our voices

our voices
ringing clear
you can’t claim
you didn’t hear

see images from Women’s Marches around the world

and hear Ashley Judd

and America Ferrera

and Angela Davis

Listen to each other, my sisters, and resist!

and for some comic relief, check out Kate MacKinnon mocking Kellyanne Conway (we’re still listening, Ms. Conway, if you have anything factual to say…)

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rethinking priorities

Summer has officially ended, the fog is rolling in, I’ve entered the new school year both as a teacher and a parent, and after several months of silence I’m trying to get my words flowing again.

The title of this blog, No mo’ flow, was meant to be a somewhat ironic reference to menopause: ironic because the words flow where the menstrual cycle does no longer. Yet I have of late been stymied, blocked, dried up … the irony has been lost these past few months.

My creative energies have been directed elsewhere: to photography, to family, and to my teaching practice. The social justice issues to which I have dedicated so many of my posts have overwhelmed me, leaving me wordless. The shooting and protests in Ferguson, domestic violence and the NFL reaction, mega-drought and other climatic events, continuing assaults on women’s rights to health care, abductions and disease in Africa, beheadings and bombings in the Middle East — it’s more than my overloaded brain can comment on.

I wonder where my reasoning powers went. It’s as if my emotional responses drove all cogent thought from my mind, leaving me either sniveling or scrambling for escape. Perhaps menopause is rocking my world more than I let on.

And perhaps the down time is a necessary pause, leaving the plot fallow for future brilliance, letting thoughts simmer so they blend more harmoniously. One can always hope…

In terms of priorities, I choose hope. The downward thunk of my heart at the possibility of yet another war cannot erase the eternal desire for peace I carry deep within. My frustration with students who disrespectfully disrupt in favor of their own immediate needs and wants doesn’t chase away my belief that they might one day bring about the change our world clamors for. My knowledge that my daughter makes the earth she walks on a better place gives me satisfaction that I’ve contributed positively in a big way.

Art and beauty keep my hope alive in the darkest days of the news cycle. Franz Kafka said, “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” With all due respect, I would amend his quote to say “… never loses hope.” What became a trite campaign slogan in 2008 needs to be reborn in our spirit so we don’t lose ourselves in cynicism or escapism.

Here’s hoping for that silver — or golden — lining …

photo: afp 2014

photo: afp 2014

Pussy Riot in America

I hadn’t caught up on Jon Stewart for a while because his show crashes a lot on my meager bandwidth (curse you, Comedy Central) and I hate the ads (curse you, Madison Ave, Silicon Valley, and well, pretty much every capitalist). So I missed this bit on Stephen Colbert, for which I would have heard the promo on The Daily Show during one of my late-night binge-watching sessions. Thankfully, a friend shared it on Facebook.

Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina were interviewed by Mr. Colbert, who was clearly charmed by their wit and commitment: even with a translator’s delay, they cracked him up. Don’t miss both clips via Salon.com.

Anyone reading my blog will know that I’ve admired these women from afar for their spunk and political activism, from their performance in a church to protest the government’s non-secular allegiances (which landed them in jail) to their attempts to highlight alarming prison conditions in Russia during their punishment and since. Thanks to Mr. Colbert, I know them a tad better now, which only strengthens my opinion of them. Ms. Tolokonnikova and Ms. Alyokhina are here touring American prisons, to counterbalance the really nice facilities they saw in the Netherlands, which were just too far removed from the prison squalor they are trying to change in their Mother Land. Perhaps you’ve seen images by journalists complaining about tourist conditions in Sochi? I’m guessing Pussy Riot would have something to say about their sniveling, but these composed young women would say it kindly and with dignity. The worst they could sling at Putin during the interview was that he is a shirtless guy on a horse (which is perhaps a Russian idiom for something more insulting, but it seemed rather bland considering the circumstances).

Instead of tweeting photos of communal toilets and partially completed installations, journalists should be investigating why the government and the Olympic Committee hasn’t done more to protect UNESCO world heritage sites and villages in the Sochi area from the fallout of the massive and rapid construction for Olympic events (see story in The Nation). Personally, I’m boycotting these Olympics for this reason (as well as Russia’s anti-gay and blasphemy laws that stifle dissenting opinions). In my opinion, the environmental devastation that results from this kind of ill-planned development is not worth the money or glory the Games bring to a country, and I do not want to support it in any way.

I know no one in Russia or on the Olympic Committee will notice my small attempt at political activism. Yet that is not a reason to avoid taking action.

Pussy Riot inspires me to explore my conscience and act accordingly, even (and perhaps especially) when the spotlight is not on.

Rock on!

Pussy Riot (photo via Salon.com)

Pussy Riot (photo via Salon.com)

resurrection

It is possible to come back from the dead, or at least from behind. Take a look at my San Francisco Giants, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win two in a row and play game 7 tonight. I’d like to take this cyberspace to say: “This team f*ing rocks!” Whether they make it to the Series this year or not, I am honored to be the half-assed fan that I am.

Speaking of rock, last night I took a break from the marathon of work I’ve had this weekend to see one of my favorite L.A. bands. I was lucky enough to live in Los Angeles as a 20-something during the golden age of post-punk, pre-grunge rock. I saw X live more times than I can remember, as well as the Dead Kennedys, Hüsker Dü, Firehose, Camper Van Beethoven, Mary’s Danish, and a slew of other bands that used to play small clubs (and sometimes even sidewalks) to draw audiences before YouTube took over what MTV used to do.

Last night my half-century-old body reverted to its youthful vigor as I danced with hair a-flyin’ to Jane’s Addiction rocking the amphitheater to its knees. (Ok, so maybe it was Dave Navarro on his knees.) The energy of their show hasn’t changed since I saw them in the late 80s at the original location of Scream, the coolest and most ghoulish club ever. And I didn’t wait long for my weekend theme song for the mountain of work I’ve been slogging through: Mountain Song was the second of the set. This morning I awoke inspired, hopeful, renewed, and–despite not enough sleep–refreshed for the task ahead.

All of which makes me think about what it means to be behind. Sometimes it can be discouraging, especially if you’re the best person in the race yet someone else is in front of you. But sometimes it can be the kick in butt one needs to get over the hurdle and just finish. I’m looking forward to coming down this mountain of work. I’m hoping that the Giants make it to the World Series for the second time in my daughter’s short life (she’s a true fan).

And to the naysayers and pollsters who think Obama can’t win, I say, don’t give up. Half the voting public may be gullible enough to believe the lies being dished out, but the other half can overcome racism, misogyny, and greed to give our President the time to finish what he’s started, or at least get over this hurdle.

Who seeks beauty

Bill Cunningham has been documenting New York streets for a half century through a particular “lens”: clothing. He does it for the sheer love of his subject, the beauty of those who bring this subject to the world, and the freedom he experiences in his day-to-day life, bicycling from street corner to charity event to museum opening. He will not sell out, and he retains creative control over his pages in The New York Times. He lives for his craft, which he denies is an art. In Bill Cunningham’s world, the art is on the people who wear it.

I recommend the documentary by Richard Press, Bill Cunningham New York. Mr. Cunningham is a charming eccentric, full of self-deprecating laughter and good-natured yet dogged dedication to his work. His subjects love him, and he holds them in the utmost respect. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. We get the benefit in admiring the street fashion he shares in every spread. Whimsy and color capture his shutter finger, as do general trends: the good, the bad and the ugly. He doesn’t judge: he just presents what he sees (albeit highly edited by his critical eye). The street leads his lens, and he shares it with his viewers.

It gets me thinking about our perspective on the world, and the dichotomies in our daily lives: frustration and freedom, despair and hope, blandness and celebration, boredom and curiosity, duty and passion. Bill Cunningham has it right, seeing the right side of these dualities, living them, not only in his non-materialistic existence but in his pursuit of true happiness, shutter by shutter, and in sharing that with the world.

Upon bestowal of knighthood in the French Legion of Honor, Bill Cunningham, wearing his trademark “veste bleue” of the working-class French, said: “He who seeks beauty will find it.” I find a truer word was never uttered.

I see Bill Cunningham living a simple life, capturing the abundance of beauty around him, and I aspire to be more like him: modest, grateful, joyful, and full of admiration of the world.

below: link to first part of documentary on YouTube. Also available on Netflix streaming.
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Doom and gloom?

I realize I’ve been largely focused on challenging issues lately, so I’m going to post this, just to prove I have a bright side:

(photo: pits47 2011)

Hugo

I confess to being a lifelong Martin Scorsese fan, ever since I saw Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I was outraged when Goodfellas didn’t win best picture or best director (Kevin Costner, really?). But the Academy has always had its prejudices and preferences, and it didn’t surprise me that Hugo didn’t win more than the five technical awards that it garnered. Until I saw it last night. Admittedly, I haven’t yet seen The Artist (I will), but it’s hard to imagine a better overall package that pays tribute to filmmaking while demonstrating exceptional filmmaking than Hugo. There were moments where the pacing was a tad off, but it kept both me and my 10-year-old (who had already seen it on the small screen) in rapt engagement, believing the magic and the time-warp of a mightily familiar Parisian train station and cityscape.

All technical wizardry aside, the story was poignant and relevant: follow your dreams, be persistent, struggle against the forces of evil and hatred. My daughter and I discussed our favorite scenes over dinner afterward: predictably, she liked when the two dachshunds become friends and then stare at the hiding Hugo, but also the flashback of the visit to the studio of glass, with live lobsters sinking through water in front of the lobster-suited actors on set. As a cinephile, I loved this sequence as well, but my favorite was when Isabelle pulls the box down from the armoire and it spills its contents, which fly around the room in vibrant animation, bringing the drawings and dreams of a long-dead creator alive for a new generation. I will admit I cried as the filmmaker rediscovered his buried past.

It is so easy to get discouraged by lack of attention, to give up on our passions in favor of practicalities. It is perhaps not coincidental that I began this blog the same day that I saw this film. Life has a way of highlighting what is most important: we just have to open our eyes.

the Louvre through the train station clock at Orsay (photo: pits47 2006)