Friday, April 26, 2013

goodbye gypsy

the waiter said, "well, if you like the taste of gin you may like it, but i'm not a big fan of it."  he wore a look of disgust.  i doubted the man found himself to be a big fan of anything.  he certainly had not sold us on anything.

yesterday had been sunny so we had hoped to get a seat outside on the patio of departure.  adam and i had come for the view.  for a nice dinner.  for a drink.   we had been to this restaurant together, several months before, to celebrate a promotion i had received.  adam had suggested we return last night to celebrate his new job, having received his first paycheck and his tax refund from the irs.

i said, "to having it all finally come together for you."  adam looked happy.  he smiled at me and look past me out the window at the view of portland.  gin and bourbon and crab fried rice and shu mai and glazed pork belly.  the room slowly darkened and our moods lifted and we left the restaurant very happy.

we walked a couple blocks over and got frozen yogurt.

adam has to wake early for his job.  early.  so early.  it hurts being awake that early.  it's too earlygodhelpmeican'tbeawakeatthishour.  ok.  it's a fairly normal hour, normal to most americans who have to wake and commute to the office.  adam at least just has to bike about ten blocks from his house.  though for one job i held i needed to be at work at 5am, i've grown spoiled.  i try to be at work by 8.30.  the latest 9am.  but sometimes, i don't get there until 9.45, such as monday morning when through the haze of my hangover i found it hard to even find the office.  i come in late and stay late.  i make up for it.  adam has to be responsible and get to work early, which i take as a burden on my sleep, on my rest, on my beauty, and my patience.

my eyes can't even open fully at that hour.  ungodly hour.  the morning hours before work are the worst - worse than late night insomnia hours.  adam leans over the bed and kisses my forehead, benediction, acknowledgement that i can't get out of bed just yet.  i smile.  close my eyes.  and pull the blanket over my face.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


my friend offered up to the guests gathered at his birthday dinner a clear glass canister filled with cellophane wrapped candies.  each candy had been collected by this friend from an installation by felix gonzalez torres.  i chose a candy with a shiny green wrapper, evidently from a candy installation produced by gonzalez torres titled ross in l. a.  it tasted like medicine.

body of christ.  amen.

this friend prepared his own birthday dinner for his friends, and then offered them candies from art installations by one of his favorite artists.  for those there at the dinner not familiar with gonzalez torres, we learned from rob that gonzalez torres would install these candy "spills" in galleries: large piles of wrapped candies, free for the taking by anyone who visited the installation.  the installed art fragments and disperses as participants take and ingest or cherish or dispose of the candies.

watching the death of his lover ross, felix gonzalez torres understood that a person disperses physically with time, age, infirmities, but also socially through conversation, memory, and legacy.  even if we're not all social butterflies, our relationships produce butterfly effects.  you capture the memory of me as a subject: the things i've said to you, the ways in which i have helped you, the particular gestures i make, the times i've made you laugh.

this is my body.  this is my blood.

by partaking of his body and blood, by ingesting his message and memory, we in turn act and love and talk and live - our bodies, our blood, our actions and sacrifices further dispersed and immortalized.  even if one were not aware that the candy spills by gonzalez torres correspond to the diminishing weight of the artist's lover as he died of aids, the ghost of ross continues to haunt us through felix gonzalez torres and his candy and our participation in this installation, this ritual.

i received a snapchat of my friend talking about felix gonzalez torres to us that night and i thought, i wish i could save this.  i wish i could have this always.  but i realized that i wouldn't need a video to remember this moment.  the memory would integrate itself into my consciousness, into my daily life, into dinner parties, and candies, and communion.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

considering a "post-democratic" china

a week or so ago, i found myself at a tiki bar listening to a man ramble about china.  mostly he amalgamated whatever he had heard on tv: that china kept their money artificially which their economy growing and that their economy would overtake ours eventually.  we have been hearing this for years. the american image of china consists of the looming threat of a gigantic economy and population and simultaneously a poor chinese populace repressed by a brutal communist government.

china may have a lot of surprising both/ands.  more to the story than just when china will overtake the u.s. economically, there may be a lot of surprising statistics about china to consider.  in a recent issue of foreign affairs, shanghai venture capitalist and hedge manager eric x. li provides a view of what he calls the "post-democratic" future of china, which contrary to popular western belief is built upon a meritocratic government that provides for its people with wide popular support.  in opposition to li's argument, foreign affairs has concurrently published commentary by yasheng huang, a mit professor, who argues that the chinese communist party does not have the strong popular backing that li claims and must quickly push toward a wider democracy if it wants to avoid a cultural and economic crisis such as the country saw with the cultural revolution.

while i agree with eric li that democracy as america understands it may not be necessary for a successful and prosperous china, huang points out several relevant problems with li's analysis.  however, the issues that yasheng huang brings up may still be resolved in a manner unique and appropriate to the government and economy currently in place and the contemporary culture of china.

to begin with let’s consider some statistics concerning democracy that eric x. li mentions in his argument.  li cites a poll conducted by the pew research center in 2011 reporting that "87 percent of respondents noted satisfaction with the general direction of the country, 66 percent reported significant progress in their lives in the past five years, and a whopping 74 percent said they expected the future to be even better."  noticeably these figures do not account for any specific government entity or personality or for party approval in general.  this may be an affect of the difference between concerns that preoccupy the chinese populace.  li argues that, "Instead of demanding abstract political rights, as many in the West expected, urban Chinese are focused on what are called min sheng (livelihood) issues."  average chinese citizens concern themselves more with securing a comfortable daily life, with being able to afford food, comfortable accomodations, leisure, healthcare, transportation, and so forth than with government censorship or party mechanics or autonomy necessarily.

countering li's arguments, yashang huang argues that the Chinese population may not be as happy with the Communist Party as the polls li cites suggest.  "In a country without free speech, however, asking people to directly evaluate their leaders' performance is a bit like giving a single-choice exam."  huang cites a survey titled How East Asians View Democracy which shows that "72.3 percent of the Chinese public polled said they believed that democracy is 'desirable for our country now,' and 67 percent said that democracy is "suitable for our country now.'"  neither poll cited by li nor huang directly accounts for chinese sentiment of the current government and Communist party; both polls measure more abstract ideas such as desire for democracy and general satisfaction with life.  in contradistinction to li, yashang huang argues that the while the Chinese Communist Party may govern in radically different ways than it would have fifty years ago, many of the changes to policy and economic advances seen in china have democratic foundations.  he sees the decentralization of power in recent decades as the cornerstone to chinese development and growth.

li calls for an enlarged role for private business and nongovernmental agencies providing services to accomodate those "livelihood" issues, such as healthcare and education.  he also foresees further financial liberalization and expanded inclusion in party politics.  he notes that rampant corruption in the ccp, if not stemmed, could set back progress within the country.

in shayang huang's opinion, the chinese communist party has not yet addressed its past massive policy failures, such as the tragedies of the cultural revolution or the tiannamen square massacre.  with an economy dependent on the global market, such as china's, if global demand stagnated, and standards of living within china suffered, tensions between the governing party and the wider population could mount to another conflict as seen in the past.

a high standard of living helps support the legitimacy and efficacy and power of any government.  li points to general dissatisfaction in the american public for its government: "The approval rating of the U.S. Congress among the American people stood at 18 percent in November.  The president was performing somewhat better, with ratings in the 50s. And even support for the politically independent Supreme Court had fallen below 50 percent."  the american public does enjoy a high standard of living which may dissuade in some way any great outcry or movement to change the government and its policies.  that nascent contentment in a rising chinese middle class may mean that the communist party could sustain its grip on power for a while.  however, if as eric li predicts, the party becomes more inclusive, i predict that the acceptance and demand for democracy that huang cites will become integrated into the policies and procedures of the party so that slowly the country will completely transform.  looking at the instability and recent shifts in the global economy, it may however be beneficial to the stability of china and the communist party to integrate democratic change sooner rather than later.  while i am not sure that china can indefinitely maintain a "post-democratic" government, i do believe that they do not have to kowtow to the specifically american mixture of capitalism,  liberization, and democracy (and subsequent stagnation) that our society advocates.  there must be the possibility for a definitely chinese solution.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

signs and strangers

zebra said, "what do you think about socks?  do your socks have to match?"

he believes virgos have this thing about matching socks, matching their need for order and organization.  the girl sitting at the table with us had just reaveled she is a virgo.

i had guessed her birth month correctly.  september.  not an astrology subscriber myself, i made my guess based on the idea that each sign represents a movement forward in the cycle of birth and reincarnation; each sign represents a movement and development in wisdom and enlightenment, with pisces as the culminating sign.  at least this is how it has been described to me, though i have no adequate understanding of astrological mechanics.  that being said, i supposed the woman to exist mid-cycle, still young in the reincarnation cycle.

as an aquarian, toward the end of my spiritual development, i supposed i'm a bit cranky and this woman annoyed me.  my own fault, i instigated her attention: i asked her what book she was reading when zebra left the table to use the restroom.  we had been drinking beers at the red fox, developing an idea for a screenplay we want to write together.

this young stranger had insinuated herself into our conversation with our blessing, our invitation, and she and zebra had taken to each other easily.  zebra says pisces and virgos attract each other in strange ways.  perhaps he saw in her a reflection of his spirit, the vigor of his spiritual youth, of something in a past life.  i welcomed her company initially but quickly grew annoyed.

like perhaps you would expect from someone at her stage in the lifecycle, as a twenty-something year old or a virgo, she seemed mature, well-rounded, well-read, educated.  as we talked, she came to almost ignore me, talking directly to zebra and cutting me out of the conversation.  she seemed self-congratulatory, revelling in the references she made to us, almost as if expecting i would not be familiar with proust (she obviously did not know who she was talking to.)  i became annoyed that though she seemed very intelligent and could understand different arguments, could follow the conversation, she seemed to fall back upon beliefs, seeming to righteously spout conventionalities without even anecdotal evidence for her beliefs.  i could have at least gained a good story from her, but instead i garnered nothing but frustration.

i take the sign under which a person to be born as a gamble, and we gamble with the people we engage with at bars.  i said, "what are you reading?" and she responded and her acquaintance could have been a magical thing.  we could have become great friends.  instead, at least, we met and put this beautiful karma of openness and friendliness into the world, even if she annoyed the fuck out of me in the end.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

equality and the issue before us now

it seems that as heterosexual friends more and more endorse the view that homosexuals should be able to share in the "misery of marriage" if they choose, an opposing voice emerges arguing that we should not even care about pushing for homosexual marriage.  some argue that we should concentrate on maintaining our right to diversity, that american homosexuals should not push for inclusion in a herteronormative institution like marriage.  some argue that we should be more concerned securing for all the rights gained from access to this institution; they argue that we should be more interested in universal rights.

i agree that we americans, both homosexual and heterosexual, should be concerned about broader issues.  we should seeking to provide universal access to healthcare in this country.  we should be looking to guard diversity and individuality culturally.  but part of that diversity will be supporting homosexual marriage.

we once wrote out "lgtb" to cover a wide range of people.  we now recognize many more identities and communities than those four letters.  american homosexuals and transgendered people and ungendered people and polyamorous people and so on have multiple interests and identities and communities, just like our wider american culture.  we do not share genders or sexual preferences or proclivities or communities necessarily, but we can share in a cause, in a fight for equality.  we can come together and say that no matter our gender or the gender of those we love or how we love, we demand the same rights as every american.  we can demand that all americans no matter should live most fully.

some of us may want to engage in the institution of marriage.  this is a tradition into which we are raised, which we accept and desire or decline.  foucault would argue that one cannot escape the cultures and communities and discourse into which one is born and raised and exposed.  but one can break the bond between discipline and normativity by decoupling action and practice from goal and end result.  in this case we're talking about marriage for the sake of marriage.  not to gain access to healthcare.  not for lower taxes.  not for access to the wills of lovers.

healthcare.  taxes.  immigration.  inheritance. he country must face these all these issues sooner rather than later, especially as they involve all american communties.  however the lgbtqi(etc) cause can support this one issue that is before us, gay marriage, access to which is desired by at least some in our community if not all.  we can come together to support progress in a pivotal issue of equality that has the potential for transformative change in this country while still working to progress further, to solve other larger problems.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

primary sources: amorous subjects

from A Lover's Discourse by roland barthes:

"By a singular logic, the amorous subject perceives the other as a Whole (in the fashion of Paris on an autumn afternoon), and, at the same time, this Whole seems to him to involve a remainder, which he cannot express.  It is the other as a whole who produces in him an aesthetic vision: he praises the other for being perfect, he glorifies himself for having chosen this perfect other; he imagines that the other wants to be loved, as he himself would want to be loved, not for one or another of his qualities, but for everything, and this everything he bestows upon the other in the form of a blank word, for the Whole cannot be inventoried without being diminished: in Adorable! there is no residual quality, but only the everything of affect.  Yet, at the same time, that adorable says everything, it also says what is lacking in everything; it seeks to designate that site of the other to which my desire clings in a special way, but this site cannot be designated; about it I shall never know anything; my language will always fumble, stammer in order to attempt to express it, but I can never produce anything but a blank word, an empty vocable, which is the zero degree of all the sites where my very special desire for this particular other (and for no other) will form."

actually the whole section, "Adorable!" from A Lover's Discourse is good.