Sunday, December 28, 2008

simple pleasures post--awkward carpool edition

There are few things more thought-provoking than an awkward carpool with a random, slight acquaintance who is bordering on being mostly a stranger. Not only is it cost-productive and energy efficient, hitching a ride from upstate to NYC is like performance theatre--you're given a shot to not only learn some new and foreign take on the world--but you're asked to participate and create your own as well. The best situation is with someone you have a slight memory of in your past, who has some personal/relational connections (so you're not silent the entire 3-hour trip), but is distant enough that you will probably not see or hear from them for another few years (making it easier to conscience a fib or two on your end).

With the onslaught of voyeuristic--scratch that, M.Snowe means--social networking sites, it's become more and more easy to set up these impromptu car-ride visitations. Such an acquaintance (we'll call him "John") made this very transportation-proposition to M.Snowe a day before she was scheduled to head back to NYC, on what promised to be a very noisy, uncomfortable train ride back, once more, into the concrete trenches. M.Snowe quickly agreed--she loves new adventures into the unknown lifestyle reaches of old grade-school classmates.

After exhausting all talk of other people we mutually knew (ex. "Did you hear she got pregnant straight out of high school?" or "My grandma knows your mum from getting her prescriptions filled at the Rite Aid on Eastern."), it was time for John to turn down the ACDC and actually make reference to himself, and vice-versa.

It should be said that John had come across our path before--randomly at a social occasion in Boston, dressed as a movie character on Halloween. At that point, the situation was assessed and we realized, while we wouldn't ever be "besties," John was decent and friendly, despite a slight, what you might call "post-frat sheen," (which has something to do with too many beers and a style of talking that is usually heard on Friday nights at the local college campus). But the kind spirit was enough to secure M.Snowe's calm acceptance of a ride back to the city. M.Snowe isn't always looking for comfort or like-mindedness. Sometimes she just wants to observe, and be entertained.

One observation from these random car-ride glimpses into other peoples' lives is this: Our lives are a lot more diverse, and weirder than we actually think they are. In other words, because we live with our situations everyday, they become normalized to us, even just through repetition or reinforcement. For instance: John relayed to me his apartment situation. In his apartment, he lives with his girlfriend. Normal enough. But also living in his apartment: his younger sister, and her boyfriend. Fine, but weird.

After this strange bit of information, John decided to call all his buddies in preparation for the big party he was attending later. One of his friends was named Cookie. This was a male lacrosse player, by the way. He referred to Cookie, while acknowledging the strangeness of the name, but never explained its origin. M.Snowe has to assume that Cookie isn't actually his real name, but was frustrated to have no back-story. She imagines that perhaps he has strange moles that resemble chocolate chips, or has unfortunate, doughy skin. Hopefully it's not just due to an affinity for the baked good. Perhaps it's better to live in the mystery. At least she knows that this name actually has traction in the real-world of this old classmate, outside her wildest comedic dreams.

The best part of the ride came as we approached the city, and were getting ever-nearer to the George Washington Bridge. The afternoon had faded from a partial sunlight to a completely clouded and eerily foggy mess--the cars zoomed in and out of sight, and the trees ahead were barely visible through the thick clouds of condensed air. John turned to me and said "have you ever seen the movie The Mist?" Surely, M.Snowe hadn't. He went on to recreate the story, complete with spoiler ending: The Mist was the sign that evil animal creatures would overtake you and eat you alive. The very end of the story follows a car of four people--a father, son, the father's lady-friend, and another random girl. The mists are about to overtake the car as it has run out of gas, and the father has a gun with only three bullets. Instead of seeing his son and the women eaten alive, he uses the three bullets to kill them, and then awaits his own death at the hands of the creatures in the mist. Only after the apparent euthanizing does the father realize it was not the creatures approaching, but the help they had been so sorely seeking throughout their journey away from the monsters--the father had killed all three unnecessarily. Given the morbid and hilarious nature of such a tale, M.Snowe found it relevant, if not to this car ride, then to the experience of carpools and similar possibly-uncomfortable situations as a whole. We are quick to kill things before we can even see the dangers. Foresight is one thing, blind fear of the unknown is quite another. So do yourself a favor and allow the foggy memories of a past time to take the wheel once and a while, literally or figuratively speaking. You never know what you might discover. Also, sometimes the terror is just plain funny.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Ocular Renaissance

This weekend, M.Snowe found herself at her other apt. overlooking the park (yeah, right!): the Met. (Note: M.Snowe isn't trying for pretension here, but merely suggests that given the amount of time she's there, the docents could justifiably start charging rent). Like any reasonable perspective tenant, M.Snowe surveyed the newly renovated space, which this month consisted of an exhibit, "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy." What first struck M.Snowe was the deep, rich color of the walls that housed this new installment, and sadly or otherwise, the depth of the walls was almost as impressive as the first few rooms's art, which was largely marriage goods (such as plates and jars). While some of the jugs and starter plates looked like recent acquisitions from a Medici-themed Pottery Barn, the dark cobalt blues of the wall washed over the art. The red of the next room was that of creamy indulgence--an intense red with brown undertones, a color similar to the tint of someone's blood as it has just begun to dry. The high ceilings made the rooms impossibly enveloping, and for the first time in a gallery, M.Snowe realized the empty walls are just as much of a canvas.

As the exhibit progressed, the walls got drabber, or at least unnoticeable--but the paintings increased in number and intensity. The paintings increased in a way directly proportional to the number of naked women on display, which isn't entirely unexpected in Renaissance art. M.Snowe takes great satisfaction in the idea of people in the "dark ages" and the Renasissance that came afterwards appreciating realistically portrayed women's bodies, if nothing else (because to be a woman in the Renaissance, like most ages, was a bum deal). This isn't to say the women weren't idealized--but somehow the definition of beauty seemed a bit more broad than today's version.

Browsing the paintings and their respective titles and artist names, M.Snowe was faced with a very general observation--the Met, or more likely whoever comes up with the titles of pictures, are just a little bit sexist, or at least a bit unbalanced. Not talking specifically of this exhibit, M.Snowe understands that curators often give names to paintings that are otherwise untitled by simply describing the major factors of the painting, for example: "Portrait of a Man,"or "A Bouquet of Flowers in a Crystal Vase." Many, many pictures, especially in the European paintings rooms of the Met, were the simple "Portrait of a Woman"--many more than the men. Why are the men more accurately labeled? Was it due to some lack of records on the female paintings, because they were females and Renaissance painters didn't feel the need to give names? Perhaps they were more fictional women, making naming unnecessary? Unless at least minor nobility, the "real" women often remain unnamed, and though men in portraits also were sometimes unidentified, the anonymous women outnumbered them sizeably. M.Snowe wasn't shocked or surprised, as the same situation happens in literature, etc., but what struck her most this time was the way that some unidentified women were described. For instance, M.Snowe came upon a captivating portrait of an anonymous youthful woman with a pale face, and fresh eyes, in the Renaissance exhibit. Her eyes seemed to leap out at you--they were alive. But looking at the caption, it said: "Young Woman in a Green Dress, Holding a Box." M.Snowe had to look again--and sure as the label, she was wearing a green dress (at least you could see the emerald neckline) and she held up a small metal casket, very Portia-esque. But the fact was M.Snowe had noticed neither of these attributes. The woman had been measured by her accoutrements--as if she was a vase or tapestry. It was nearly impossible to find any male portraits that described them "in blue suits" or "wearing pointy hats," etc.

M.Snowe is most definitely over-analyzing, but she can't help it--given a person's way of viewing art is often how they view beauty, and that translates into desire, which further develops and speaks to everything we are and do--it is blatantly Darwinian. The Renaissance artists valued the human form, the eyes, the pose of lustful anticipation--and they were less concerned with the outer shell of insignificance--more concerned with the emotional connection formed between art and art-viewer. Are we more worried about dressing up or analyzing what is already naturally beautiful? Have we lost focus?

PART 2 : Ocular Communion
Renaissance (and to some extent Medieval) artists believed that art was a form of transcendence for the viewer--that paintings were not a one-sided transaction, but a mutual communication that allowed the viewer to be inwardly effected by the external triggers engineered with the piece of art. Scoff if you will, but the concept still exists in a lesser form today--most believe that art has some emotional, philosophical, or other-mental effect on the viewer. But Renaissance thought held that when viewing an erotic portrait, the viewer could literally enter into raptures. Talk about hard-core porn. And funnily enough--the same raptures were said to take place when viewing religious iconography. In today's world, we are so used to, bombarded, and gorged with images that they no longer take any effect. They are commonplace--completely unspecial. These paintings were singular and unique to the Renaissance viewers, they held power and sway over the audience unlike most things could do today. In a sense, this kind of art has become the marijuana of our generation--it gets us hungry but we've moved onto much harder drugs sometimes just for shock-value (which also explains the deterioration of good taste). M.Snowe thinks the test of good art and good life is when something, or someone, is able to force a rapture by the simplicity of ocular communication--eye to eye consumption. Who would've thought just looking could be so sexy?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Definition (and Necessity) of True Hate

(M.Snowe doesn't have a good handle on the nature of love--but she does know a thing or two about hate.)

The most common misconception when people form their definition of hate is this: it is the opposite of love, and the opposite of love can be defined as an anguished ire at a person, place, or thing. The opposite of love engenders ill-will and anger; it eats away at our good natures.

While all these things may very well be hate (as we commonly use the word), or at least hatred--this definition is not true hate, and certainly does not make up the opposite of love.

The opposite of love, or the concept of true hate, is smothered up and suffocated by one simple word: apathy. No matter what your definition of love, indifference would be its counter. Because no matter what, when you love, some emotions must be involved. When you truly hate, you are stoically separate--completely cut off, and often at peace with the notion that you have no reactions and no concern. True hate is like an inner death, an oblivion. True hate is a part of all of us. For instance, when those outside our circle of concern suffer, and we feel no worry and express no sense of alarm or wish to help--that is true hate; and the worst form at that. We all are truly haters in the larger scheme of this strangely plotted world, whether we admit it or not--it would be impossible to care about everything.

Reading As You Like It, it is clear Orlando despises his brother Oliver, and rightly so. But his hate is tested to the extreme: walk away into the forest, and his brother surely dies by the teeth of the lioness. Stay and fight the creature, and he lives. Some might say the opposite of love is to seek out and murder, the destruction of life. M.Snowe says it would be to stand by, unaffected, watching a murder--and feeling nothing at the destruction of a life. Had Orlando simply kept on walking, both siblings would have been damned, Orlando truly expressing the ultimate opposite of love. Orlando's decision to save Oliver may not have been out of love, but out of something baser, and something that allows us to pity. It was a good thing.

While M.Snowe thinks true hate should be used sparingly and with good counsel (and never when a life is in jeopardy), she can't help but think also that perhaps, in some cases, true hate is a gift to human nature that we should utilize. Disregard is a powerful weapon that is hard to establish and execute, but can be absolutely beneficial.

Apathy can, in some circumstances, be something to aspire to.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Problems with English.

M.Snowe used to think bocce ball was “babci” ball, named after people like her grandmother, a Polish “Babci” who was faintly perfumed with pickled herring and shuffled around lightly in quilt-patterned slippers until two in the afternoon. It was always satisfyingly ironic to think that the goal of bocce was to get your colored balls close as possible to the main ball, whereas Babci made no effort to get close to her grandchildren, as if the idea of intimacy was in any way a game-winning aspiration.

Sometimes spelling things and forming concepts of words is difficult when you're young. If you pronounce something wrong the first time you come across it and continue to do so for a while, then for the rest of your life, while you know the “correct” spelling and pronunciation, you may be condemned to remember your misinterpretation every time you see or hear the word. For the longest time during childhood, M.Snowe thought “approximate” meant exact—for no other reason than the word sounded official, and had the thrust of judicial finality, like a word you might find in a legal dictionary. But we are all in a state of nolo contendere against Webster’s 5th. But the effect has been that now, whenever someone "approximates," M.Snowe gets the sneaking suspicion they know more concrete facts than they’re letting on.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Defense Against Fear-Mongering Women into Submission.


A Modest, Concerted Proposal

Last night, M.Snowe was at a concert for one of her new favorite bands, who will probably turn out to be a one-CD-wonder (which is all the more reason to go and see them now when they're at the probable apex of their career). The music was good, the crowd was large and loud, and there was a fair mix of people of all ages, sexes, etc. (although naturally, it was a pretty white crowd, given the performers were skinny punk dudes from the UWS influenced by an eclectic mix of ska, African, and classical music). But what really grinds M.Snowe's gears was this: after the concert, while approaching the coat-check, a group of young men, without any pretense, yelled "Sex!" right in my friend's, and my own face, and preceded to stare us down like we were a steak they ordered at the chophouse. And some other dudes definitely tried to feel us up in the horde of people approaching the exits. Whatever, all these guys were obviously assholes, or at the very best just drunk, but either way, it got M.Snowe thinking about how some men assert themselves in such stupid, yet completely power-affirming ways.
M.Snowe could decide to try and bitch out these jerks (and all jerks who do similar things), but in the larger scheme of things, all that does is acknowledge an inability to counteract it--it makes me a hard-done-by victim--and these guys probably get their jollies from seeing feisty girls "act all defensive and shit." Isn't her anger adorable? Or super hot?
The real problem is, no matter how M.Snowe responds, guys like this will inevitably interpret the response in ways that cannot escape the fact that yes, she is female. So what's a femiladyist to do?
Here's one suggestion: give it right back to them. Women should do exactly as men do. Yes, this might sound first-wave-feminist crazy, but just think about it--it's like a form of social disobedience. M.Snowe doesn't suggest anything too despicable, but she modestly proposes that women need to think more with their own sexual organs, and their respective needs, instead of some dude's. Women should not blush at the idea of yelling out requests for sexual favors, or even giving a friendly pinch once and a while. If everyone did this, then it would no longer be seen as the determinant of whether a woman is a floozy (because let's face it--there's a huge double-standard where, in sexual situations, outgoing men are super cool but women are just whores). Once the playing field is level, everyone will see the utter ridiculousness of continuing such pursuits. And perhaps that's why women aren't as ridiculously/publicly sexually assertive in most cases--because some men make out-of-bounds sexual comments and act disrespectfully, and women immediately recognized the stupidity of it all, and abstained from such behavior. Hopefully, if those abusive dudes begin to feel the sting of their own harassment, they would get wise. Unfortunately, it would take awhile, given that these guys would treat it as a new game. But soon enough they'll feel like pieces of meat. And hey, M.Snowe isn't asking you to eat your young--she's just modestly proposing a social counter-revolution. Enjoy the concert.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sub-Poetry (#1)

[M.Snowe creates quiet found poetry from the warnings and ads on a noisy N Train]

#1---N Train

Spicy Character
Take One,
Do Not Hold

Dark wheat.

Do Not Lean
The next


** If you find some poetic subway verses--please send them on, and please note what train you found it on. M.Snowe wants to collect at least one poem from every Train.**

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Autumnal/Winter Meditation

Sometimes M.Snowe considers our "choices" as just a clever name for unavoidable circumstances. Self-determination is a fact, but underneath the Self, who is pulling those Determinant strings? M.Snowe doesn't think she has the right or the ability to name it.

Going back home, moments of meditation often occur right at this juncture--the entryway to a well-known street, with two seeming choices. You can no longer go straight, but must turn. You must alter your path--it involves manuvuering, and composure--a steady hand, especially in icy weather. Sometimes, it might seem easier to sit at the edge of the road, and peer down each way, or perhaps turn back.

Anyone who knows the area will tell you that if you turn left, the street continues, with copious houses and a turnoff onto the main street through town. If you go right, you hit a dead end, and a few hidden driveways. M.Snowe realizes that while she always turns left, her choices end up pulling her inner reflections irrevocably to the right. (clarification: "right" has nothing to due with political leanings, for certain.) And she's not alone. Charging down the main street, pulling up to residential spaces--all our thoughts are ensnared by that dead end, and the hidden driveways that surely hold nothing more than a junkyard, nothing less than our captive imagination. But we have promises to keep. And miles to go before we sleep.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where have all the Vamps gone?

M.Snowe, by default, doesn't like to critique things she hasn't read or seen. So she won't say a word about THIS book or THIS movie, in terms of their literary or cinematic triumphs and failures (of which there is surely both, though probably more failures).
What she will talk about centers around these questions: What's with this vampire romance obsession, and why has vamp culture receded into the mists (or swamps of Transylvania?)?

The simple and recognizable mythologem of vampires, at least since the 18th century, has been one of stoic and impressive, pallid male figures lurking in the night and sucking the blood of unsuspecting villagers and otherwise common folk. The vampire has enjoyed a pretty unfaltering stint of popularity in the fictional realm. Despite the fear this carnal, yet immortal figure (who is almost always male) is supposed to engender, the greater population loves to read about him. Many have suggested (and it's generally accepted) that the concept of the vampire is a combined representation/juxtaposition of the themes of sexuality and fear of our mortality. Lots of characters and stories deal exclusively with these two themes of sex and death--James Bond comes instantly to mind.

But the problems M.Snowe has with these pop vampires isn't all the blood sucking and vague sexual innuendo--it's the fact that women today don't have a really good "vamp" counterpart to look to. Because the pop vampires of today have been translated into "loveable" (and we use that term ironically) characters--think Buffy's BF, Angel, and the twilight vampire, to name a few. M.Snowe might not be that old, but she does know that when she was growing up, there were lots of women "vamps" on television, and in books. And I'm sure if you look hard enough, you can still find some. But the mainstream culture, which by definition is a narrow and limiting stream at that, has sufficiently drowned any notion of really kick-ass leading ladies. Say what you will about Xena, Dr. Quinn, or even Buffy--but at least they didn't mind getting their hands dirty. And although there was sometimes a sappy storyline or two about falling in love (barf!), the women were never going to quit their jobs as intelligent, highly trained, kick-ass lady fighters with morality on their side.

What really grinds M.Snowe's gears is the current state of female "heroines" (M.Snowe detests this term, because by sticking "ines" at the end, she thinks it's a linguistic clue between misogynists that loosely translates into: "oh, not those crazy bitches again.") [This state of the female heroine can be seen in terms of political heroines too--Look at the popular treatment of Clinton vs. Palin. Sure some people recognized that Palin was "off her rocker" but generally she was an accepted and docile figure who "had it together" in terms of having a family, looking pretty, keeping her mouth shut, etc., etc. whereas Clinton was unfeminine (whatever THAT means!) and uptight, bitchy, and unlikeable--an unstable and unpopular character because of her strength.]

The twilight series, and others in it's vein (excuse the bloody vampire pun) create female characters that are entirely bent on desire for an unattainable sexual and immortal creature. Funnily enough, this is the one dude that will be most likely to suck all the life force out of the main character, but the docile and completely bland lead female doesn't seem to mind--in fact, it's a form of foreplay inside her warped sense of human relationships. But here's the funniest part--this series, though steeped in the vampire theme of sex, has no sex. I mean, if she's going to give up her dignity to follow around this creature, it's the least he could do. And despite their attraction as interesting fictional focal points, vampires are supposed to be feared, or better yet--avoided at all costs. Books and movies like this are basically saying: Accept and try to love those dastardly fellows who will take all you have and give nothing back. And that is the antithesis to any respectable, well-rounded and independent female vamp.

Add on Question: "But M.Snowe--You love Bronte's Jane Eyre so much--and wasn't she pining away for the vampirish, Byronic, Mr. Rochester?"

Answer: Charlotte Bronte's hero, Jane Eyre, was celebrated as an intelligent, independent thinker, who happened to have poor taste in men. However, she did not compromise her morals and belief in female Independence, and it is a defeated, blinded, and crippled Mr. Rochester who must kowtow to her, and ultimately put his own broken life in her hands. She makes a heroic and noble choice--and her independent nature shines throughout the novel--Rochester is the one who must change his act, a vampire slayed in the offing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Because if someone already said it better . . .

. . . why not just quote them verbatim?

Two excellent posts on The Gay Recluse, here and here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Can't Go . . .

. . . But YOU Should!

Some of M.Snowe's favorite writers will be in attendance. . .

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought."
--John Stuart Mill. True.

"Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives." ---JSM. SO True.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

lighter fare

(Because M.Snowe feels like a good laugh . . .)

Here's some good stuff:

Dickerson on McCain scare tactics (because Obama will take your money, let terrorists invade, and let all sorts of liberal "perversions" run rampant across the country).

Just when you thought the Reagan era and all that came with it was over, here's a reminder that some horrible fads just refuse to die. Thanks, Xavier Roberts. For nothing.

Sometimes judging a book by its cover never felt so satisfying.

Monday, October 27, 2008


UPDATE: See comment about Direct Democracy. M.Snowe is no political scientist, so comments are always welcome to prove her assumptions wrong!

The elections are almost here, and M.Snowe senses the hush before the storm. The debates behind us, there's nothing much to do but hold our collective breath and wait for our turn in the booth (or mail in our ballots--which promises to be a complete nonevent, compared to the shiny metal levers and satisfying swoosh of a tattered curtain).

Then M.Snowe got to thinking about the electoral college system, and democratic republics in general. Any grade-schooler worth their lunch money should be able to tell you we do not live in a democracy. A direct, ancient-Greek-style democracy consists of all citizens (even if that term was a narrow one back then, eliminating many people) voting upon the laws of the state, in one location. Today, we elect those who elect for us, and in that way we are represented by proxy--because we as a nation are such a behemoth that direct democracy is just not feasible. People have complained that voting is pointless, that their individual vote "doesn't matter," especially in a state that is heavily tilted to one party. Well, they're right. And thank god. First, that's an asinine argument against voting, because if your one vote "mattered" in the sense it determined the election, well then the rest of us might all just sit home and let you cast your ballot for us. Seriously. Also, even though it is like a drop of water in the ocean, your vote does contribute something. If nothing else, it legitimizes your ability to criticize the government. It legitimizes your participation, and for once is something you can contribute that isn't a tax. If you're not that symbolically inclined, then it's understandable you don't care about the race. But you forfeit all rights to complain, in M.Snowe's book, even though your vote wouldn't have changed a thing, almost certianly.

There is a lot to be learned by analyzing one person's vote in a presidential election: you can campaign and vote for a certain person or a set of things, but ultimately the decision is a collective result of all the people around you, pulling the strings whether they know it our not. And that's the part that scares people away from the polls, in this blogger's opinion. You have no control over the outcome, and yet you are asked to take a gamble, invest your time, thought, and in some cases, your desire. It is the willingness to throw in your chips, bend your will, that makes elections a showpiece for life.

You might desire one outcome with all your insides, but sometimes it just doesn't pan out--you feel emptied, and aren't sure how to function in the face of this new state of being that isn't the one you were hoping to encounter. Life moves on--it must--but spectacularly it feels as if somehow you stepped off to the side, and slow motion is the only way to operate in the face of the spinning clocks and daily merry-go-rounds.

The fervor, the thrust of those last few electric months, or weeks even, still pulse faintly, and like a white dwarf, the density of thoughts can pile on and grow by degrees, even though outwardly you only flicker faintly to the casual onlooker. There is no longer any hope to energize you, the election over, no fusion reactions to heat the core. However, once the build-up of mass or pressure becomes unbearable, carbon detonation can occur. It's not surprising that our actions mimic the stars. We certainly didn't vote for it to happen this way.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Inside-Out (Where M.Snowe ponders clarity in a fog)

M.Snowe is often surprised by the wild extremes peoples' conjectures take. If there was some ultimate spectrum with the words "astronomically off-kilter" and "absolutely on point," written on either end, most conjectures/assumptions would fall close to one of those phrases, but almost never in the middle, between them. So it must be concluded that when M.Snowe (and perhaps a larger audience) tries to grasp the unknown, she is in fact grasping at thin air, and her chance of being spot-on is as likely as her chance of revealing her complete ignorance.

The problem that inevitably accompanies assumptions/decision-making is we are never allowed to be objective. We can never separate ourselves from...well, ourselves--which includes our hopes, desires, fears, angers, etc. And whether it's an attempt to lay these considerations aside, or use them to our advantage, each is a conscious effort that can never fully result in objectivity. For many decisions, this is a beneficial thing. We are rational beings after all..whatever that's good for. But it's when we try and piece together the thoughts and actions of those around us (with their own unique hopes, fears, conjectures, etc.) , that it becomes especially trying.

So if you're living in the confines of a frenetic Friday afternoon, take heart--your worries could be completely off mark, anyways.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Replacements (Or a post in which M.Snowe interjects some rambling and incoherent commentary)

The world is filled with replacements, stand-ins. We have vice-presidents, runners-up, understudies, bench-warmers, you name it. These are the literal and defined replacements, anyways. They serve acknowledged, and important (though sometimes under-appreciated) roles. In the absence or inability of the primary, they stride in and (hopefully) fulfill the duty vacated by their predecessor.

Not just people, but words, ideas, inanimate objects can serve as replacements. Language itself is a replacement of sorts--words serve as symbols for everything we decide to give a name to.

Replacements are often vital--they allow us to distract ourselves, come to conclusions not otherwise attainable, or maybe see things in alternate ways. And replacements are a healthy and necessary part of life--when they are defined and known. But there are also dangerous and distracting replacements, obviously. And sometimes there are quixotic ones.

Sometimes M.Snowe wonders if her favorite authors used writing as a replacement . . . for something. If that is the case, then it's possible that even the worst situations can produce beautifully prosed results. But then again, replacements are everywhere--and usually involve the same dichotomy: the replacement of a person or wish with something/someone else entirely.

The city has a bevy of replacement activity. People replace any number of real things with the superficial--money, clothes, status, etc. But in a microcosm as big as this one, it's also very easy to use stand-ins, or recruit second-stringers, without their full knowledge or consent. Many in New York have no problem substituting one person for another, or unfairly looking for limited, isolated things from a large swath of unlucky souls. It becomes difficult, if not near impossible to know, in such a large space, whether your presence registers as a primary, or just the least-offensive alternative. To assume primacy is egotistical, to view yourself as the replacement is damn-near depressing. So what does one do?

M.Snowe found herself running three miles, and had the sneaking suspicion that it wasn't purely cardiovascular-health motivations that got her trainers moving around the fluorescent-lit track. She might be replacing one thing or other, but at least the only one she tread upon was asphalt.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Agonizing Agape

Visiting an apple orchard is a great way to pass the time on a sunny fall Saturday. There are rows and rows of trees, lots of sky and a sense that even now, small joys can be gleaned from something as low tech as a ladder and a wooden pail.

The big sky is clear and the air is fresh--not the stifled kind that hangs in the air around the city.

M. Snowe, for the life of her (or more accurately for the life of her 9 month old nephew) couldn't then understand why such clear air could produce such polluted beliefs in her nephew's parents.

The actual words used to describe one presidential candidate were: "terroristic, socialistic, baby-killing bastard."
M.Snowe shuddered, thinking this is the language (and poor grammar) that her nephew is privied too daily.
Then someone let him suck on an apple, and he made a sour face the entire day.
One can only hope his ability to decipher the sour will adapt and strengthen with age.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How I Learned First Hand (literally) What Biden Should Not Do Tonight.

So last night, at a not so unreasonable hour, M.Snowe got on the subway at Union Square. Settling in to the normal routine of zoning out and ignoring those sitting around me as well as those who walked into the train with me, I failed to notice as someone attempted to get my attention walking through the subway doors. When he sat down next to me, I finally realized, it was a former coworker. He had moved to a different department and therefore a different floor of our building, so naturally, he was dead to me, aside from the occasional morning or afternoon sighting by the entrance to our building. What I could tell you about this man was that when I was working with him, he was intelligent and always on top of his work. While a hint of condescension was always distinguishable in him, it was never so much a bother for me not to respect and appreciate the work he did, which was thorough and on point. He is a middle-aged gentleman, with a mostly bald head and the slightest tuft of hair on either side, and he wore glasses. He might serve as a stand in for a Biden-like figure in terms of build.

He inquired how I was, and I asked the same of him. He then went on to tell me that "You probably don't know this, but I was fired from_____________. " Well, this certainly hadn't reached our floor, because as in most cases, the juicy gossip was too diluted by the time it traveled up the elevator to us. When he observed the raised eyebrows in response, he continued, explaining that his boss had either left or been pushed out of the company, and he was summarily told, without rhyme or reason, that his position was no longer needed. He stressed that they gave him no reason or justification for his termination. At this point, M.Snowe was disheartened and generally felt bad for the poor treatment Mr. Ex-Coworker had received, rather unfairly, from the looks of it. But something didn't sit right. When Mr. Ex-Co extended his greetings, he had said, "well, what are you doing down here at this hour?" as if it had been 1AM instead of just 9 or 10PM. But that was nothing out of the norm, for sure. But Mr.Ex-Co was much more relaxed-looking than I remembered him, perhaps because he no longer had to present himself as a professional acquaintance. He said some other things that didn't make the stale subway air any more breathable. But then, as he got up to go when we reached his stop, he rose and wished me the best, and I him. I was wearing a skirt, one that I had worn to work, which was professional and cut just above the knee, leaving just the knee plus a little bit more leg exposed while sitting on the train. As Mr. Ex-Co got up from the adjacent seat, he patted my leg with his hand, intentionally, and for a time period far too long for comfort. Keep in mind at work we were not close and I can't remember any time when he even shook my hand. At that point, all the respect, all the sorry feelings Mr. Ex-Co had been carefully cultivating were thrown out the train simultaneously as he exited. M.Snowe began to wonder if sometimes, the professional setting we've created is just a clever ruse that makes people think sexual condescension no longer exists, or only in extreme cases. Just because people behave themselves, doesn't mean the environment is completely free from bias and harassment.

Maybe (or even probably), M.Snowe is making way too much of a simple pat on the knee, but it was exacerbated by the fact that it was exposed skin, not trousers he touched, and for far too long. Maybe all that Catholic school education has gotten back at M.Snowe by making her too much of a prude while she simultaneously rejected the general idea of organized religion....who knows. But one thing is certain: a lesson can be learned, first hand if you will, from this that will help Joe Biden tonight... so listen up Mr. Biden: despite the fact that you are intelligent, qualified, etc., don't condescend, and don't appear sexist. Because as soon as you do that, even if it's completely unintentional, people will forget all of the good work you may have done. You can unmake years of hard work with a swipe of the knee, or pat on the head. Don't forget how idiotic Bush Sr. looked when he tried to "teach" Geraldine Ferraro about foreign policy in their debate, and how the crowd cheered her when she called him out on it. Senator Biden: be charismatic as you can, be strong and fight for your points when you can, but don't imply that Palin is dumb (even though she might be) and don't imply that you can teach her something (although you probably could). Also, don't ever, under any circumstances, talk or gesture to appearances. Like any good debater knows, once you hit the physical realm, you no longer have the power to make good theoretical arguments. Stick with theory, avoid physicality--because in theory, we're all created equal. It's when you come down to earth, you realize we're definitely not treated that way.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mets, Mayhem, Magical Thinking.

M.Snowe admits she has no long-standing ties to Mets baseball. But the tickets are cheap, the games are exciting, and the location is prime and accessible. As any good baseball fan knows, a game is a game, and seats are seats, and if it isn't your favorite team, it's still something to get behind. But that's the thing with this Mets team--they suck you in when you were just looking for an entertaining afternoon with no strings attached. But then you're tethered to their foul pole, rapt into the play. Without knowing the players that well, without knowing the history, you can still be enchanted insanely quickly by their lukewarm pitching and haphazard methodology. Before you know it--you're hooked. You have no idea how, but this oft-losing team has caught your attention. They aren't exactly a beautiful team. They aren't gentlemen of the field. They usually signal a win and then fall spectacularly flat, promises broken. You can't figure them out--you feel they don't understand you, and how could they--you're just one fan in a crowd of way too many for comfort. It's as if they have another mistress, a coy Circe entangling them from afar, late at night after they leave the Flushing locker room, regardless of their protestations. But despite yourself, there the Mets are, and you cling to the idea that they could win and truly be your team, not just for one night, but for the big show. But why? M.Snowe has a few shrewd ideas...maybe.

Mets fans, like many other various groups and individuals, engage in what is usually referred to as "magical thinking." (Perhaps one of the best literary examples of magical thinking is the memoir by Joan Didion--a good and tragic read, though high on dramatics). Magical Thinking is the irrational belief that one can bring about a circumstance or event by merely thinking about or wishing for it. Outside of early childhood and schizophrenics, this kind of thinking is supposedly abnormal, or at the very least ill-advised. And yet, it has such a pretty, non-threatening name. The allure of it is undeniable. Mets fans hope and hope that their team will enter the playoffs, and yet it seems like the past couple of years, the team has feinted brilliance in August and September, only to dash the fans' hopes against the walls of Shea like the bulldozers in the coming months when it's demolished. The Mets had the appearance of winning it all--they acted like a team on the rise, and perhaps the fans were deluded into thinking that their ardent wishes would be enough to carry the team through--alas.

Some people (and some Mets fans included), might find this magical thinking disturbing--psychotic even. Why believe in a team so deeply, only to see your hopes stomped upon? How could you think that all those seeming "signs" of a winning record were anything but random or maybe slightly coincidental happenings in a chaotic world of sport? But then the question becomes, are the fans perhaps smarter to cling to something that ultimately does not directly effect depression levels, or at least subsides with the hope of a new season? Sometimes we all engage in magical thinking--and it can often be much more detrimental than the outcome of a baseball game. There will always be next year for the Mets. Will there always be next year for the other things we wish for irrationally? Will the other things be completely separate from our own actions? Will our individual choices effect the Mets' record? No. Will our choices effect our personal hopes and dreams that slide hazardously into magical realms? Probably. And even if the signs are read correctly, what if you find yourself still hoping for a wish that you know cannot come true?

Yes, you can wear your lucky t-shirt to the game and think it helped the cause--but there's no quantifying that, there's no direct link to your cotton and the players' mitts. But what about a misread sign or signal in your own life, and how you choose to interpret it? And we're not talking about a sign that a hitting coach gives to the player at bat. What about the subtle quirks, the indefinite gestures? Is it the magical thinking sneaking up on us again, or is it real? If only the exquisite pain of daily deciphering was more simple; if only it was more like a ballgame.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tragedy, Catharsis, Economy.

M.Snowe watched a play yesterday. Not having been to one in ages, it was unclear what to expect. Entertainment was a cert, but as for anything else, who knew. The play ended up being jarring at times, and the acting was overall well done, except for the odd side character who's vague attempts to upstage were more pitiful than anything else. But the lead role performed wonderfully (perhaps due to getting the best lines, perhaps not). All of that aside, M.Snowe got to thinking about theatrical catharsis--that old Aristotelian noun translated roughly to mean identification and empathy with situations of theatrical human suffering, while simultaneously experiencing a feeling of joy/pleasure because the situation performed on the stage is not happening to you (as of yet). And Aristotle made some good points. It's nice to see the apocalypse on the stage, and watch it wiped clean with the swipe of the last curtain. But sometimes, a real good plan will not just make you vested in the lives of the characters. Sometimes your identification is so deep that catharsis is transcended. Sometimes, the vital truths illuminated in a play, however weirdly presented, stay with an audience member long after the final bow. This can happen with mediums of art. There should be a new term, a higher catharsis--a hybrid between catharsis and the death drive. It would be defined as empathy and pleasure at the experience of artful tragedy, but not pleasure because you are observing at a safe distance--pleasure because you too can see the beauty in your own tragedy, your self-same lament.
Speaking of tragedy, let's talk economy. What we are experiencing is not a main street event. The government decided to deregulate banks years back, and now, low and behold--the investment bankers played some dirty tricks with the books. Only now, we're the ones paying for it (in taxes?). Who is helping the poor people that were misinformed when they entered into bad deal home loans? Why are we more worried about men (because they're almost if not all men) who's incomes have gone from eight or seven digits to maybe only six? Saving the jobs of the people who got us into this mess is not the answer (ummm....can you say Moral Hazard???). These bankers know no shame and feel only entitlement. They earned the tragedy that is crouching towards them--and yet the Bush administration is eager to lighten the blow, or preempt it (go figure, Bush and a preemptive war?). It's harsh, but its hard to feel sorry for people who knowingly aimed at making deals and taking advantage of those who were strapped for catch, and just wanted a place to call their own. These people are responsible for the tumbling economy--they have faces, names, and are easily found. Bush likes to combat things, especially enemies. Yet in this case he is showing mercy to merciless people who are not exactly in hiding. Yes, banks being run into the ground is bad news for everyone, but there should be consequences for the people who ran them there in the first place--they deserve a bit of a tragic fall. And that would be a bit of tragedy we could all get on board with. Talk about cathartic.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What we deserve. Or do we?

Life is random. An amalgam of things.
This is commonly excepted by those who don't have any hard claims to the destiny often intertwined with religion, or some sense of self-fashioned karmic spirituality. So naturally, if you believe that randomness is a fact of life and that there are unexplainable and unplanned courses of action, your entire worldview is shaped by it. Yes, many things are intentional, but when it comes down to it, control (of others, of events, etc.) is often out of our hands. This can be at once liberating and frightening. There are things we can guide--things we can finagle, but sometimes things fall to the wet pavement spectacularly, or mend up amazingly, and we have nothing or no one to thank or alternatively berate for it. So when someone gets what "they deserve," it is usually chance and not anything else. We must exclude practical examples that would counter this assertion, like working hard for an achievable goal and reaching it--no--here we're talking about seemingly unrelated occurrences that end up making sense in the bigger picture--like rudely stealing a crippled lady's seat on the train, only to end up breaking your leg while rushing on another platform a few days later. For better or worse, poetic justice is such because, like poetry, it is abstract, often confusing, and outside reality or practical use (not that we don't love it, and wish it was applied daily). Unpoetic justice, as a friend called it, is just as possible (i.e. you could've given the cripple that seat and still broken your leg).

So why does it seem that sometimes, the world gives us all what we deserve? Could there be more poetry after all?

more to follow...

Friday, September 12, 2008

got problems with the election? : thatsyourtrouble weighs in

M.Snowe would like to share some very astute summations (below in blue) from her coworker/friend, thatsyourtrouble. This was birthed from a lively email debate...

Sorry for the ramblings below, but your blog helped to crystallize some of my thinking here:

Even I was a bit surprised that some have actually been using the term “catfight” to describe Clinton/Palin disputes that are not even occurring. I tried to measure this with my sexismometer, but all of a sudden it seemed to be broken.

The gender politics angle of the Palin nomination is very interesting. It is of course the duty of those on the left to defend her from sexist attacks but to oppose her on the content of the McCain platform (or her own opinions on the issues, if we find out more about what those are).

But what are we to think about her instant popularity among many conservatives and independents? We should not assume that a male candidate could not have attracted the same enormous support, but regardless of whether her gender is an essential component, her own unusual and particular identity is the key.

Her story as a regular person who has achieved tremendous success without the elitist taint of Ivy League education is a large positive factor in the populist tradition. Furthermore, the story of her own life as a woman and mother who has lived her pro-life principles is extremely validating for “values” conservatives of both genders. Conservative and apolitical women will support her fervently because they can stand up for women by doing so. They may even identify as pro-life feminists, but Palin has none of the “negatives” that traditionally accompany feminism in the conservative mind. Her feminism consists in her ability to accomplish anything she tries to achieve (and to do so while raising a family). Thus they agree with her stand against the old-boy network and her ability to break the glass ceiling. She does not embody a challenge to any “traditional” values, and her somewhat unusual (and yet still traditional) relationship with her husband is extremely reassuring in that it shows that she has no fundamentally “anti-man” views that most conservatives associate with feminism. Furthermore, her pro-life credentials obviously cannot be doubted. I would argue that her physical attractiveness is also extremely important. The Rush Limbaugh conservatives truly believe that feminists (feminazis) turn to this ideology in part because they themselves are physically (and thus spiritually, one suspects they believe) ugly, and I suspect that Palin’s physical attractiveness (and youth) are as important to mobilizing enthusiastic support in both men and women as a child star’s cuteness is to eliciting sympathy from a movie audience. I think that even in this allegedly more enlightened age, the attractiveness/likeability connection continues to be as huge a factor in politics as in life. Kay Bailey Hutchison would not have elicited enthusiasm, partly because she is not new to the scene and a rising star, but also because her physical appearance makes her less likely to be liked. The same can apply to male politicians, I’d say, though the bar is set far lower and the effect is probably much smaller.

So in the end Palin is an instant hero(ine) to female voters because of her impressive personal accomplishments while also validating the views of conservative women and (perhaps especially) conservative men. At the same time she also claims the status of a maverick; her maverick status and McCain’s probably reinforce each other in increasingly positive ways. Furthermore, she is threatening only to “old boy network” male politicians, and men and women alike will generally cheer the success of anyone (especially someone who is as instantly charming as Ms. Palin) who has unseated the undeserving establishment (of which the old boy network is an example).

The backstory of the Democrats and the fate of Hillary Clinton helps further, because Republicans and independents can feel that they are standing up for women while the Democrats dissed them. Furthermore, Palin’s place on the ticket allows Republicans and independents to be enthusiastic about an historic candidacy of their own—ground that was formerly necessarily ceded to the Obama people. This eliminates the enthusiasm gap, and, for any Republicans or independents who think about race, it probably wipes away any race-related guilt.

Of course, there are some wonkier conservative voters out there who will worry about Palin’s lack of experience, but comparison to Obama’s lack of experience makes this easier to overlook. Some will also see the pick of Palin as a cynical ploy, but the feel-good story seems to be winning the day. It’s still possible that external events could knock Palin from her current popularity, but unless that happens, I think this gives the Republicans an advantage that the Dems will not be able to overcome.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Metaphors for Stagnation (not change)

This morning M.Snowe decided to flip through some network news programs (against her better morning judgment that usually dictates sticking to the ipod). The stories on all three major networks (as if you would even consider FOX part of the repertoire!) were extremely Palin-centric. This was to be expected with the current hype, and was part of the reason it was turned to in the first place. Despite all the reading, M.Snowe was looking for some television news stories--to see how they were covering it all.

There's nothing like that unedited commentary you sometimes get in the morning from pre-caffeinated television pundits. The stories are always hokey, and this morning was no disappointment--the reporting centered on the projected bump in women supporters for the McCain/Palin ticket--a jump of 20% among white women voters. This seems astronomically high, but let's just pretend it's true. Also, it was surmised that this bump was solely due to the addition of Palin to the ticket (although historically, after a convention, the polls get a natural bump, and we're not talking about Palin's daughter's new baby bump here, either).

Then, the accompanying story focused on Clinton's response to the Palin pick (because you always have to check what each of those bitches is saying behind the back of the other)--and more than one pundit or newscaster had this comment to make: That Clinton was viewed as not being tough enough on Palin. In other words, they blamed Clinton for not attacking Palin more fiercely and personally, and said that her inability to attack Palin was lingering luke warm sentiments for Obama, a.k.a. bitterness of her own failed campaign--a wily attempt to intentionally disrupt his campaign.

Somehow, the campaign has shifted from focus on McCain and Obama to Palin and whomever looks like the best democratic stand-in, be it Clinton (either one of them) or Biden, or someone else to hit the scene. And this can't be blamed completely on the media--people have had months, even years of analyzing McCain and Obama. They're looking for new material--and boy have they found some. This might be perfectly benign, but the force with which the media coverage has become misogynistic, or at the very least rice-paper-thinly-veiled sexist is downright distressing, and anger-inducing.

Example: When multiple newscasters/pundits described the relative quiet of Clinton on the topic of Palin's controversy, one phrase was commonly shared amongst the new stations. Each interviewee said that if the two criticized each other, it would be a "cat fight." When men like Obama and McCain bicker over policy, it is a "political debate," or at worst maybe a "mudslinging." A normal cat fight, in the literal sense, is two cats shrieking at the top of their lungs and alternately backing away and scratching at each other. No real damage is usually done, and no real winner takes the spoils--all is for naught, and the cats stalk away to fight another day, with all the people in earshot mildly annoyed by the raucous. They barely raise a paw, compared to being mauled by a bear, or bitten by a shark (or a "barracuda"). Although the accusations of Clinton's indifference or purposeful avoidance of attack are ridiculous, this characterization also implies that a fight between the two, if initiated, would be irrelevant. Also, M.Snowe hates to have to point out the obvious, but the pundits, in their use of "cat fight" are, at the very surface, making sure that the audience remembers these two political figures do indeed have pussies. When was the last time you heard an Obama/McCain argument escalate into what the pundits labeled a "cock fight?" Hmm. Thought so. No one ever accused McCain of wanting to scratch someones eyes out, but that's where we are now.

Also, from the most recent New Yorker, we get statements like this from people at the Republican National Convention:

A republican delegate "had been wearing a pin that said “Catholics for McCain,” but swapped it for one that said “Hottest VP from the Coolest State.”

"She’s tremendous. I’m gonna scream, ‘Marry me,’ if I can just get up the nerve.”

Juxtapose these statements with the ones Clinton received during her campaign, like the signs that said "Iron my Shirt."
Both types of messages are the same: We are not comfortable with where you are politically, so let's bring the debate down to the level we can handle: either critique your body, your supposed lack of femininity, or abundance of it. One scholar of gender and racial studies said that your subjection can be measured by a simple mirror test. When you look in the mirror in the morning, how do you identify yourself? If you just see you, or see yourself as a human being--then you are relatively unaware of social class and racial bias. But if you identify a race, or class or sex with your image, it is that constant acknowledgement of difference that follows you throughout the day, and is reinforced by the people and social practices/behavior taking place all around you. It's a sad but true statement that women (similar to other races and sexual orientations), when they look in the mirror, are constantly reminded they are women first and people, second.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Electric Affect

"Home is so sad. It stays the way it left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it whithers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft
And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase."
--Philip Larkin, Home Is So Sad
M.Snowe visited with relations living in the wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania over this past weekend. Of course, the wilds mean a country town on the edge of a valley, looking down at the vast green expanses of rolling plains and gently sloping hills, up until the hills hit the tree-burdened mountain ranges surrounding it all with their jagged finality. The mountains, in the early blue-gray of morning, faded into the sky by gradations, and looking at them you couldn't tell where the earth stopped and the sky began--there was no horizon. It seemed too easy an enterprise to get lost in this mess of nature.
Like other parts of other states, this had been home for a long part of life. Not just the outdoor architecture, but the indoor infrastructure as well, including those who made it tick. Things/people have aged or changed, but most, like the scenery, has remained the same. So why is it so different now? Why does this huge mess of nature, and slower living seem unrecognizable, or at the very least, alien? Or perhaps the more apt question is: what is so alien about the visitor?
Talking to a friend while sitting on a regularly-haunted rock in Central Park (which has a clearly-defined horizon and much less greenery than the mountains), it became clear that city life suits some people very well. It also became strikingly evident that sometimes when we find a habitat with which to adapt ourselves, we loose the ability to react to the ones we previously lived in--and that's the harsh reality of urban evolutionary theory. Perhaps, suddenly you find that you don't like the person you are when you go "home"--perhaps people back home just don't understand (or care to understand) the ferocity or intensity, or new found electric mundane-ness of your city life, or maybe it's something completely internal--or a combination of all things. But the cliche abruptly comes to fruition, and you find yourself unable to come home again.

Within a span of forty-eight hours in the PA mountains, M.Snowe was baring her fangs at what might've been viewed as polite requests, and steely grinning with strained efforts in hopes of warding off the perception by relatives that M.Snowe might be annoyed by the remark that walking home at 7:15PM in the city is a "highly dangerous pursuit," when the nighttime is much safer than the morning (a proven fact). The avoidance of snapping a clever yet sparklingly ill-intentioned retort when being asked for the fifth time if the tickets home were purchased took a valiant effort of self-control. All these things would normally not have bothered M.Snowe, at least not so long ago. They might vaguely vex, but never induce fangs.

Is it the city that puts us on edge? The city, with it's electricity, seems to up the voltage on our conceptions and emotions. Without realizing it, the bright lights, public transportation, and general way of life have charged the senses--and while in the city, things can seem electrified, things can run skyscraper-high or subway-tunnel low. What might have served as a passing idea in some other mode of life can latch on in the city and follow you around like a pushy street solicitor. So when we leave the electric environment, perhaps we are so charged that other places seem dulled, or they don't conduct the energy we have learned to feed upon; sparks fly as the differing voltages amalgamate. We might not be able to go back home again with the same outlooks and the same emotions, but at least we can prepare ourselves with the appropriate converter switches.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

G & G's awesome literary analysis

Having read The Madwoman in the Attic multiple times, this article grabbed M.Snowe's attention for its originality and integration of Gilbert and Gubar's stunning, grandiose treatise on Victorian female writers, and their respective fictional characters into the Clinton candidacy aftershocks. Not sure if M.Snowe completely agrees with the exact tract of the author, but applauds her efforts nonetheless, and does agree that the female constituencies have been treated with the same freakish disregard as Bertha Mason.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Where have all the politics gone? (Limerick Recap)

Perhaps M.Snowe suffers from a perpetual summer fatigue. But more likely, the political news outlets are the ones suffering vernal weariness. And you can't entirely fault them--the primaries were more exhausting than listening to the overly laudable sputum currently ejaculating from the Olympics announcers' mouths. We have our two candidates, and they have been weighed and measured. The outlets seem to have decided that it's time now for some relaxation and an easy transition from the primary chaos to the official party nomination pomp and circumstance. Chances are, the real stories won't pick up again until we have some VPs to criticize and over analyze with flow charts, pie graphs, measuring tapes and fertility testing (got to be careful there, Mr. Edwards [not that you have a shot in hell]).

That's all well and good, but M.Snowe still wants the news--and stories about "whale calfs bonding with yachts" and "strange microwave death" cases just aren't up to snuff. (Mind you, these stories get top billing, over the protest situation in Kashmir.) But in the meanwhile downtime, let's settle for looking at some stilted world news instead of McCain/Obama.

Georgia and Pakistan: Five Second Limerick Recap

It once was a Soviet satellite,
now independent--it was just alright.
But the Russians came in
--we won't enter the din.
apparently they're not worth the fight.

Musharraf used to be the man,
now his rule is summarily banned.
We wanted him in,
though he's been quite a sin--
most think we've got nary a plan.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Silences

(M.Snowe wrote this silently, at least.)

Silence, as a term, is over-used, misapplied and under-defined. It's misapplied because many people think silence means the same as "quiet," or "the absence of sound." But this is not silence. Stopping your ears with plugs or corking yourself in a sound-proof room does not produce silence either.
As counter-intuitive as it might seem, silence is a part of social interaction. In fact, some (this blogger included) believe silence is more communicative than speech. Silence involves the deliberate absence of speech. Silence, in itself, carries neither negative or positive connotations--but it can be utilized to transmit either.

Back when M.Snowe dabbled in linguistic theory she learned all about the concept of the "signifier" and the "signified." Basically, words are signifiers, in that they point to something else; they are representatives of actual people, places, things, emotions, etc. The things words refer to are "signified" in language. Example: we use the word "dog" to represent the idea of a dog. But the word itself is not a dog (well, of course!).
Also, language must exist as a whole unit in order for individual words to have relevance. Explanation: every word is defined by its difference from every other word's meaning (kind of like colors). Without an extensive vocabulary, individual words would lose their meaning, just like without other colors to compare it to, one color would loose its meaning.

Silence is vital to communication--language just can't make the cut sometimes. Silence is quite possibly the best way to say what you mean, with no words to get in the way. Silence also leaves an incredibly blank slate upon what could turn into an overly wordy situation. Sometimes M.Snowe wishes that she could walk through NYC and not hear any speech while being silent herself--just amble up sidewalks and communicate with the streets in silence--and try to better understand it all. Sometimes trying to say what you mean gets you further away than where you started.

Silence (as a communicative tool) can be confused between people, to be sure. But M.Snowe would like to propose that speech is actually more tricky than silence to comprehend. There are outright liars, fibbers, and people who like to consider themselves as innocently "bending facts." Then there are people who want to say the right things, or communicate directly, but they just don't execute. It's a spectrum of all shades, a rainbow of spoken confusion with no gold at the end in sight. People spend incredible amounts of time puzzling out what people mean from the most mundane of statements. Chances are they will never know from studying the words.
The fact of the matter is: the words you say (or can't say) will never fully do the job. The signifier will never be the signified. What "you mean" and what you say never quite meet. And we wonder why things are so disconnected, on a global or a personal scale.When all this becomes clear--that's when we should turn to silence. Not only because it transmits multitudes, but because it leaves an aspect of untarnished mystery--it respects the fact that we can't communicate perfectly--unlike language and it's futile attempts at lucidity.

Some people in the city find silence unnerving, or uncomfortable. Beware these people. It suggests that they are unnerved or uncomfortable with their thoughts (or with your thoughts) and impulses. But if you can find people who are secure and comfortable with silence now and then in this city of verbosity, and can read the silences...