Letters from generation Why

21 07 2009

Bio: Luke Taylor is a student at Stanford University. He is majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

I was sitting in a Docudrama course during the Winter Quarter this past year, taught by a  professor I very much respect, when we heard a summary of the recent film, “Frost/Nixon,” a dramatized version of British journalist David Frost’s landmark interviews with former president Richard Nixon, in which he ostensibly gets Nixon’s confession to the Water Gate scandal. When the presentation was through, we discussed some of the political dynamics of the time and I was surprised by my professor’s acknowledgment of Nixon’s relative craft as a politician. I raised my hand and asked why she would make such an uncharacteristically (albeit qualified) positive comment about a social and economic conservative who, but for formal process, is acknowledged as a crook of the highest order. I likened him to George Bush, assuming the two were comparable in character as they were in political ideology and criminal propensity. She stopped the class and looked me dead in the eyes- “I’m glad you said something,” she said. “I want to get something very clear.” She took off her glasses and looked at every face in the room, none of us much older than 22. “For those of you who can’t remember life before George Bush, what you have experienced for the last 8 years is anomalous beyond description. Absolutely, we’ve had corrupt politicians, war mongers, and maniacs in the White House as a matter of course, but never- never- have we had such an inept man, so addled in the brain as he is, puppeted by powers greater than himself, rule this country. I want this to be clear. What you witnessed in George Bush’s administration has been truly unique. You should know that political injustices have not always been rendered by idiots.”

The implication of her words struck me then and continue to unravel my understanding of the modern political and social climate I have know over the past eight years. When Bush came to power in 2000, I was 14. I remember the presidential race between him and Al Gore, the hotly contested polling results in Florida and Ohio, and the momentous Supreme Court ruling that put Bush in office- I remember them as events I watched on television and discussed in school, absent any comprehension of historical context. I even went back last year and checked the facts, writing a paper on the fabrication of legitimacy in the 2000 presidential election, concluding that the last eight years had, in fact, been a political sham. Even so, the magnitude of delirium that pervaded the American ethos over the last eight years of the Bush administration hadn’t hit me.

What strikes me now is the worldview my generation has developed because of this ethos, having spent the better part of our adolescence in the frenetic apocalyptic narrative of the Bush era. As aware, conscious individuals, the world we have witnessed during the most pivotal time in the development of our values and beliefs is one beleaguered by at least two official wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan), supplemented by an ill-defined, rhetoric heavy, ironically termed “War on Terror,” stratified by the largest economic gap between rich and poor ever witnessed in history, in which the ideals of Democracy have been gutted in the name of National Security, and untold innocents slaughtered to justify the mechanisms of occupation and the free market. Quoting Nazi politician Herman Goering in an address she made in 2003, Arundhati Roy reminds us of Empire’s favorite manufactured product- the consent of the public voice: “People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they’re being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” Sounds achingly familiar, doesn’t it?

My generation came into themselves as citizens at exactly the time when the new imperial project of globalization and the installment of the United States as the uncontested Super Power de jure had been perfected, brilliantly orchestrating media complicity, economic necessity, and political righteousness in a neatly packaged consumer pill called Freedom: Freedom to Preemptive Strike, Freedom to Censure, Freedom to Occupy, Freedom to suspend untold liberties and commit acts tantamount to genocide across the globe. What does that say about the way my peers and I have been taught to see the world? What are we to expect from our political leaders and what should we feel entitled to as American citizens, with our lenses shaped as they have been by comodified terror? In this world, any number of domestic crimes- like the repugnantly named Patriot Act- and international treaty violations- like the frequent and egregious ignorance of the Geneva Conventions- are justified in the now bloodstained names of Freedom and Democracy. The list goes on, and of course, it’s all old news, repeated ad nauseum in the infotainment forums of the day. Collateral death of innocents is now literally daily news, which we gloss over en route to the sports section, just as we pass America’s homeless on the streets on our way, unable to acknowledge the innumerable sufferings we are bombarded with every moment of our young lives.

In the age of Obama, the era of Change and Hope, we’d rather not visit the past. Those of us born in the privileged halls of the affluent progressive left breathed a sigh of relief on November 2nd, as much in celebration of the promise of a new radically informed Obama administration, as for our desperate gratitude that the Bush highjacking of America (and the world) was over. What’s done is done, we say. The nightmare of war tyrants masquerading as patriotic traditionalists is gone. But of course it is not. This recession has seen American job losses close to 4 million and a national unemployment rate nearing 10% and almost twice that number in some individual states like Michigan. While the gears of a free-market economy like ours are primed for such volatility, the policies of the Bush administration were clear death warrants for the global economy- history defying national debt, unprecedented exodus of U.S. jobs to cheap, unsafe, slave-like labor abroad, and a zealous denial of and organized fight against calls from the scientific community to take action on global climate change and the need for clean renewable energies. It seems a shame that the first term of Obama’s administration will be spent cleaning up the legacy of a glorified frat party with the litter of mindlessness strewn haphazardly for the world to see.

Six years of blundered war and occupation, a carefully designed set-up for the largest global economic crisis since the 1930s, and adamant denial of scientific consensus and fact regarding the safety and future of human life on this planet- all accompanied by complete disdain for dissent and policy after policy that has eroded the very foundation of American democracy. Remember when 10 million people marched all over the world against the war in Iraq before the invasion? Remember when calls against unilateralism, driven by the greed of inevitable war profiteering called for peace and reason? And now, billions upon billions of dollars in contracts have been awarded to the world’s most heinous corporations for the “reconstruction” of an ancient civilization plundered. The Bush administration’s adherence to the Rule of Law was a mild mannered discussion over a cup of coffee and a bowl of grits shared with members of the ruling class and delegates from the Council of Global Super Corporations.

And that says nothing of the staggering racism from the ultra right and the weathering of race relations in the United States during the past three presidential elections. Remember the lists and lists of disenfranchised black voters in Florida? Or if that’s to long ago, remember Lindsey Graham last week at the confirmation hearings for Judge Sotomayor? Pat Buchanan? Newt Gingrich? Jeff Sessions? These are not new actors, but their tethers have been loosened by eight years of an administration whose stance on affirmative action somehow formed the words “reverse discrimination,” all but ending the public dialogue on repairing the last 500 years of tyranny.

Neither does it say anything of the campaign to demonize and vilify the queer community in the name of traditional family values (though I don’t hear anyone complaining about our national divorce rate or picketing outside single parent households, but that’s beside the point).

My generation has been raised on a diet of bloodshed, injustice, lies, and utter recklessness, ex cathedra. How do we metabolize the untold traumas that kind of upbringing creates? How do we stretch ourselves beyond the world fed to us through the television into a reality where human life is precious again? Any one of the global crises facing us today is enough to turn your stomach, but that our governments have been complicit in the architecture of a culture and society rooted in fear (dare I say “terror?”) is too much to bare. No wonder my generation was spending $58 billion a year on liquor before we were 21; numbness is all but requisite for survival in this kind of world, and comfort after comfort, both legal and illicit, are marketed to us day-in-day-out, ready for our consumption. If you want to look away, it’s going to cost you, but we can’t wait for the new Soma of the day to assuage the fever of Empire’s virus pulsing in our veins. My generation’s consumption of prescription drugs, narcotics, alcohol, and all forms of intoxicants extends well beyond that of any other generation in history.

And yet, in communities across America (and indeed the whole world), the promise of youth is always celebrated. Regardless of class or privilege, parents, community leaders, and those who have spent the last few decades fighting Empire in its myriad forms take solace in our generation-“you are tomorrow’s leaders!” they tell us, with a glint of hope in their eye.”Surely you will finally bring the insanity to an end.”

I wonder though, if we are up to the task. So many of us in the privileged United States would much rather stay asleep than face the fuming beast lurking just beyond our doorstep. I do not count myself a cynic or an ideologue or in any way free from the conditioning of the time. Only that the repercussions of being raised in such a social and political climate are beginning to reveal themselves, undeniably illuminated by the mounting helplessness around us. It only takes a moment of reflection on how we lead our lives, how we orient to the future, justifying our ambition for greater levels of comfort, and how we treat one another to know, viscerally, that something is terribly wrong with this setup.

Truly, this is a new age, one in which the financial cost and efficiency of communications technologies have reached futuristic proportions. But at what social cost? What has happened to our human power, when our communities have been digitized, streamlined, and templated? When our allegiance is begged for and bought from the nonprofit and corporate sectors both, by way of facebook groups and fan pages? When the revolutionaries of history are placed on tee-shirts, posters, transformed into an aesthetic of inertia, and sold at a profit? How easily our sense of urgency abates when we have something consumable to distract us.

There is no conclusion to a writing like this. Diatribe and apology fill the lines of blog after blog online these days and I won’t attempt an alternative, as I have no satisfying answers, only a desire to refine the questions we ask ourselves as we move further into the decade and prepare for the coming days and weeks.





Why is Bill Maher making incisive observations?

15 07 2009

Not sure who the commentator is; he’s kind of weak, but Bill Maher talks truth talk.





Life on the Vineyard

14 07 2009
Basket of freshly picked mission figs and dwarf plums from our orchard

Basket of freshly picked mission figs and dwarf plums from our orchard

Mission Figs, tempura beans, Cowgirl Humbolt Fog Blue, Roshambo Zin

Mission Figs, tempura beans, Cowgirl Humbolt Fog Blue, Roshambo Zin, LT's miso

Moonrise from the East

Moonrise from the East

Sunset fading over the valley

Sunset fading over the valley

Valley lights

Valley lights





For your Enjoyment

4 06 2009




Fear and Fancy- 2012

17 05 2009

Fear & Fancy_Promo Photo

Upcoming debut album from Bay Area sensation Fear and Fancy, 2012 is a prophetic message from the world to come. Co-produced and written by veteran MCs Jidenna the Chief, Daught, and Legion the Shiva, 2012 brings their decades long hip-hop devotion into a new realm of cyber-syncretism, presaging popular music’s graduation into a higher realm of consciousness.

2012 is streaming in its entirety for a limited time only on Fear and Fancy’s myspace page. Be one of the few to review the album by taking their survey after checking out the tracks, for a FREE pre-release track. Get at em.





Gender-Neutral Housing and Dominant Discourse

6 05 2009

Sometimes I get that sick, mushy fire feeling in my stomach when I read about gender politics, especially from the older christian-right. Probably serves me right for reading, but the masochistic side of me likes to know the opposition’s thinking. I felt the gurgle churn when Brian forwarded me monday’s National Review article with the fear-mongering title “Caveat Perens,” a loosley veiled hate-narrative of one mother’s objection to her daughter’s co-ed living situation at Stanford. The article was quickly picked up Jacques Steinberg at the New York Times, in “A Co-ed Dorm? That Wasn’t Mentioned on the College Tour.” In a matter of hours, the article was viral across the blogosphere, in countless forums and comment threads (not to mention my inbox) with contributions from students, educators, and similarly gender-frightened parents.

While my vitriol is bubbling as I read the comments on these forums, finding myself in some horrific Twilight Zone-esque medieval conception of gender constructions, I remind myself that this conversation is not new. My friends and I in the co-op community are pissed, because for the first time in a while, the fight is on our doorstep (literally), no longer the impersonal academic topic we discuss at the dinner table. We have a fierce, albeit problematic, entitlement to the freedom of gender-neutral rooming in coops, as we do with all things in “co-op culture.” As I look through my inbox, the responses range from humourous quotations of forum comments to panic over the future of co-op autonomy. The daughter of the article’s author even sent out an email filling in the contextual gaps in her mother’s diatribe.

Then, as I’m reading some of the forum comments and blog syndications, I notice this dominant binary present between “high moral standard” Christians and degenerate liberal heathens (identified in one post as university administrators, lol), and it feels like such an old story. I feel myself being surreptitiously placed into the latter category, my agency in free-thinking stripped from me as I begin to mouth the progressive post-gender discourse. My oppositional mind is activated and the deluge of criticism begins my deconstruction of the author’s in context. In the paragraphs edited out of this post, I talked about Stanford’s co-op scene in detail, defended it’s role in campus gender politics and queer “safe spaces” while noting the problematics of a white-washed hetero-dominant progressive community. I briefly mentioned my disappointment in a fellow Bostonians narrow-minded, thinly veiled hate speech. My burgeoning radical politic piped in and commented on the economy of gender normativity, the vested interest our country has in maintaining this liberal-conservative binary as the dominant discourse in gender and sexuality and the role this discourse plays in the continued oppression and marginalization of queer and trans people. I railed against the comodification of gender identity in popular culture and made subversive comments about anthropology’s neo-colonialial academizing of trans-identities and scientific studies of queerness.  I wrote about the white-christian-privilege class, extensively, over and over (it’s what i do), my eyes blurring as I seethed at the audacity of ignorance, frustrated by our seeming inability to gain perspective outside the center. I even googled the author’s name, intent on enumerating her short comings as a human and lambasting her pro-life/catholic/domineering-parent/Harvard/Yale elitism. I had a pretty decent analysis of the situation too. I even forecast  how it would pan out in Stanford’s administration and in the communities involved, insinuating by association its relevance in the broader American discourse. I included an acknowledgment of my own sites of privilege as a white, upper-middle class male and the self-indulgent nature of such a post given those sites, just for good measure.

In the end, all of this felt unnecessary, even damaging, like kerosene on an already out of control burning car, headed down a street going no where. Everyone’s watching it, throwing their own piece of garbage as it rolls past them, adding to the flames and feeding the tension. No one talks about the people in the car, the people who have been burning for centuries for their crime of being born themselves. We like the spectacle of it, even feel courageous, proud for throwing our this-will-finally-put-the-fire-out/settle-the-issue piece of trash at the blaze.

It occurs to me that submitting to this discourse in essence validates its existence, approves the terms of engagement, and we do it simply because it’s the flavor of conversation most people in America are having related to gender and queer identity; “to (allow) trans or not to (allow) trans? To (allow) queer or not to (allow) queer?” the masses seem to ask. And then the “whys,” “hows,” and “to what limits,”. Everyone feels entitled to weigh in on the politics, especially those hunkered down in the center of normativity, fortifying their bastions of safety as best they can.

Like I said: old conversation. One not in service to anyone’s freedom or liberation, center or marginal.

Just as a plug, I want to direct everyone to Dean Spade, Asst. Prof. of Law at Seattle University and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project who has wonderful analysis that I recommend. Check out his blog and his (sadly unattented to) zine, which is a bit difficult to navigate, but well worth it.

Also, to bring things full circle, the National Student Genderblind Campaign has some interesting resources for students looking to include gender-neutral housing as an option on their campuses, and for parent’s freaked out by their childrens’ wanton liberal ways. This page in particular makes a fair attempt at re-framing the rhetoric of the so-called “New Era of Gender Relations.”





How to Solve Illigeal Immigration

10 04 2009

Enjoy.





Article Article

23 03 2009

acl

I’ve started writing for Article Article, clothing line, art magazine, (and now) blog out of Brooklyn. Peep the new entry on Bob Sinclar exclusive for Article Article.

P/L

-CB





雅ーMiyavi

19 02 2009

miyavi08

I have so much to say about this dude, I have no idea where to start. Preface: while I was in Japan two years ago, Ozawa-sensei (A.k.a Jack Yamada) hooked it up with the j-pop dance tunes of the day, which are wonderful in their over-produced formulaicness and extraordinary hype. Seriously, house music is alive and well there. Not to overgeneralize, but Japanese popular ANYTHING has to be taken with a grain of salt, if only because it reflects so much of exported western pop everything, taken to the extreme of the extreme and somehow normalized in Japanese youth culture, way beyond anything mainstream in the U.S.

But I digress.

First of all, Miyavi’s a badass guitarist, no doubt. Observe the following:

Second, homie is KILLIN’ with the gender ambiguity, à la Japan’s still thriving Visual Kei scene, a rock aesthetic that makes David Bowie look like Chuck Norris and Gene Simmons look like he came straight outta the power rangers rock musical (yes, that exists). Not all the tunes from Visual Kei are worth listening to (most aren’t), but like most things Japanese, when a trend catches fire everyone holds on for dear life and you gotta respect their tenacity. I don’t understand how people have the money to drop on animé costumes and designer goth wear, but then again, there’s a lot about Japan I don’t understand (trust, you’d die if you knew what his wardrobe runs). If Miyavi has taught me one thing though, it’s that my style is sorely understated and I clearly need to find more glam rock.

miyavi

Having just put on the massQuerade ball in October with the 385 crew, I’m interested in the blurry line between intense makeup and massqing in the sense we use it. Certainly scenes like Visual Kei have a contrived element to them, but when it hits the main and finds application in individual personal expression AND pushes the boundaries of convention and normativity, we begin to think differently. Commercialization might try to beat the soul out of it and that we must resist, in order to keep carrying problematizing expectations and normativity with grace. Yes, I just co-opted obscure j-rock fads for an anti-establishment resistance movement. What of it? All his lyrics translate to “fight the power” anyway….

Thanks to Ana and Bradley for the share.

Here’s more:

愛してくれ

愛してるから

これは俺の愛し方





love’s labor’s lost

17 02 2009

lllweb

So, the time quick approaches when words shall oft be said in iambic pentameter and anacrhonism. I’ll be honest, I don’t even understand everything that’s about to go down, but I thought it might b’hoove me to provide the general gist for you, my peoples, so when you come and LISTEN on Feb 26, 27, 28th, you’ll overstand all that’s happened.

So, here goes:

I wouldn’t say Love’s labor’s lost is a play about love, because I honestly don’t think that’s the central focus. There’s certainly a lot of talk about love, a lot of wooing, sighing, pouting, confusion- solid cliché love stuff- but whether or not the characters are actually in love is up for debate. More than love, this play discusses the absurd challenges of being honest and true when you really just don’t know how.

Here’s the story:

Ferdinand, King of Navarre, has decreed that his kingdom shall under take a three year period of austerity, during which time he and his companions will eat one meal a day, sleep three hours in a night, and, most importantly, not see or speak with any women. Specifically women are not allowed within a mile of his court. This in order to undertake the noble cause of intensive study. The King’s friend Berowne objects on the basis of “this is a ridiculous idea,” at which point a discussion ensues, but Berowne ultimately folds and the play begins, Navarre now devoted to nothing by academics.

Troubles arise when the King remembers that the Princess of France is on her way to Navarre to discuss a land dispute between Navarre and France and also to settle a loan that was made a generation ago. The princess comes through with her entourage (Rosaline, Katherine, Maria, and their steward Boyet) and the men immediately fall in love with them. Obviously. The issue is that the King and his people, Berowne, Longaville, and Dumaine, have JUST sworn an oath to study for three years without seeing any women, declaring it publicly to the whole kingdom, so their honor is on the line. If you’re royalty and you swear something, you can’t break it- that’s like, really bad.
Berowne pretty much has an identity crisis, since he is the pinnacle of calm, cool, and collected, quick witted, and scorns love and women. He’s also astonishingly attractive…

A flurry of sappy love poetry ensues from the King, Dumaine, and Longaville, all while trying to avoid letting the others know how lovesick they are. Berowne spends most of his time confounded by how he possibly could have fallen in love, when he’s done everything to avoid it- even so, he submits to the reality of having emotions for another human being. The men discover each others’ secrets and decide to break their oath of study and begin the (ridiculous) process of wooing the four women from France.

(DISCLAIMER: There are elements of this play that are borderline extremely offensive and sexist. The method of marriage at the time was facilitated by the process of “wooing,” which if successful, “won you a woman”. Possession, ownership, submission etc. were all standard and while women were clearly always smarter than men, gender roles were still entrenched. Just suspend your disbelief for a couple hours.)

Meanwhile, the girls from France think the boys are being ridiculous (which they are), because the girls have been made to sleep in a field a mile away from court according to the King’s edict, but now they all have letters of love and devotion, sent from the schizophrenic men turned wooers.

What’s interesting is that while the men think themselves very seriously in their love, the women take its mostly a joke. They might have feelings for the men, but there really isn’t time to get to know one another, given the circumstances. Furthermore, Make us camp in a field a mile away then front like you want to marry us? Puhh’leease. Given more time, things might have been different but…

Fate throws a wrench in the process when Marcade appears with news that the King of France has died. This means the Princess is now Queen and must leave for France immediately. The men make a last ditch effort to secure the faith of the ladies’ love, but with little success. The princess tells the King to shut himself up in a hermitage for a year while she mourns the death of her father. If he still thinks he’s in love then, then they can talk. Rosaline tells Berowne that everyone knows how witty and mocking he can be, but it’s not a functional way to be human. If he spends a year telling jokes to hospice patients and reforms, then she’ll see. In a very un-Shakespearean ending, no one gets married, no one gets what they want- and Shakespeare achieves one of the more realistic endings to any of his plays. Life happens, and there’s not much you can do about it, but try to be honest.

Then everyone sings a song.

And that’s the main line through the show.

The play also looks at characters who live on the edge of society; society being the court, the edge, being the country. The Fools  contrast the royals by being more honest and faithful in practice than the royals could ever be in word. Words and rhetoric play a pivotal role in this play, because everyone talks themselves into trouble, perjury, and broken oaths, when really honest plain words are all that’s called for, yet somehow very difficult to muster.

The characters in this play are ridiculous, precisely because of how human they are. It’s amazing how crafted they are to reflect the human condition; the men are extremely privileged and lack much depth in the heart department; the women are extremely smart and don’t take any bullshit; the fools are smarter than almost everyone else. However, everyone grapples with the conflict of having emotions that words can’t explain and having desires that don’t come on a silver platter. For Shakespeare to write that given the time and place is fairly impressive, even if it panders to an antiquated social construction.

Anyway, I hope you’ll come see. I’m playing the role of Berowne and there are some very talented actors who cover up for my novice.

Here’s the link to the facebook event. And the website. $5 at the door.