Friday, October 30, 2009

strike a pose, go through shenanigans, do not collect $200

Nearly two weeks' absence on this and you're probably wondering: what the hell have I been up to that's keeping me so busy?

Why, only shifting to a modeling/acting career, that's all.

The green brings out the eyes, don't it?

But actually, no, I'm quite serious. It all started with an innocently posted photo:

Some of you who keep track on Facebook might recognize that this is my current profile pic. Magic Twin Sis somehow managed to capture me in a particularly gorgeous light while I was visiting in Boston a while ago. So I decided earlier this month it was going up for the world to see, because it is framed well, captures a good smile and that peculiar eyebrows-raised expression which could be mistaken for flirtatiousness, and it's hot.

Though admittedly not as hot as these:

Or this:


But on a quick and important sidenote: you know how bafflingly helpful and annoying Facebook has gotten lately? There are so many battles going on around invasion of privacy, unwanted advertising, censorship of breastfeeding...and what the fuck is the difference between News Feed and Live Feed?! And do I really need this bombardment of information every time my older sis plays Mafia Wars and needs a pineapple or a duck or an Uzi?

Well, it turns out Facebook has something else going on too. Unbeknownst to me, it has been the latest hotspot for talent scouts. From what I gather, all our profile pics are snatched up by large 'talent databases,' are assigned a rough estimate of gender, age, race, height (unless we throw it all out there on our profiles, which I distinctly don't), then blundered through by overeager scouts who must spend obscene amounts of hours scrolling through thousands of photos in search of a few winners. I want to know: do they take all our pics, or only the ones that are just headshots? Do they take only the hot headshots? Who's deciding what's a hot headshot? I want to know: exactly how many legal boundaries do we have over the things we put on Facebook? Or does the number of boundaries equate to nil? Could my photo be used to sell soft drinks in Slovenia or enmeshed with a few dozen others as a collage background for an album cover out of Japan? I want to know: is this all legit? Am I supposed to be pissed about this? I think I am, but I suppose I'm asking for it, aren't I?

But honestly I have maintained mostly ignorance when it comes to these things. So I was quite astonished to receive a friend request a few days ago from this person named Kasie Delacruz:

Not necessarily because friend requests are out of the ordinary, but when it's from someone you've never met at any time in your life, it tends to throw you.

I didn't accept her request. I believe I sent her a message ("Hi, and who are you exactly?") and then got suspicious. Occasionally people do try and friend me and I really don't know them, but it's clear based off of mutual friends and networks so that they at least know of me. Good ol' Kasie here is not the same. What limited profile I can see of her indicates that she has no wall posts, no photos aside from this one, is single and interested in men, is up for anything, and is approximately my age. In other words: Kasie Delacruz may not even exist.

More research turns up more weird shit. After all, "Delacruz" is not exactly a common last name, what with the three Spanish words mashed awkwardly together like that. Google only turns her up once, as another guy's friend on Facebook, only she looks like this:

This *might* be the same person, and the profile is just as sparse as the first Kasie, only this Kasie claims to be five years older than the other. Oh, and her wall isn't empty like the first one; there are three posts on there, all from guys, which read (and I quote): "heyy !!! ?!?!?!"; "hey do I know u?"; and "yah do i know you".

And I thought my message to 'Kasie' was original.

So by this point it seems obvious: Kasie Delacruz is a plant. Someone/something created a barebones profile for Kasie, slapped on a photo of someone hot, and subsequently sent out friend requests to gullible guys. But why?

I got my answer today. Remember I only messaged her, her friend request is still rusting away unaccepted. But apparently this mere bit of interest from me landed another surprise in my inbox:

Oppertunity in New Orleans contact me immediately!!!

Between You and Christopher Gray
Christopher Gray October 30 at 4:54pm Report

Please contact Christopher Gray, Casting Director (323) 833 5461 via Cell
We found you from Explore Talent search data base…
We are currently working on a new “ABC” movie being shot in New Orleans:
Entitled: “The Business of Falling In Love”…Featuring Hillary Duff”

We Love Your Look and Want You to Participate In the Film

We would welcome your to work with us on the following dates October 30, 31…November 1, 2,5,6,7

If you are available for these days Please contact me immediately at (323) 833 5461 via cell…or contact Zac Foppe (818) 415 1048.

The Movie centers on A Young Cosmopolitan Magazine writer, “Hillary Duff”
In New York Who Dates Men in Business Suits

Also…Please send a head shot and photo to:
Looking forward to hearing from you ASAP.
Christopher Gray


Very smart, Facebook scouts. Throw out a hook and fish em into more unexpected shenanigans. "We Love Your Look and Want You to Participate In the Film": great! That string of capitalized words really brings it home! But still: why?

And here's the other weird thing: this Hillary Duff movie is actually being produced, and there will be casting done in New Orleans, and I suppose they offered me the bait because I used to live in New Orleans, I look aesthetically pleasing, and I got duped. And that's the extent of their criteria?

What I thought when I read this: "They can't be serious. They don't even know me. They can't for the life of them realize that, in addition to being gorgeous, I'm also pint-sized, barely own anything resembling a wardrobe, can't speak from my diaphragm, and a freaky radical to boot." But they are serious. I didn't write to Christopher Gray and say, "Yo, this is great, very well done, I'm up for another gag although I'll be more prepared next time. And by the way, no 'e' in 'opportunity' my dear." I mean, I would have, but then who knows how many other Kasies and Sashas and lazy-ass talent scouts would be pestering me then.

And it occurs to me that it must supremely suck to be a model. Apparently they are holding up the bottom echelon in terms of pay and prestige. Even worse to be an extra in a movie. As if you didn't have enough reminders that you are a dime a dozen in your chosen career, you are now facing a surge of competition from hot people on Facebook who don't even know what they're getting into. That's some shit.

Anyway. It was a nice little ride while it lasted, though I think modeling and acting aren't good fits for me. After this, I might just have to go into investigative journalism and uncover more of this Facebook morass. It's so, so juicy. And so very, very unpleasant.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

the one who doesn't know dignity

More bus stories.

Roughly a year ago I had a genuinely disgusted moment on the 84 bus: watching, almost hypnotically, a man gnaw and chew methodically on the palm of his left hand, pause to examine his teething work, and then resume gnawing and chewing, ceaselessly. This is the sort of thing which, when viewed once, cannot be put out of your mind. The mere knowledge that someone was chewing--on? at? bits off of?--their hand publicly and seemingly without concern really threw me out of sorts. I even held up my left arm to shield my face and eyes a bit, to feebly attempt to block it out of my thoughts.

Now, I don't know what exactly I found disgusting by this behavior. I assume you had to be there to understand.

But then I had another moment just a few days ago, and this time I know exactly what motivated my revulsion:

Moments after boarding the 16 bus to downtown, I noticed immediately a young man sitting a few seats ahead of me. Stocky, frumpy guy with a remarkably babyish face and no hint of facial hair, glasses, oily hair, and a thick ornament in his ear that seemed wildly out of place with his personality. An AmeriCorps hoodie, untended khaki pants, white socks and big tennis shoes. Clunky backpack at his feet. Posture awkward, yet not imposing (perhaps this is why it seemed awkward). iPod on and going strong, but no signs of enjoying--or even responding--to whatever he was listening to.

The first description to come to mind--and I really hate this, but it might help to picture him--is 'man-child.' Potentially a college-age student, having difficulty appearing his age. Captivating in his obliviousness to the effect of his appearance, as if it were the last of his concerns.

Now, if this was all there was to this guy, I probably would have forgotten about him by now. But he caught my attention because of a particular activity, done methodically, unconcerned, in public, much like the hand-chewer:

He was eating Lunchables. You know. The previously packaged 'meals' of prearranged crackers, 'cheeses,' 'meats,' maybe some cookies. The sort of meal that (correct me if I'm wrong) is reserved for either the insanely busy, or lazy middle-schoolers.

He ate very slowly, and yet voraciously, through that whole Lunchables package. With his hunting-and-pecking thumb and index finger, he would fish out a cracker, then a block of 'cheese,' then a pre-cut slab of 'meat,' place the 'cheese' and 'meat' on the cracker, bring it to his mouth and take a bite, chew, then another bite, chew, and one last bite to finish it off. The hunting-and-pecking hand moved in a careful triangle, from Lunchables plastic tray to mouth to lap and back to plastic tray, while his other hand was steady as an anchor, holding the Lunchables tray in mid-air. He sat, peered down during the hunting and pecking, looked up and around as he ate, listening to his iPod, consumed with his eating and inattentive to everything else.

Of course, eating is not allowed on the bus. People still do it. All the time. Him eating was not the problem for me.

And he wasn't disruptive. He didn't even chew loudly or spit crumbs on the other passengers. He was freaking dainty as he ate. None of this was a problem.

But it fucken tore me up. I mean, I was so upset, I wanted to scream at him to stop, and of course I didn't cuz I really didn't have a reason for him to stop. It was just something about the whole situation--something--that made me think, in big bold letters flashing in my head, THIS GUY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND DIGNITY. Not that I'm going around being the dignity police. But his entire presence--merely compounded by the Lunchables--made my skin crawl. Maybe it was because, when I saw people's lives devastated in the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans, even my poorest neighbors went to great lengths to sweep their porches, dress presentably, and make their hair gorgeous. Maybe it was because, in countless situations where I've seen friends and strangers end up in situations of pure exhaustion, anxiety, desolation, and poverty (especially during this economic crisis), they have still managed to hold themselves in a way that is striking in its confidence and incredible in its subtle fierceness.

Maybe it was because I really hate Lunchables.

But then, when he had finished off the Lunchables tray and set it aside, licking his fingers and hands of remaining Lunchables debris (which I knew he would do), he pulled up his backpack, opened the zipper, rummaged through one of the pockets and pulled out something that nearly made my eyes pop out: a recently purchased, plastic-wrapped loaf of tomato basil and asiago cheese focaccia bread.

As he rested for a moment with the loaf in his hands, looking around half-interested at the passing scenery--like he had been doing the whole bus ride--I stared at him, prayed at him, pled at him: please don't. Please, please, please don't open up that loaf on this bus. Or if you have to open up the plastic wrap, please at least rip off a chunk with your hands before you eat it. Please, please don't bring the whole loaf up to your maw and chew straight off with your teeth. For God's sake, please don't do this.

But this is precisely what he did. He opened up the plastic wrap, brought the loaf to his mouth, and continued with his meal, methodically and obliviously, as he had with the Lunchables, as if it was the most normal and acceptable thing to do.

And I knew then why I was revolted, why, out of all people I had ever witnessed on buses, he would lure incur inner reserves of hatred out of me, why he would cement a place in my memory, a moment still clear and fresh in my head as if just born: for I was looking at me. I was looking at a me from 6, 7 years ago, riding the bus back to campus after a grocery run where the only thing I ever got was focaccia and hummus. I was the one pulling the bread out of my backpack, tearing open the wrapper, and eating straight off the loaf, eschewing meals, plates, cooking, manners, grace. I was the one with the glasses and oily hair, dressed in hoodies too big for me and unwashed khakis. I was the one who believed I was confident because I didn't care what other people thought of me or cared of me, when the truth of it was that I rarely thought or cared of me. I was the privileged son who never knew failure and didn't know dignity. I was the man-child.

the worst place to be

I've determined that one of the worst places to be in this world is that silence in the midst of a conversation you feel compelled to fill with nothing of substance save your own foundering.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

one of the more pointless requests

"Excuse me. What are some of God's blessings? I'm trying to list them. Can you help me out? I have Freedom, Church, Country, Justice, Mercy, Grace, Trees, Stars, Skies, Schools, Professors, and Public Transit."

--out-of-the-blue request from a young man with a mousy face and a Bible always in his hands, on the 144 bus

My initial reactions:

1) I'm surprised homeboy didn't think of Jesus.
2) This is probably the only time in human history that Country, Mercy, and Professors have been on a list together.
3) He seemed like he was coming from a sincere place. Other passengers offered suggestions like Laughter, Love and Home, and for each one he repeated it back to them, nodded his head, and added it to the list. Impressively noncontroversial.
4) But if he said Prisons, I probably would have punched him.

Also: Public Transit? WTF?!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

today's maxim: nonprofit is the new black

Nonprofit Is The New Black

*in times of terrible economic crisis, nothing says 'hip' like claiming that you're 'helping'*

Today's young, fresh, privileged entrepreneurs are sporting the latest style: nonprofit! From the historic national organizations with big reputations, bigger pockets, and even bigger social movement co-optation to the bright energy of the local, tight service agency that has to keep finding new 'disadvantaged communities' to 'target' so that they can get enough money to last another four months: these outfits are the latest national craze. And talk about attention! People are flocking to nonprofits left and right, priming a seat for themselves in the hopes of carving out their unique take on a mainstream fashion. Want some 'community experience' to put on your resume? Looking towards a corporate executive career with a friendlier, spunkier edge? Anxious to get your hands dirty in the highly competitive world of grant writing? Feeling guilty, despairing, and downright shitty about the world getting worse, the social movements failing to formalize, and you helpless in its wake? You can get your fix--and so much more than you ever imagined!--at a not-for-profit organization.

And in hard times, not making a profit isn't just a style--it's becoming a way of life! It's not at all unusual now for city, county, and state governments to throw in their respective towels and try their hand at the highs and lows incumbent on this burgeoning industry (that's N-P-I-C to you! Non Profit Industrial! Complex!). Why, just the other day, I heard that federal stimulus grant money in the vicinity of $10 million went public and open for the taking here in Minnesota. Can you believe the eruption! You can still feel the tremors of all that typing, pens on paper, and clicks of the mouse as hundreds, thousands of applications launched into cyberspace, riding little more than a hope, prayer, and several pages of statistics that assess the continuing dire needs exposed by a social problem that has shown little to no signs of improvement over the last few decades despite the sincere effort of said application filer. It was a regular nonprofit extravaganza! The latest concepts, ideas, daring provocation and old stand-by's, vying for the chance to have the coolest source of money out there! And those nonprofits weren't alone. No, all these government agencies, public offices, legislatures, the whole range, they got into the action. The result? $90 million in requests! For $10 million available! Think of what a show that was! All the alternative schools, the AIDS clinics, the public works programs, the arts centers, the GLBTQ youth organizations, the housing assistance groups, this regular tapestry of the best nonprofits out there, showing off their threads, duking it out in utter desperation! Think of the drama! Think of the excitement! Think of all the groups that got turned down!

And let me say, as one currently employed in one (and previously employed in one, and even more previously employed in one--hell, I was a trendsetter long before the recession!): this nonprofit world has yet to see its peak! Before you know it, everyone out there will be living by and obeying the intricate rules, norms, and standards of everything nonprofit.

You can see it in the cards. Governments everywhere are severely cutting back their financial support for the poor, for communities of color, and for urban populations, just a worsening of a much longer history of strategic disinvestment to cripple the gains of social movements in the 1960's. The solution? Nonprofits!

The devastation of the economic crisis is provoking widespread anger and betrayal, which various state and capitalist forces will be keen on directing into socially acceptable levels of resistance, grounded in higher access to a shortage of resources, thus encouraging intra-community competition that makes for fewer social improvements. Where can we turn to? Nonprofits!

And as more children grow up to learn that all those cushy jobs their privileged parents and extended family and their connections assured them won't be there anymore, new avenues will have to open up--avenues that not only make these young people feel better about themselves, but also are goddamn high-paying jobs, and that incentive alone may even encourage them to keep these avenues intact. What better opportunity than to manage and direct a nonprofit!

You heard it here first, folks--nonprofit is the new black! So get on board while it's hot, and while there's still a small amount of money available to get you started!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

surprise, surprise

I absolutely love being surprised and I had been missing the feeling a lot lately; from the turns of the world I've borne witness to--repeatedly, in some instances--there isn't much now that genuinely takes me aback, depressing as that is.

But then this came, way, way out of left field:

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

And then this morning, I woke to our first snowfall of the autumn season, which, though expected, still gave me a start. In a good way.

I'll have more on this blog about the peace prize soon. For now, out to enjoy a break from drafts and edits and grad school apps, spend time with friends over in Stevens Square, and wallow in the cold north winds.

Monday, October 5, 2009

the head is a lonely hunter

These last few evenings have been consumed in head work, and I generally do not like head work.

It is akin to trying to slam through a summer reading list that is nothing but nonfiction books.

I know I'm no Grace Lee Boggs. I'm not capable of thinking hard about 300 things at once with ease, articulation, and brevity. I ain't there yet. But, oh, sometimes it would be so very nice.

You know how awful it is to have a good friend ask you "What are you up to these days?" and you realize that any meaningful answer you can provide takes so damn long to explain you'd rather not answer at all? Even my fucken job takes at least thirty seconds to describe, and that's only if I have the energy.

Same goes for "What's your book about?" and "Why are you going into geography?" and so on. It's not even that these are perfunctory questions for people who don't really care what my answer is; they really are intrigued. I am just getting tired of trying to answer this curiosity satisfactorily. It feels like it's all coming from the head and nowhere else anymore.

I'm reviewing this manuscript about white decolonization. And it's, well, 300 pages long. I agreed to do this back when the stress of this anthology and grad school apps was still minimal, but then I put it off (just a month, which is very good for me), and now I can barely put my thoughts together on it. I'll read a snippet, start typing feedback, write for a half a page or more, then stop, realize I've gone off in my little head world, which is totally useless for me and for this manuscript's author, and another hour has gone by to boot. Dammit!

It's situations like these that spur serious doubt as to my commitment to something like 'academic rigor.' I have synapses firing on everything from Deleuze to open source technology to dialectics to societies of control to Asian America to 'indigenous warrioring,' which I still don't really get. I try and talk about these things and almost immediately I feel vacant and unenthusiastic, nothing but mishmashes of things I've read or terminology I pretend to know how to use. This infuriates me but I try and keep at it, as if by continuing I can feel more confident and assured. And I never do.

And why is it--truly, why is it--that when I have finished extracting a song from my guitar, setting a spoon down on plate's edge at the end of a recipe's conclusion, waking hazy and in desperate love with a dream that flew my body headlong down the long slope of a story, why is it that I wait long moments, sometimes hours, before snapping open the case, depositing dishes in the sink, hauling these bones out of a bed, steeling myself for another return to the land of head work.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

ramping up and scaling back

Everyone likes to schedule amazing events in October. You know? It's the happy time, I think. No significant holidays that could interfere with planning, unless you're one of the unfortunate souls who actually celebrates Indigenous Genocide Day (aka Columbus Day), and of course Halloween, which isn't until the end of the month. Everyone's 'around' because they've already done their summer vacations, they're in their 'occupied' time at work and at school, and they're saving their traveling and break time for Thanksgiving and the thick of winter. And because October traditionally signals the gloominess up ahead (that is, if you live in Minnesota), we are unusually primed and excited for whatever vibrancy we can get a hold of, which usually comes in the form of awesome events.

And there are a great many happening right now. Lecture series, conferences, concerts, shows, activism gatherings, spoken word performances, fundraisers, films, dances, plays, heck, even the meetings planned in October look particularly scrumptious. It's really a joy to witness this much activity, all concentrated in one month.

Well, I have a shoe to drop. There are a great many things happening right now in public, but also in private, and they are mostly not the enjoyable kind, but I am doing them nonetheless so that I do not freak out come November and December, when the lethargy of the coming winter really puts me in the procrastination mode. And after making a few lists of those tasks, and weighing them against my general available time to do them, I discovered the other dropped shoe.

Namely, that if there are awesome events happening this month, I will have to bow out of almost all of them.

Oh, don't get me wrong. There will still be another Monochromatic Meal of the Month and I'm all aboard for it (the color orange won't know what hit 'em). And of course, Up In Arms, tonight at 8 pm at Macalester (Kagin), which will draw a big crowd but I will still be doing last-minute recruiting for it today. And when Bao and Juliana's little one comes through, I'll be cooking up a storm to save them some meal-making stress. And if anyone ever wants to arrange a happy hour or maybe a soul food night out at Brasa or what have you, you know I won't resist.

But otherwise I will have to say a lot of 'No' to your invitations. Know this isn't a slight against anything or not wanting to hang out with y'all. Just have to lay down some boundaries. The best thing you can do is not pestering me when I say 'no' the first time around, as that will get me guilty and annoyed pretty fast. No, the best thing you can do is just go to these events with a good crew and a big-ups attitude, and take whatever joy you can get for all it's worth, as that will translate back to me one way or another. I'm serious. It really does work that way.

Now, as the feller Kev always says, it's back to the mill.

See you tonight at Kagin for Up In Arms.