying attention and you fall right in: down into the city’s warm, but nonetheless putrid, embrace. I don’t disagree with Louie C.K.’s claim that New York is a piece of litter, but I’ve lived in North Jersey, and trust me: New York is a very nice, very shiny piece of litter. Glitter litter?

Also that’s a weird thing for Code Monkey to hate on us about. I mean, he’s from near San Francisco, which is like the dirtiest major coastal city I can actually think of. It’s not huge and cement like New York but it’s just…filthy everywhere.

Anyway, even though they didn’t give even the slightest appearance of minding, I did feel kind of bad for third wheeling him and Veggie all afternoon. It’s gotten to the point where I almost feel like it’s socially awkward for me not to have a significant other I can just drag to things. Laurasaur and I were actually talking about this the other day. Normally, I’m pretty happy to be by myself. But it’s also true that a large portion of this week was spent in a state of lonesomeness or whatever. Not just this week but this month, even. Maybe I just shouldn’t have time to think. That never seems to help.

It doesn’t help that every guy I’ve shown interest in for months has turned me down. Which…yay that makes me feel inadequate.

It’s whatever. It narratively makes sense for me to be alone right now. It’s funnier this way. I’m the punchline.

It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.
—Rainer Maria Rilke

The Promise of Good Things to Come

I started working on what I thought was going to be a simple blog post on aesthetic cognition (okay, now that I look at that I’m realizing that the belief I could write a simple post on cognition is kind of baffling) but it turned into a strangely long-winded treatise on why we need art programs in public schools so I’m going to actually have to put some more time into writing it, meaning it’s still unfit to post tonight.

In the meantime, I noticed that this Murakami book I’ve been meaning to read was looking at me funny. It was literally giving me the side-eye. I suppose this means I should read it before its sheer animosity gets out of hand.

The Promise of Good Things to ComeI…probably should stop blogging at night.

Anyway, have an outtake from Social Empowerment: Why Art Needs to Stay in School. It’s spoiler-free because this is from the cognition bit that the education bit sprang out of.

We think of color as solely within the domain of the visual arts, but music has it too, just in a figurative way. The timbre, or tone color, of sound is the third dimension of music (dimensions one and two being pitch and rhythm respectively). Instruments have different colors: that’s why a violin doesn’t sound like a saxophone. And the whole argument for being able to learn perfect pitch, which is commonly held to be either something that you’re born with or you’re not, is that individual notes have their own color as well. Not only that, but many times if you ask people to describe the quality of a note they will describe it in a similar manner. It’s part of our shared musical experience.

And then there are people who can play colors, but I’m not even really going to go there because it’s ridiculous and they make the rest of us look bad. One of the people I know who’s good at this is synesthetic, so that’s basically cheating, and the other one compensates by having no sense of rhythm. So I wonder if, in a weird, brain-wires-crossing sort of way, her music is more visual than it is musical: it has color and it lacks a sense of time.

How did I get social empowerment out of that? Your guess is as good as mine.