Monday, June 21, 2010

when you don't want to sleep, do a cryptic crossword

June 21 2010
Very late night
Miki & Aaron's place
Ann Arbor

Everyone else has long gone to bed but I am determined to squeeze every last drop from my rest day. At midnight we were eating baked potatoes and Miki and I got very close to completing this cryptic crossword after struggling with it for over an hour:

Those in the know know that this shit ain't easy. When we're raised on word puzzles, we learn to master new schemes and schematics in just a short amount of time: word finds, jumbles, scrabbles, crosswords. But the cryptic crosswords are the kind of thing you really don't ever master, I've decided. Most of the time you just sit there baffled by the clues in front of you. If you ever DO complete one successfully, it's usually sheer luck you can thank and not your own hapless skills. Cryptic crossword mastery is an unattainable.

A few other diagrams to help draw the analogy out:

Dubliners -> A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man -> Ulysses
Unattainable: Finnegan's Wake

Teaching yourself drums -> marimba -> piano -> guitar
Unattainable: harp

If you have others to add, feel free to do so.

Today was a good day. Kept getting better health-wise, kept churning through my work and finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, kept finding spaces to grin in. Aaron's show, Exile & Utopia, was brilliant. The book posters came in today and look wonderful. I'm trying to wrap up all that positive energy and let it carry me through the day tomorrow, which will promise many errands, logistical hurdles, reunions, first meetings, a march, and a new place to stay in Detroit. And that's just the start of a very long 5-day expanse.

For now, though, it's far too late and I'm hitting the hay. Outside there's a lightning parade; inside, oscillating fan whir. Tuesday will bring with it a new sound, and I don't have any idea as to what it will be. I'm just going to listen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

time for a Sabbath Monday

June 20 2010
After midnight
Miki & Aaron's place
Ann Arbor

Allied Media Conference finished up today, and with that, Claudia is headed back home, staying in Chicago area with Miriam tonight. Times have been good so far, although I've had a relapse of my digestive troubles from 3 months ago which has tempered the good times quite a bit. I think I've spent several hours over the last three days in bathrooms. Still, it's been good having good company to keep me laughing and wresting joy out of everything.

Exciting news: I don't know how bodies do this, but they are very good at letting you know when something is wrong, even if you can't see it, and they are just as good at letting you know when your internal functioning is reasonably back to healthy. Just one example: I know when my digestive troubles have returned because my stomach stops growling. In almost no time, the other signs come forward, as certain muscles, organs, and nerves give off a not-rightness that, even though you cannot place it, is real all the same. You eat some food and something about the way it moves through you just seems off, and you know it. Now, after 30 hours of fasting and a few doses of metamucil, I’ve just tried eating again. And the stomach growls are back, and the muscles are doing what they need to, the organs are settling back into their roles, and food is now pleasing to eat, rather than something that gives me trepidation. It’s an amazing feeling, good health.

Despite health problems and difficulty concentrating because of work to finish up, I did enjoy the conference and was especially impressed by two workshops, one led by Climbing Poetree and another, led by several organizers, called “Safe in Our Skin,” which explored the ways we create and build communities of safety without the intervention of state and capital (and specifically the police and other elements of the prison-industrial complex). Lots of people there, filled up the room and then some, which was both heartening and affirming that everyday life experiences of harm and healing are some of the most common things we share and most important areas from which to consider organizing. Their topic is right up my alley, and the workshop had interactive and performative aspects to it as well, which I love. If there’s a dancing workshop at the USSF, I want to do it; these are the intangibles that keep me going.

Also watched a good 30-minute clip of the documentary “Land of Opportunity” in another workshop. The folks behind it are brilliant, not only in their filming style (they have no narration and almost no text, it’s all done through the stories and voices of the people they film) but also in the fact that they’ve been following the lives of six people in the Katrina aftermath for five years. Most docs about Katrina only account for the first year or two after, but as I’ve thought to myself so often, it’s what happens over the next 5-10 years in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast that will be the most telling. I appreciate their sticktoitiveness. Check them out.

Once things finished up today, Linda and I headed over to the Detroit Institute of Arts, at Aaron’s recommendation. They have, reputedly, the best Diego Rivera mural in the country, Detroit Industry, and it is stunning.

Monday the 21st is the day of rest, before the USSF launches on Tuesday. My only tasks are staying healthy, getting groceries, meeting up with someone from Radical Reference, and seeing Aaron’s gallery show and presentation of his master’s thesis. Then, after hopefully a good night’s sleep, I meet Craig and Ben for the first time, have lunch and a beer, check into the Motor City Casino Hotel, march with 15-20,000 others in the heart of Detroit, and hang out with the book for the first time.

Friday, June 18, 2010

the basics

June 18th 2010
Miki & Aaron's house
Ann Arbor

First day of the AMC done and resting. It appears I'm having a relapse of the intestinal troubles I had for two months earlier this year. Of course I'm worried that this is primarily being caused by stress rather than any dietary overstepping. The AMC folks claim that there's a relaxation room on the premises with acupuncturists on hand to do their magic. I'm gonna hunt them down tomorrow. This shit needs to end now or I'll be having two very miserable weeks.

Had a difficult time concentrating in the workshops I attended today. Mind is sifting through all the work I need to get done. I rested most of the afternoon and got to have a spontaneous hour-long chat with someone who had just arrived and was planning to stay in the crash space with her son for the next 10 days (with no place to shower, of course). That was probably the highlight. Claudia and Linda like the conference a lot, but all of us were more than eager to head back to Ann Arbor after the day's events. We missed a night of bowling and karaoke in D-Town, but then again, bowling and karaoke will always be there (I assume).

I figure this post would be good for explaining just exactly what I'm up to over the next two months, for those who've been confused; it is a lot of stuff and it doesn't exactly sync up either. Also, there's a slight chance that writing this all down will smooth my thoughts out a little and actually decrease my stress levels. We'll see.

  • What I'm up to now is attending the Allied Media Conference in Detroit (June 18-20). Mostly I'm doing this cuz I attended last year, enjoyed it, and Claudia and Linda wanted to check it out and I decided it'd be fun to road-trip out there with them. It's a relatively short affair - just two and a half days - and about 200-300 people. It's very definitely a conference; there are workshops, activities, people tabling from all over the country, lots of mixing things up and learning going on. Perhaps what distinguishes it from other conferences - and this can be both intriguing and frustrating - is how much it avoids academia and academic jargon. No one presents papers, no one holds heavily theoretical presentations or discussions. It's meant to be very hands-on and relatable, generating tangible skills and tools for use in movements for media justice and intersections with other movements. Not to suggest that the theoretical heavy-lifters and trailblazers out there sit this one out: Critical Resistance, INCITE!, Grace Lee Boggs and the Boggs Center, all of them are out in droves. It's a genuinely inspiring convergence as well as a great introduction to current struggles in Detroit. I'm doing book promotion here but it's on the sly.
  • A few days break, Claudia heads back on a solo road trip to the Twin Cities, and Linda and I stay for the United States Social Forum (June 22-26). The USSF is not a conference or a summit. "Forum" is not entirely accurate either. The best way I can describe it is as a 'space,' specifically a space developed and built over many years to encourage the maximum number of encounters, dialogues, connections, and amplifications possible in a short timeframe and small convergence area. Put another way, the USSF intends to catalyze and strengthen movement-building at a rate that is much faster than organizations and organizers are used to. This isn't to say there aren't workshops, activities, and plenaries like at any other conference (there are over 1000 workshops for this USSF). But what makes the USSF unique - and very unpredictable - is the fact that, in just a five-day span of time, there is a space so open and usable that people end up using it for all kinds of spontaneous, surprising, and powerful things. The last USSF was in 2007. I burnt out after just a day; I couldn't see any of the workshops because 10,000 other people were trying to see them too. But all around me was this vibrant activity that was definitely not listed in the program guide: ad hoc gatherings, spillover discussion groups, assemblies and alliances formed on the spot, creative ventures, direct actions, and levelled critiques of the whole process from start to finish. Oh yes, the shit is overwhelming. But it's unlike anything I've ever been to, and that's saying something. Uses of a Whirlwind will be released at the USSF, and there will be a big release party on Friday the 25th. Our collective is also organizing three workshops/panels, and I'll be presenting or facilitating for all of them. I'll be relocating to a hotel in Detroit with them. To top it off, I'll also be reuniting with my antiracist peeps from New Orleans, and exploring radical Asian America through several caucuses, assemblies, and gatherings for APIA folks. Somewhere in there I think I get to sleep.
  • After all that, my collective, Team Colors, hits the road for a tour (June 26-August). We're a militant research collective that inquires into struggles and everyday resistance in the United States. We cast a wide net, but our general focus is on class struggle, class composition and decomposition, mechanisms of control and capture by state and capital, the commons and enclosures, precarious labor, social reproduction, and processes of 'becoming' in everyday life. A lot of people go "Huh?" at this stuff, but there's a certain significant contingent out there that loves this shit. We love it, I think, because we feel these inquiries are incredibly necessary in order to combat anti-intellectualism in movements, steer away from the fetishization of activist-identities and into radical community organizing, and centralize the political as found in the mundane, the everyday, the basic needs and practices of life and living in common. Our book is just the latest of many ventures we've been on, but since this is a great opportunity to inquire into more organizing around the country and spur important discussions, we'll be holding lots of events throughout the summer and fall. I for one will be working events in Bloomington Indiana, Chicago, Madison, the Twin Cities, New York, Philadelphia, Portland Oregon, San Francisco, Oakland, and Gainesville Florida. There will likely be other events in the South and Southeast that I'm trying to set up right now. Even more events will take place throughout the fall, but by that time...
  • I'll be in grad school at UNC-Chapel Hill starting August 24th, for a doctorate in geography. Geography is not just about maps and capital cities; it's the intersection of many knowledges - history, politics, environment, society - that intends to understand and explore 'space' as it exists on the surface of the earth. It's also well-known for taking increasingly radical turns of late, due to its openness, its reckoning with its own very colonial history, and its challenges and critiques that problematize so much about the world we're in while also finding excitement in resistance and change, whether organized or unanticipated. I told them I want to study radical Asian America post-1965, but we'll have to see if that will hold.
OK, gotta head to be - way too late and I need to be up early again for the second day of the AMC. And I have a red bean cake here with my name on it.

the brave new editor goes to a workshop on collaborative editing

June 18 2010
11:31 am
Allied Media Conference, Wayne State University

I'm trying to remember what the AMC was like a year ago when I went. Certain familiar elements: a generous spread of croissants and honeydew melon in the foyer of McGregor, faces I can connect to an organization or place but not a name. What stands out the most is where I was at that time: tired, stinky (I stayed in a crash space with no showers), consistently enthralled by the workshops and discussions, and - perhaps most notably - generally bored. This was before the book or grad school was a sure thing. Back when I was a thin wisp of a boy, pinching pennies at a nonprofit job. Back when I went to the beach on hot days and sunned for 3 or 5 hours straight - even on weekdays.

Now I'm in a room of 30 people chatting about collaborative editing, feeling some mix of wisdom, empathy, a strong sense of detachment, and the not-too-thinly-veiled-in-its-smugness sentiment that "My twin sis could drink you all under the table."

I don't know why I picked this workshop; I don't know how I'm going about picking any of these this time around. The first one I went to looked promising, done by the Prison Poster Project, but they didn't describe in any detail what their activities and processes are like, or with any great critical or theoretical lens, and unless you know next to nothing about the prison-industrial complex there was nothing so revealing about their presentation. I still learned some stuff. I can't say whether that's enough, tho. I mean, you can learn stuff from watching "Keeping up with the Kardashians." If you don't get at the questions of place, space, power, complexity, contradiction, theory, critical analysis, and desire, then there's just this wide maw where someone's raw material was supposed to be. I see the maw everywhere I go now.

My mind might also be distracted. There is a book coming out next week after all. And I am getting impatient to move to North Carolina before another person can tell me "You are going to be missed here so much" and make me feel even sadder about the whole business.

Exciting news: Asian folks can get fat. Witness Exhibit A. I don't think it's a weight thing, but my body is very obviously changing and building up a paunch that never used to be there. The fucken thing actually strains and groans against the button and zipper on my jeans after a hearty meal now. Possible reasons: 1) having no full-time job for five months, and thus no steady routine; 2) having once had a full-time job for over two years, which involved more sitting than any other work I've done previously; and 3) eating exceptionally well because I've been home with my parents more often. If this lasts the rest of the summer I'll really get worried.

The night before we road-tripped out here, Claudia and Linda and I went to a dinner on Summit Ave of this group of Asian folks who have been talking about forming some kind of thing - organization, activism hub, whatever it may be. It was one of the odder experiences in recent memory. Look: you try having a 2-hour conversation with 15 other people and none of them are speaking in a common language, and see how far you get - or whether you can even follow along at all. Also, count as a given that the group is getting impatient about meeting and talking and wants to start getting 'active.'

The drive here was smooth and uneventful, and we got to feast at Cafe Japon for Miki's last week there. I had me this sashimi dish that could make grown, jaded old men weep.

More to come. Hi Detroit.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

this shit is revived

Breathe, blog! Breathe! The goddesses are mixing up some magic this summer, and dammit, I'm taking you with me.