I had a bit of a failed evening on Friday night, in spite of great plans. First was a dessert themed birthday party, then an electro-swing event with live bands, stilt-walkers, fire, and a fashion show, and a BBQ at the batcave to nicely round off the evening. But then the toilet broke and flooded the bathroom, five different people cancelled on me, someone else stood me up at a bus-stop for an hour, and a homeless crackhead stole the box of strawberries I’d bought for the birthday party. So instead of forging forward and going to the wonderful events I still had time for, I went home, took off my pretty costume, and burrowed into my bed with home-made chinese food and the endings to every movie I’d fallen asleep in front of over the past month. (Gasland, I Love You Phillip Morris, Marwencol, Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life). Not the best or bravest reaction, but it wasn’t the worst, either, so there’s that.
Sunday wasn’t much better, but at least I put together an entire box of clothing to donate and got a start on my taxes. Small steps. Almost productivity.
Tomorrow is David’s birthday, (and it was just Ray’s and Lori’s birthdays, too), so we’re going to see John Carter tonight in 3D. Then the day after, I leave on the early train out of Vancouver to go down to Seattle for a week. Don’t have a solid plan on where I’m staying yet, but sometimes just about anywhere is better than here. It’s going to be nice to see my people there. It’s been far, far too long.
“This week the Georgia State Legislature debated a bill in the House, that would make it necessary for some women to carry stillborn or dying fetuses until they ‘naturally’ go into labor. In arguing for this bill Representative Terry England described his empathy for pregnant cows and pigs in the same situation.”
The rest of the civilized world thinks this country has lost its mind. It’s no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny:
1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. […]
2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women’s lives. […]
3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning and charging women who miscarry with murder, […]
4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration (otherwise called rape) with a condom-covered, six- to eight-inch ultrasound probe. […]
5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by either withholding medical treatment or forcing women to undergo involuntary medical procedures. […]
6. Giving zygotes “personhood” rights while systematically stripping women of their fundamental rights. […]
7. Inhibiting, humiliating and punishing women for their choices to have an abortion for any reason by levying taxes specifically on abortion, including abortions sought by rape victims to end their involuntary insemination, […]
8. Allowing employers to delve into women’s private lives and only pay for insurance when they agree, for religious reasons, with how she choses to use birth control. […]
9. Sacrificing women’s overall health and the well-being of their families in order to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right to control their own bodies and reproduction. […]
10. Depriving women of their ability to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Bills, like this one in Arizona, allow employers to fire women for using contraception. Women like these are being fired for not.
You presume to consign my daughters and yours to function as reproductive animals.
This is about sex and property, not life and morality. Sex because when women have sex and want to control their reproduction that threatens powerful social structures that rely on patriarchal access to and control over women as reproductive engines. Which brings us to property: control of reproduction was vital when the agricultural revolution took place and we, as a species, stopped meandering around plains in search of food. Reproduction and control of it ensured that a man could possess and consolidate wealth-building and food-producing land and then make sure it wasn’t disaggregated by passing it on to one son he knew was his — largely by claiming a woman and her gestation capability as property, too.
alt-text: i hear smashing glass in my head, ever time i laugh
I awoke a little panicked, aware of a certain dreadful absence of pinging alarm, not quite damning my day job, but coming close to it. The entire morning thing seemed insurmountable. It had been a long, unexpected evening, the sort I am generally familiar with, but never actually had, so all I wanted to do was sleep in. Drinks in a bar, an invitation up, my cue to pass out chastely on half of a hotel bed, that’s how it goes, how it suits my blood. But he was impossibly sweet and it seemed, after an indeterminate sleepy amount of cuddling, that my desire to cling to the familiar had evaporated somewhere, possibly seared from existence by his fiercely protective intellect, and the only path available was towards a new choice.
We went to the Aquarium after dinner later that night, (foreign dishes in a basement, the beginning of my stories, the tragic litany, the darker side of a thousand and one nights), me to crash the party, him with legitimacy, both with an equally sound purpose. Mine was to sneak in, the better to get me into even more later. We split up right away, once it was assured I had successfully bluffed past security, and that was that, I was on my own, a mercenary butterfly released into the opening party of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
It’s startlingly easy to make fast friends at the beginning of conferences. There are always a few people who’ve been attending since the dawn of time, but the majority of the crowd are strangers thrown together or people who’ve only known each-other tangentially or on-line, so the ground is primed for the sort of introduction that doesn’t generally fly in public, where you simply walk up like a little kid to a friendly looking face and say, “hi!”.
I almost immediately fell in a lovely women, Shauna, a fellow burner from Berkeley I knew I would like, then together, after taking pictures with the sharks, we found Elizabeth, there for CNN, best characterized by her amazing smile, as permanent as the moon. We chatted about the fish and science and wondered about the whale, elusive and grand, sequestered in an area of the aquarium that the conference hadn’t rented. Occasionally I drifted away, encountering new conversations and faces, making mental notes for later, attaching myself here and there, but made sure to keep swinging back to touch base, so as the night progressed, as I fluttered, I forged a little group with which to found a conspiracy.
Eventually we made a feint at sneaking past security to see the whale, but we’d gained mass, our core blossoming as we went into an unwieldy six or seven, too many to slyly saunter into an area we weren’t supposed to go. Then, sadly, after some magic with the otters and the dolphins, it was time to leave, the staff ushering us past the sleeping octopus and the shimmering glass cube of tiny blue fish that look like living streaks of light to a queue in the the parking lot for the hired buses that were shuttling everyone back downtown. I lost my partner in the crush, perhaps because I lingered too long, loitering in a hope to find him, yet I found surprisingly good company in his wake – Alan, Estrella, and Marc, who I first met inside as part of the attempt on the beluga tank. They wanted to walk, but didn’t know the way, so I put aside my concerns regarding my misplaced self as less important than the possibility of an entire lost group and appointed myself their guide.
The walk home was beautiful, if long. Mostly I fell in step with Marc, who I pressed for details about the Ig Nobels and traded stories of odd employment paths, but got on well with Alan, too, who possesses a Patient Zero level of infectious cheer. By the time everyone peeled off for their separate hotels, we’d discussed several adventures, planned a couple more, and all traded business cards, a habit I was to pick up even more as the conference went on. (The trick is to remember later which card goes to which face).
My fellow turned out to be table camping with the rest of his crew at the hotel bar, which I walked through on a whim, hoping to stumble across where he might be, my lack of cell phone again a strangely crippling artifact of the shockingly recent past. I joined them, of course, and was immediately taken with RJ, a clever young man from Waterloo University who was sitting at my end of the table. I spent the rest of the evening pulling ideas from him, chatting about clean energy and the internet, until the table finally dissolved, leaving me and mine to drift upstairs into the sweet oblivion that promises endless wonder but only ever delivers tomorrow.
Middle Aged Lovers
by Erica Jong
Unable to bear
of the future,
we consulted seers,
mediums, stock market gurus,
psychics who promised
happiness on this
or another planet,
astrologists of love,
seekers of the Holy Grail.
Looking for certainty
we asked for promises,
lover’s knots, pledges, rings,
certificates, deeds of ownership,
when it was always enough
to let your hand
pass over my body,
your eyes find the depths of my own,
and the wind pass over our faces
as it will pass
through our bones,
sooner than we think.
The current is love,
the blood beat
in the thighs,
the electrical charge
in the brain.
Our long leap
into the unknown
a half century ago
and is almost
I think of the
amphorae of stored honey
their Grecian eaters,
or of the furniture
in a pharoah’s tomb
no one sits.
Trust the wind,
and the water.
They have the
to all your questions
Woke up in a massive hotel bed in the sky, fluffy and white and perfect, after an evening of late night hot-tubbing and room service, with a cell phone next to me connected to London. On the table in the main room is a small black robot that walks and dances, next to a package of Dita Von Teese brand bottled Perrier brought in from Paris. The laptop’s spring loaded keys light up blue and it runs facial recognition password software which loads quickly but doesn’t like the lighting.
Today is the booze run, checking and fixing the stickers, booking the arcade machines, planning for the Whistler cabins, setting up the staff room, and programming our phones to talk to the white plastic surveillance bunny, so we can instruct it to say ridiculous things. (We’re all addicted to the creepy bunny. It watches you masturbate). Tomorrow the conference starts all proper like and then the real fun begins.
I was going to be sending postcards on Saturday to everyone I met at the conference, to be friendly, for fun, the better to keep in touch, but I have been neglecting those plans and nearly everything else this past weekend, (the hundred other things that I wanted to get done before being sucked into CanSec), caught up instead by a personal catastrophe – the partial erasure of my only photography archive.
The quick and dirty background: Everything has been on one drive. Because I am financially strapped, I’ve never been able to afford a back-up. Tony, in his wisdom, was kind enough to give me a 2 terabyte drive as a holiday present, destined to become the new archive when my 1 terabyte drive filled up, which happened this past week.
The quick and dirty events: I let a programmer friend help set up the transfer of my archive of over 110,000 files from the 1 terabyte to the new 2 terabyte. There was an error, so instead of merely copying what was left to copy, it cross-referenced the drives and deleted a great swath of files before I could shut it off.
The quick and dirty result: I’ve spent the majority of the past two days on data recovery, staying up late, getting up early, trying different programs. I believe that I have recovered as many of the files as I will ever get back, approximately 50% of what was erased. It is difficult to tell what is gone, but so far it seems I have lost my childhood photos, an entire wedding, a massive block of personal pictures from 2007, 2008, and 2009, three days of 2011, seven folders of client work, and every video I’ve taken in the past five years. I expect to discover more gaps as time goes on, but the damage seems negligible compared to what it could have been.
Everyone who knows about the tragedy has assumed that I would be livid or heart-broken or a mix of the two, but instead the loss seems to have struck a far deeper, nihilistic chord, more appropriate for death, thickly flavoured with the acceptance and understanding that at the heart of things, we are all, every one of us, completely doomed, so why care? Odd, maybe, but I believe it speaks well of me, that I am depression-immune to this disaster, still carrying the seed of happiness that was planted at the conference, the new, uncorrupted self that refuses to be cursed.
Sally Adee, a science writer lucky enough to try a DARPA experiment that uses targeted electrical stimulation of the brain during training exercises to induce flow state for a New Scientist article, has some really fascinating things to say about what it was like:
The experience wasn’t simply about the easy pleasure of undeserved expertise. When the nice neuroscientists put the electrodes on me, the thing that made the earth drop out from under my feet was that for the first time in my life, everything in my head finally shut the fuck up.
The experiment I underwent was accelerated marksmanship training on a simulation the military uses. I spent a few hours learning how to shoot a modified M4 close-range assault rifle, first without tDCS and then with. Without it I was terrible, and when you’re terrible at something, all you can do is obsess about how terrible you are. And how much you want to stop doing the thing you are terrible at.
Then this happened:
The 20 minutes I spent hitting targets while electricity coursed through my brain were far from transcendent. I only remember feeling like I had just had an excellent cup of coffee, but without the caffeine jitters. I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. From there on, I just spent the time waiting for a problem to appear so that I could solve it.
It was only when they turned off the current that I grasped what had just happened. Relieved of the minefield of self-doubt that constitutes my basic personality, I was a hell of a shot. And I can’t tell you how stunning it was to suddenly understand just how much of a drag that inner cacophony is on my ability to navigate life and basic tasks. […]
Me without self-doubt was a revelation. There was suddenly this incredible silence in my head; I’ve experienced something close to it during 2-hour Iyengar yoga classes, but the fragile peace in my head would be shattered almost the second I set foot outside the calm of the studio. I had certainly never experienced instant zen in the frustrating middle of something I was terrible at. There were no unpleasant side effects. The bewitching silence of the tDCS lasted, gradually diminishing over a period of about three days. The inevitable reintroduction of self-doubt and inattention to my mind bore heartbreaking similarities to the plot of Flowers for Algernon.
I hope you can sympathize with me when I tell you that the thing I wanted most acutely for the weeks following my experience was to go back and strap on those electrodes. I also started to have a lot of questions. Who was I apart from the angry little bitter gnomes that populate my mind and drive me to failure because I’m too scared to try? And where did those voices come from? Some of them are personal history, like the caustically dismissive 7th grade science teacher who advised me to become a waitress. Some of them are societal, like the hateful ladymag voices that bully me every time I look in a mirror. Invisible narrative informs all my waking decisions in ways I can’t even keep track of.
What would a world look like in which we all wore little tDCS headbands that would keep us in a primed, confident state free of all doubts and fears? Wouldn’t you wear the shit out of that cap? I certainly would. I’d wear one at all times and have two in my backpack ready in case something happened to the first one.