Saturday, October 30, 2004

a startling realization!


you know, the other day, I saw this sign for George W Bush, and then the
next house over there was this other sign, and it said John Kerry for
President, and it set me to thinking - gee, this election sure is
pitting neighbor against neighbor!

I mean, is it just me, or is this country pretty divided on this? Well
I'll tell ya, I've been watching the American people, and it may not
show too much on the surface, but I think there are some real hard
differences between some folks in this country. You wouldn't really know
it unless you looked pretty close, but I think this country is pretty
darn divided right now. maybe you think i'm off my rocker, but think
about it! i might just be on to something here!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

such a tool

this is what i did all night.

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

political dream

The following is an email i sent to a dream researcher who is studying politics in dreams.

-----------------

Background - Me: 27, male, from St. Louis Missouri. If I'm in the democratic party at all, I'm on the left wing. I volunteered with the Nader campaign in 2000. That said, this year, I've been out canvassing against Bush, trying to turn out votes for Kerry. I am currently in St. Louis, but my heart is in California, where my girlfriend is going to graduate school. I plan to join her in December. Her style is "librarian chic".


The dream - Jessica is going door to door trying to convince people to vote for John Kerry. I am trying to convince her that she should dress like a slut.

my thoughts on it -

1. i'm pretty secure in my relationship, though i have idly wondered about weather or not Jessica has been attracted to people in Cali.

2. lets just say i'm pretty down on the political process. if it weren't so depressing, it would be funny how stupid the mainstream political analysis is, and how wimpy the press is. C'mon! Content and policy get 5% of the attention, presentation style gets 50%, projections of public reception gets 35%, and media navel gazing gets 15%. This is pure stupidity.

The other day, i found myself thinking that if Bush wins, I can no longer believe that the American people have a pulse. I've since revised that. Mostly I just shifted focus, I guess. Now I say to myself: if Bush wins, that just proves that reason and the American "democratic spirit" just can't hold a candle to monopolistic media and the powers of marketing and spin.

3. i had this dream before i started canvassing for Kerry, and I was anxious about it. I'm not much on cold-calling.

Good luck with your research. it sounds lovely!

-Aaron Michels.

------------------

An exerpt from his response:

-------------------

Dear Aaron,

[...] [The dream] about your girlfriend in California, is an interesting mix of personal and political concerns. The provocative clothing is an intriguing detail. This is my projection, of course, but if it were my dream I'd wonder about my own feelings of "prostituting" myself for Kerry, who's certainly better than Bush but is far, far to the right of Ralph Nader. How do I have to change my "natural" political self in order to persuade/seduce other people into voting for Kerry?


I'm curious to know if any of this relates to your experience of the dreams. Thanks again,

Kelly

-------------------

my response:

ah... political prostitution... yes. I've whored myself because I'm scared of Bush.

Monday, October 25, 2004

canvassing


i finished my canvassing today. I don't really know if it was worth it.
the goal was to get Kerry-leaning voters who might not vote to get out
to vote on the 2nd. Everyone I talked to seemed like they were going to
vote whether or not I asked them to. many people said, they didn't want
a reminder phone call, because they were sure to vote. I only had one
undecided, and i didn't really budge him (not that i tried too hard). I
also only had 1 W supporter. yay for U. City.

it was nice to be out in the neighborhood, but cold-calling (or
knocking) is something I'm really bad at. I guess it's good to do things
that make me uncomfortable every once in a while. good practice for ...
who knows? but it felt like good practice for something.

it took me a while before i was comfortable bringing up my political
views to strangers. how odd that is. I wasn't always like this.



Sunday, October 24, 2004

a thought about our biological nature


Before I talk about the essence of the thought, let me mention the state
I was in when I had it. This particular state-of-being sometimes occurs
when i'm reminded of my biology. Eating, "eliminating", sexuality,
injury, illness - sometimes these things can suddenly make me see myself
as a weird little biological being. a human animal. This way of seeing
myself feels very "outside of my skin", but it's also so much about my
skin. it's a lovely feeling, a lovely state-of-being, in a way.

When i see myself like this, "thought" can seem so strange. I mean, so
much of my life is lived in my head! Here I am, just today, canvassing
against George W - marshaling theories, counter-arguments, and rhetoric
tailored-made to particular projected psychologies. How important was it
that it was a beautiful fall day? did I appreciate that really? instead
i worry about my financial situation, american culture, and skill sets,
This "me-experience" that I live from moment to moment - how could it
possibly be contained in a membrane like the epidermis? It's TOTALLY WILD

In this mind frame, "thought" seems so completely irrelevant to my
human-ness. Why do mental machinations dominate my attention?

STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS

That's what this perspective tells me. Don't take all that brain
bullshit too seriously.
(topic for another time - relative proportions of my happiness: caused
by thought? physicality? kooky vibe?)

Okay, I've got this kinda "different" perspective going on this evening,
and there's a thought that occurs to me (not for the first time). I
wonder why so much of our culture is so ashamed of our biology. I mean,
boogers, farts, sex, masturbation, drooling, menstruation, dry skin,
dandruff, dookie, large pores, wrinkles, baldness, earwax, toenails...
Even when you eat. Eating has to be normal, but having some spinach
stuck in your tooth, or ketchup in your beard... oh! it's embarrassing.
I think most of us know that it's pretty dumb to be this embarrassed,
but i, for one, still am. and I wonder about it.

How universal is this shame, culturally? I just asked Jessica about it,
and she linked in genital mutilation and cultures of sterility ("in our
body and in our environment," as she put it) (I'm looking forward to
Jess's anthropological studies, i've asked her to keep an eye out for
shame about biology.)

anyhow. i must admit, i have a hypothesis. so take
humanity - it's on the verge of something. there's a sense that the
human race could be a grand and good thing. wow. were were monkeys! but
now we have the internet, radiohead, and the bomb. now we are so much
more than the monkey, right?

we don't think of ourselves as mere biological beings. we have
identities, spirituality, the experience of a soul. but then we ARE
animals. we may be HUMAN animals, but we're still biological. we prefer
to say "human BEING", not "dog being" or "orangutan being". We want to
be more than our biology, but we're not there yet. It's as if we haven't
yet convinced ourselves of our own spiritual nature. This otherworldly
identity is just at the tip of our fingertips. we experience it, but we
can't explain it. it's not real like a table, and that's confusing.

I feel like my occasional revulsion (boogers are so gross!) at biology
could be caused by this confused hopefulness about humanity. Sure, that
hopefulness is expressing itself in a silly and juvenile way, but I
think it's just the kinda way that a primordial biology might react when
on the verge of making a spiritual breakthrough. I'm thinking about
adolescence.

There's a point when you just want to be an adult so bad, that you just
hate all the stuff that reminds you that you're still a kid. it's dumb,
really, a reactionary denial, but understandable. I can sympathize with
it. So, Aaron, remember that the next time the religious right says
something dumb about abstinence, or masturbation as a sin. They're
following a real spiritual impetus, but have just ended up at a juvenile
and dumb denial. shouldn't we also love the God in our biology? oh well.
c'est la vie!



Friday, October 22, 2004

growing up racial homepage

okay.

so i've been tinkering with the GUR webpage for a the last couple weeks, and I've asked a lot of friends for advice. At first I felt really beholden to take that advice (because I was clearly too close to the effort to see clearly), but now, as more advice is coming in, i'm noticing how conflicting it is. What does that mean? IT MEANS I DECIDE FOR MYSELF. it's sad that this simple logic escapes me sometimes. i really wonder where this doubt of my own agency comes from.

just to nail this point down. the advice i've recived so far.

Friend 1 (intermittent back and forth): good title font, then he suggested the current link font. no on the dark page background, yes on the background to the pictures. yes on the wavy lines. strong main image. no on the images on the right, just (white) text.

Friend 2: getting close. no on both fonts. suggestion: arial. more simple (no gradients, no textures, no boxes, clean.), no on the maroon (it's queen of england), yes on image shape, suggested zoom on figures, white page background. make the link-copy indent to form the shape of the figures.

Friend 3: beige and color scheme is good. yes on the movie camera. yes to the cartoon character/humor (less on the psychological violence), maybe the background use a map motif?

Friend 4: liked it. liked the colors.

Friend 5: (commented on the first iteration) liked it. felt: alienation, fear, anonymous anger, sadness, moodiness.

Friend 6: (many discussions on most elements). current disposition: shift the link text to the right. re-align the camera icon.


---------

which advice to take? the repeated criticisms and the criticism that resounds with me. So far - simplified the right hand side, changed fonts.

once again, my depiction goals are: childhood/grade school, racial tension, retrospection, video.

Thus - At this point I don't think I'm going to change it too much. I'll let it sit for another week as is, see if digesting it changes anything. then i'll start fleshing out the content. Thoughts: I may change the page background color to a lighter off-white. I have to think about how much "psychological violence" I want to come through.

following blog links

following blog links:

make your own Garfield cartoon.

skype keeps me alive


hey, for anyone doing a long-distance relationship - skype keeps me
alive. jess and i find ourselves acting like perfect skype commercials
sometimes. VOIP!

okay, but the thing i really wanted to talk about was This American
Life. I read Ira Glass' "manifesto"
recently(http://www.current.org/people/p809i1.html), and was happy that
i did. as evidenced by the amount of time it has taken me to finish this
GUR project, I'm in need of a bit of focus. I'm so close to it that I no
longer have a concept of "what is good". conflicting reviews don't help
all that much either.

Advice from Ira Glass helped me think about it better. Echoes of Romy's
advice also come back to me. I think Romy would be a good reporter for
TAL. Anecdote, reflection, plot moves forward, repeat. follow my
interest. keep each stage to a manageable chunk (45-50 sec?). look for
the lucky break, the sudden turn, surprising thought - the pleasure.

What I have now in this first draft is a lot of good phrasing, and an
impressionistic summary of a "generic experience". A confirmation of
what is already known. But my memorable or surprising scenes are too
few, my reflections left to impressionistic, and lost in the
interpretation of video. i need to sway the balance back in the
direction of the anecdote and reflection, away from exposition.

good night all.

ps. the web page is coming along, check it, make comments on the latest
design (at the top).
www.growingupracial.com

Monday, October 18, 2004

missing post

i noticed today that there's a missing audio blog from Saturday night. So, here's a reminder: you can't just hang up on the audioblog system and assume your message will post.

The content of that post consisted of:
1. reflections on David Rees presentation at Left Bank (he was good, i should invite him to the party)

2. reminder to get the "intoenation" flash cartoon going once GUR is done.

3. reminder that Miles Davis' jam sessions in Japan in the 70s are great, and I should get more of them. (listening to 88.1)

4. reminder to fix the hookah for Michael.

5. Nostalgia about the tower grove neighborhood. I drove past our old apartment, and it really puts me in a state. Supreme nostalgia. I know that California is going to be good, but I so loved living with Jessica in St. Louis. That was a very happy time for me. I miss mike and his dog and the life. The lights in the apartment were on, and a woman was coming out. I just sat and watched in the car. there's nothing to say.

ta ta.

dogville


i just watched dogville with jess over skype. It always takes me some
time to form my opinion about movies like that. I enjoyed it visually,
and as far as the shooting and editing went. I'm happy that to see
another successful example of cutting not for strict visual continuity.
yay! That's such a boring artifice, it's a wonder that it's survived so
long.

as for the content: it's so hyperbolic that i have difficulty taking
seriously the moral issues that it brings up. Maybe it's because i
stayed up too late last night, and i didn't have any coffee today, but
I'm having difficulty focusing on the ethical implications long enough
to evaluate them. I recognize the interesting combination of elements -
abuse of the commons, condescension in forgiveness, the weight and
responsibility of judgment, blind adherence to ethical dogma, etc. - but
i'm totally distracted by all the rape and artifice to be able to
evaluate it. It's either that, or the fable's set up is so utterly
foreign to any reality I've experienced that it's implications for
real-world moral decisions are effectively nil.

Let me see if I can sort this out. (skip this dear reader, I'm just
working this out for myself.) There are 2 camps represented:

1. forgiveness and tolerance are good. actions are socially determined.
love the sinner. believe in goodness of people. consensual sharing.

2. people are responsible for thiner actions. forgiveness is
condescending. harsh justice respects the individual's agency.
aristocratic power.

The movie ends with the central female character being converted, after
extreme abuse brought on by the FAILINGS OF HUMANITY, from the former
camp to the latter camp.

The male lead character also makes a transition, from strict ethical
"philosopher" in camp one, to self-interested writer in denial about the
bankruptcy of his values, also brought on by the FAILINGS OF HUMANITY
(internal in his case).

Neither of these transitions even attempt believability as far as the
characters go, as they are strictly allegorical. what's most
disappointing to me is that the male character has been set up as
symbolic of ethical reasoning, but he's such a poor symbol! In the
story, his transition and betrayal rely on human character defects which
contradict the allegory it seems he represents. In the end, the story is
mostly judged based on it's allegorical meaning, and the deck has been
stacked so blatantly to make the director's point, I have to admit it
feels like a hammer.

--------

the movie reminded me of 2 things.

NUMBER ONE
About a year ago, a friend of mine told me that if he saw a dog
drowning, he knows that he would jump in immediately to try to save it.
He realized that he couldn't say the same about a person. His basic
assumption is that people are probably not all good, whereas he couldn't
find it in himself to blame a dog for it's actions. again, here the
issue is (at least partially) agency. the dog has no agency and so is
blameless.

I guess my world view only really incorporates a partial or intermittent
human agency. Most of the time we're pretty animalistic. For me,
altruism is the result of the agency of the human spirit. Social
darwinism is the result of a lack of "humanity"/agency/human spirit.

NUMBER TWO
good people lose. this is something I've been thinking about in regard
to the presidential debates. when you look at Rove's smear tactics,
they're totally unethical and destructive. yet it's surely a winning
strategy. That's just depressing. I think I may have written about this
recently when I overheard a conversation my mom was having with someone
who was talking about the "homosexual agenda". That kind of talk really
pisses me off, especially when the opposing side in the argument has
been overcome by tolerance so much so that they're tolerating vocalized
bigotry. People who hate can voice that loudly, but the more rational
voice of tolerance can never really raise in pitch and tone to match.
Tolerance is simply something that's difficult to scream about. You
certainly can't shout someone down with it. How many times have I heard
someone voice bigotry? 1000s. How many times have I walked up to them,
put my finger in their chest, and said, "you, sir, are a bigot." right
now I can only think of one.




Friday, October 15, 2004

White Noise


I just finished the book White Noise by Don DeLillo (1985). It had sat
on this shelf in my room, with mixed reviews, for ten years. I really
didn't like it at first. I haven't decided completely yet, but I think I
still don't like it much, but there was a thought provoking bit at the end.

The last paragraph reads:

---------

Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid
racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The
miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The
cults of the famous and the dead.

---------

Truth and death. Fine. People need to have something they can believe
in. Good. Even though what they believe in is surely a lie, and more
likely than not, a dirty lie. This one gives me pause. It reminds me of
a lot of conversations I've had, and it reminds me of my own spiritually
problematic growth. I remember having arguments with my confirmation
leaders at the church when i was thirteen, and my extreme atheism after
that confirmation didn't confirm anything for me.

I must have been really frustrating to talk to at that age. I was
definitely in a similar camp to the camp that produced this book. I
remember only accepting arguments about god that had some bit of
objectively definable "truth" to them, and then not accepting the
objectivity of any definable example. My teachers said it was simply a
matter of belief, and I didn't see the point in it. "I might as well
believe in pink elephants," I said.

I wanted some kind of objective truth to believe in, but at the same
time I knew that truth was always relative. Is the struggle here to come
to terms with the pathetic desperation of truth-seeking (nothing is
true, nothing is verifiable, etc.)? Is this a sad mix of reductionism
and relativism? i think so.

The main characters in the book well represent a social group that's
busy lamenting the lack of objective meaning in their lives. basically,
lamenting the death of the idea of objective truth and meaning, and
asking, what do we have left?

My thought: subjective meaning. I think my problem with this book (and
the culture represented in it) is the pejorative that seems to surround
the characterisation of subjective meaning. He has a lot of fun in the
book equating religious and spiritual faith with belief in pop-cultural
nonsense, and that's where I've got my beef. As much as an extreme
relativism would like to equate the two, tabloid racks are no substitute
for a spiritual relationship with life. This is my subjective judgment,
and I stand by it. Frankly, I can't imagine someone who has had a
genuine spiritual experience finding this breed of relativism convincing
at all. Saying "truth is bunk", doesn't subvert anything. Didn't I
already know that my spirituality was only my own? It's already entirely
subjectively experiential to begin with! That doesn't mean that I'm
incapable of making an internal value judgment about what's important in
my life. for me, the relative importance of a single transcendent
experience is on a totally different plane than the things that give
structure to my cotidian life. For my happiness, truth is still an
important concept for me to work with, even if only it's only dealing
with relative truth within my subjective experience.

If I had understood my confirmation instructor better at the time, what
he said to me might have sounded more like a suggestion from an older
friend than a defined world-view that I could either accept or reject.
Instead of, "God is a bearded man in a throne in the sky. Why? Just
because." I could have heard, "You know, for me, this kind of spiritual
seeking has provided a lot of great personal meaning that I wouldn't
want to live without. you might want to try it out for yourself."

I'm sure what he said was something along the lines of the latter. I
wonder how I was so prejudiced against christianity at such an early
age. But that's for another time.


Bush vs. Kerry


Hi, last night was the last presidential debate. I didn't watch it
because I was out doing Tai Chi. I was nervous about it though. I
thought I'd want to watch the tape of it (because I anxiously watched
the other 2, and the vice-presidential debate), but I didn't. I think I
was driven to watch the others by fear. If Kerry blew it, I wanted to
see it. Now, knowing that he didn't blow it, I have no desire to watch
the actual content.

I guess that's a sad comment about our democracy, huh? In talking with
my mom last night about the Nader candidacy this year, I was remembering
my feelings about the election of Bush in 2000. My thought was that
under Bush a lot of the corporate-govt. links would become more obvious
to the public. I guess I didn't believe in the power of fox news and the
administration to spin and deny. In the end, I think corporate power did
become more obvious... to half of the population. And that's a big
reason that "this country is so divided right now".

Yeah, Though I was a Nader supporter in 2000, I'm going for the lesser
evil this year. I guess that just means that I really recognize Bush as
a "Greater Evil" in 2004, whereas in 2000, after the florida stuff, he
just seemed like a hamstrung minor demon.

it's funny to be lead by fear.


Monday, October 11, 2004

advice request: GUR web design


today, and over the weekend I've been trying to redo the GUR website
(growingupracial.com). There are a lot of versions up right now. if
anybody out there wants to comment, please do!

Love,
aaron.





Friday, October 08, 2004

these audio posts from the John Kerry rally after the 2nd debate don't sound so good.

this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play
this is an audio post - click to play

B-rollers


Last night I had a chance to go to another B-rollers
(http://www.dhtv.org/) meeting. I really enjoy those things. Not always
for the productions featured, but for the conversations. It helps smooth
things out to know other people are racking up the credit debt. Hah.

last night's production was pretty well put together, but it just wasn't
my kinda thing. It had the whole "cold case files" thing going on. but i
did get a chance to talk to some people about my recent GUR problems,
what I should do about insurance, and I heard more about other people's
experiences with CALOP.

What else is going on? I got off a pretty tight (I hope) proposal to
PEAR. I've really still got a lot to learn about making money. Because I
like the project, I'm (once again) offering to do stuff dirt cheap. I
think I'd be much more comfortable if we could just agree to an hourly
wage and i didn't have to put a fixed price on it. Jesus.

As for the GUR stuff, Tuesday night I started rethinking the web-page,
and looking at the old one (www.stripmindmedia.net/growingupracial). the
old one really sucks terribly hard. I'm almost astounded that I put it
up looking like that. I must not have put much thought into it. Now that
I think about it, I realize I didn't put much thought into it. I put it
up between the time of taping the interview at UPN and the time it
aired. Right. I don't feel so bad now.

Tonight's debate in St. Louis has me feeling lethargic. it's a beautiful
rainy fall day. this is the best smell in the world.

love-Aaron.

Monday, October 04, 2004

GUR and HEC/UCPL

something else I forgot to mention was that i checked the U City Public Library for listings of the 30 minute version of Growing Up Racial. It didn't come up, which is curious. I'll check for it physically next time I'm there. I've been avoiding doing that because I didn't really like that version all that much. If they didn't get it for whatever reason I'm not sure how I'll feel about it. Kinda relieved, but also...

After I got the first "insufficiently reasoned" "rejection" letter from CALOP (which they retracted after my protest), I've felt like they're not really behind this project, and they're not going to make any effort to help it be seen. Monica McFee's initial voicemail after she saw it was encouraging, but when i had a chance to talk to her, she said some stuff that was... weirdly disjointed.

It reminds me of the this-documentary-is-going-to-set-race-relations-back-50-years series of emails. I'm in a non-paranoid frame of mind right now, but I can remember how it felt when i first got those responses. It sucked. And it shut me down for...

a long time.

In any case, they marked my file to the effect that I had completed my obligation to them, and said that it would premier on the Higher Education Channel (HEC). Speaking of which, I did a search recently of their fall programming, and that's another place that I'd expect to see GUR listed, and it's not. Of course, maybe they've just got too much volume right now, or maybe it's been "misplaced". Again, I'm not sure if that's good or bad if in fact the paranoid side of me is more right than the rest of me.

Do I really want the 30 minute version to be shown that much? Not really. So, count my blessings if it has disappeared.

bye.


PEAR contacts

My interactions with PEAR so far have been great. They were very enthusiastic about my proposals for their DVD production, so it looks like another (minimally) paying job is on the table. I'm really happy to be moving in the direction of spiritual/consciousness issues, and away from the politicized environment surrounding the GUR project.

Speaking of the GUR project, it still scares the bejezus out of me. So much so that I don't want to show it to people. I delayed trying to contact James until yesterday, only to find out that he'd just left town. But I did agree to show the 37 minute version to Peter Pranschke, so I must get over this hump! At some point I'm going to actually take this to market, so i've got to be comfortable with people watching it.

The more honest I am tho, the less I want people to see it, even though I know it's "better" that I'm as honest as I can be. I don't know how many times I've said this to myself.

What else is going on? Yesterday I started painting again. I re-entered the zone of the painting that I did for Jessica last year. It's improved, but I still don't know where I'm going with it. It's been a long time since I've painted.