The international adventures of a singing, dancing zombie queen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"The Metaphysics of Authenticity"

I have this Angela Carter book in the bathroom, and I only ever get to read a paragraph or two at a time. It's just as well, because Angela Carter's witty columns often take days of delight-filled mastication. Sometimes I wonder - 'did I really just read that?' or, 'when was this written; yesterday or thirty years ago?' or, 'OMG thank god someone has explained that nagging feeling I've been having!' This last one happens frequently, as Carter has an extraordinary talent for recognizing fads, hypocrisy of class, and falseness. I love it. Don't get me wrong; I love living in the Bay Area, and I'm supportive of openness and love paying my taxes (really!), but my god; sometimes I just want to call bullshit!
Angela Carter must be the queen of bullshit-calling, and she did it long in advance of most trends' popularity (see the NYTimes review at the bottom). I love that she identifies falseness without making the argument that her own ideas are true based on the false rationale of her subject matter. Carter just says, "fuck, people, get over yourselves."

At the moment, I'm reading through a series of articles that she wrote about culinary books, before "foodies" even existed; before Julia. I love foodie magazines, but I love it even more when I can have a chuckle with Carter about how ridiculous some of these idealizations are. She pries the dramatics (a.k.a. snobbery) off of these books and points at wider trends, without disrespecting their sensuality or the prose.


"This combination of material asceticism and passionate enthusiasm of the sensuality of the everyday is at the core of the tradition from which Mrs Gray springs, with its obvious affinities to the style of Bloomsbury, where it was a moral imperative that the beautiful should always take precedence over the comfortable. Though 'beautiful' is not quite the right word -- it is a kind of authenticity which is invoked here, as though water is more authentic, more real, wetter, draw from a open-air cistern than from a city tap.

"The metaphysics of authenticity are a dangerous area. When Mrs Gray opines, 'Poverty rather than wealth gives the good things of life their true significance', it is tempting to suggest it is other people's poverty, always a source of the picturesque, that does that. Even if mrs Gray and her companion live in exactly the same circumstances as their neighbours in the Greek islands or southern Italy, and have just as little ready money, their relation to their circumstances is the result of the greatest of all luxuries, aesthetic choice. 'Poverty', here, is sloppy language -- a rare example of it. Mrs gray isn't talking about a pavement dweller in Calcutta, or a member of the long-term unemployed in an advanced, industrialized country; nor about poverty as such, but about a way of life which has a dignity imposed upon it by its stoicism in the face of a nature on which it is entirely dependent. The Japanese created an entire aesthetic, and a moral philosophy, out of this stoicism and this intimate relation with natural forces; as soon as they had a bob or two in their pockets, of course, they binged on consumerism, but the hard core is still there."

~Angela Carter's Book Review, "Patience Gray: Honey from a Weed," from the book Shaking a Leg.
Carter, Angela. Shaking a Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings. New York: Penguin Group, 1998. 102. Print.

This isn't the only article where she talks about the upper class idealizing the diets of working class people in foreign countries. And it's not just about learning to cook; she talks about the cult of the whole-grain bread folks, the vegetarians and vegans who have made their food preferences nearly evangelical cult activities. Not that there is anything crappy about eating no meat or baking your own bread. But Carter has a way of walking in and calling a duck a duck, and a cult a cult.
It's refreshing.

From a NYTimes Review on Shaking a Leg:
"But to adopt Angela's own kind of terminology for a moment, what emerges most powerfully from Shaking A Leg is her ability to detect bullshit at two hundred paces. Years before the term `foodie' had been invented, she was mocking the pretensions of the cookery writer who insists on recherche ingredients not because of their qualities but their snob value. And it is a delight to find her, years before the porn star Linda Lovelace came out as a victim of the sex industry, deconstructing the actress's sexual braggadocio as a species of false consciousness -- and discerning a profound rage behind Lovelace's notorious skill at fellatio. The permissive societies of which Lovelace is a product, Carter points out more than once, are actually deeply repressed: why else do people need permission to explore their sexuality? Only someone with an appreciation of the sweaty, earthy pleasures of sex could create this kind of critique, outspoken and completely unprudish..."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

25 Year Service Awards

This afternoon, I attended the district reception for the sixteen people who have served for 25 years at the San Mateo Community College District. It was a fun party, especially since the bar was open; I totally work with the fun (a.k.a."bad") crowd, Yay!

There were some amazing careers that we learned about. The first woman recognized had been working for the district since students used punch-cards to enroll in classes, and floppy disks were considered a lot of storage. She's now the head of all the IT in the district; from the online enrollment & grading systems to our google email; everything. Apparently she's got grown kids and she and her husband are active in a Corvette club (and have two). She was fashionable & attractive, and she is a woman; the woman who brought thousands of people in this district from punch-cards to live lecture web-casts.
I know plenty of women my age in the technology/IT/games/3D animation field. I know very, very few who are hardware & sys-admin oriented, and even fewer who have been doing that work since 1985. That woman is an amazing role model.

Another honoree had written the grant that started the funding for Middle College, a program that allows high school students get to attend community college classes in order to graduate more quickly & start building up their college credits. We didn't have such a thing when I was 15 in California, but I heard about it in Washington (where it was called "Running Start,") and adopted it for myself. It's an amazing program that saves capable kids from giving up on their education when they're being stifled by the stupidity/drama/status quo/etc. of adolescent academia.

Another woman who was honored had opened the first college computer writing center in the country; and had to fight hard to do it. She was a revered professor; had taught every English class offered, had her PhD, also worked at Stanford (and in my mind, this explains the next part, I hope, I hope, I hope...), was retiring this year... and was ADJUNCT FACULTY. WTF. As in: after 25 years, she never got a full time job.

Who would've guessed that my chances at getting a full time job might be *better* teaching dance than English?
OMG PLEASE don't let that be my fate... Go State Budget, GO!!!

I was super grateful to have gotten to see so many amazing women recognized by our district. And how often do you get to go to a work function and have a great time like that?

I love my job.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friendships - Rekindling and Dousing

I had dinner tonight with a lovely friend whom I haven't spent time with in quite some time. Most recently, it was because I'd accidentally been using her old email address to invite her to things. But, as usual, life was also muddying up our social lives as well. She was surpsised to hear that I also had been making myself more scarce in the social scene we used to frequent. I expected as much from her, because she's doing Big Amazing Things. (I'm so proud of her awesome hard work; you go girl!!!)

Anyhow, we did a lot of catching up, which ended up covering a lot of stories about growing apart from people and friendships. There were many reasons discussed, and different circumstances, but for me, I just kept re-locating on one unanswered question.

When do you hold it against someone that they're not being a great friend?

It's a tricky question; sort of like trying to decide how much lateness or flakiness you'll overlook for the sake of a friendship. The same sort of rationalizing and anxious guilty feelings apply here.

For example; I know I'm not perfect. I wonder whether I've been slacking on my reaching-out, whether I've been doing enough responding to internet blasts, whether I've been being a good friend. But then I think about my awesome best friends who live across the country, and how much more I hear from them than from some of the folks I used to feel close to when I was in SF more. So... that's the beginning of the reflection on growing apart being more disappointing than neutral.

One thing that rekindles friendly intimacy after a gap in closeness is experiencing surprise at time having passed and joy at reconnecting. The experience of realizing you've lost touch being simultaneously surprising and inspiring tends to make good friends stay in more frequent contact. Contrariwise, when that ritual doesn't occur, it's disappointing.

Staying in touch takes effort, for sure.
But, call me spoiled.... I think a good friend makes that effort. And I'm realizing that I'm becoming more interested in focusing my social energy on fewer but closer friendships. We've all seen our friends' time be monopolized by different events in their life; marriage, other friends, hobbies, obsessions. But the kind of friendships I want to emotionally invest in are those in which my investment is recognized and matched.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Looking Away

My dance teacher, Christopher Dolder, when I was at UC Berkeley, was an amazing dancer, teacher and mentor. He stood up for me in all of my youthful freakiness, backed up my artistic integrity, and kicked my ass 7.5hrs/wk (minimum).

Here's one of the most amazing things he taught me:

I was struggling with the concept of my mother's choice to be reborn in Christ. Not because of Jesus; that part I understood. I understand my mother's desire to be loved unconditionally, and to be led by something higher than ourselves. And I understood why she wanted to be part of a religious community. What I didn't understand was why she was giving up so many things; meat, movies, music, jewelry, books.

At the time (I was 20), I could only see this abstention as boxing oneself in; hiding from reality. And the things I was most proud of my mother for, in an avatar/hero/mythological way, were her accomplishments of bravery.
For example; my mother went to El Salvador in the late 60's/early 70's, where the government soldiers pointed machine guns at her, and some authoritarian tried to keep her from leaving the country with her new husband and an abscessed tooth. She was there with the Peace Corps, educating women about birth control in a time when IUDs were still piercing through women's uteruses, and that was deemed worth the risk, often.
My mother worked in the first Free Clinic in the Haight, holding young women's hands as they went through abortions, back then.
As a child, I saw my mother could walk into a household where the families were screaming and hitting, and she could calm everyone down and get them to speak to one another and make up.
As a school psychologist, my mother took four times as many cases per year than any of her colleagues. In the 1990's, she constantly went on home visits to field workers' families with dirt floors, and worked her calming magic - in a second language, no less. She took me with her to see happy families of different classes (not that we had much money, but it was tons in comparison), and made sure that I understood that beauty and kindness were to be found in places unfamiliar to my own white upbringing.

So, why then, I asked my mentor, would my mother be shutting her eyes to reality now??

Christopher then told me something that I pondered for weeks, at first as totally foreign, and then as amazingly intimately honest about true human experience. Being a self-proclaimed "hard-ass woman," at first, I thought, "that's silly! don't be such a baby!" But now I see the glory of it's subtle wisdom.

Christopher told me that, sometimes, after seeing enough pain and suffering, people just don't want to see it anymore, and they decide to protect themselves from being upset by the harsher things in life.

And, you know what? That is okay.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Afraid to Post

I just pondered, deeply, the idea of starting a new blog.
Maybe part of me thinks that "Curly Ripe Meat" is no longer a very interesting blog title.
Maybe CRM should be my blog for adventures, real life, pictures, etc., and not my editorials.

Maybe I'm still a bit bruised from the backlash I got about a Starbucks cup, and about my posts on maturity and the couple-dates I'd been longing for (and now am loving!)...
And being bruised is okay, and careful about people's feelings.

of all of the wind that blows through your hair when you're young (and turns out to be farts), of all the passion of unfettered horses running wild (that you can't keep up with)... speaking my mind is one of the things I loved most about my youthful self. There has always been a power and a freedom in being willing to sense, analyze and express my opinions in life.

A power that scares others. A power that intimidates. And I've spent a lot of time in the last few years learning how not to intimidate others unintentionally. I'm glad of that. I'm glad of being softer and more approachable, and of how that makes me more able to give.

But, sometimes I miss the freedom, and considering chopping my journal in two after seven years seems rather constricting to me.
So, it makes me think that, perhaps, one of the ways that I don't want to get old is by letting people crush my inquisitive writing.

Now; understand me -- I don't mean that I should be cruel or rude to people; I've always had too much of a desire to be elegant to be insulting out of ignorance or carelessness. However; speaking abstractly in my own blog, which no-one has to read... well... I believe that I should feel comfortable here. And I miss trusting my instinct to not be a total ASS by accident.

Writing this reminds me of now old disagreements about whether it's okay to blog in a way that might cause others offense. I hold that it isn't honorable or kind to be hurtful to someone directly; some respond that one should be free to journal about whatever they want. I put stock in the validity and benefits of abstract thought and debate, but this, too, can backfire if the reader's application of the abstraction reflects negatively.

But, honestly.... I don't need to feel responsible for everyone's reactions to my opinions. Maybe we disagree! Maybe I sound shallow to you, petty. Maybe it hurts that I'm in a different place than you are, and view my experiences in a different way than you view similar experiences of your own. And that's okay!

That I am going to venture out of my fear and feel free to opine.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Our Wedding Video Trailer!

Our awesome friends have posted our trailer on their Ambient Sky Blog! I am soooo grateful for their amazing video!!!

Amber and Steev were married on a cliff overlooking the beach in Santa Cruz, California. The reception was just across the road at the Davenport Roadhouse where they created a wedding experience unlike any we've ever filmed. From jugglers, to contortionists, to face painting, to a delicious custom designed Barnum Circus Animal Cookie cake... Every detail was specific in meaning and emotion to ensure this day was a reflection of their love for each other and their unique and creative personalities.

Full disclosure... I've known Steev for about 25 years... He's been one of my closest friends and the most influential force on my creativity throughout my life. From my first guitar lessons to recording engineering to inspiring me to be a filmmaker. He's been the ignition that started the fires of obsession for my creative endeavors.

One of my proudest moments was when he asked us to film their wedding. One of my happiest moments was being there as he married the woman he waited so long to meet.

Please enjoy this brief glimpse into their incredible wedding day.


For my friend and his amazing wife.

Please allow the movie time to load.

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Dance & Fitness Faculty member at San Francisco Peninsula Community Colleges, Director, Choreographer & Featured Dancer, Founder of the Living Dead Girlz, and Owner of the Steele Dance Company, which provides entertainment for festivals, corporate events, conventions and private events. Teaching private dance lessons and creating choreography since 1997, Steele graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Double Major in Dance and Comparative Literature and completed her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography at Mills College. She has toured all the major cities in Germany and performed at the Cannes Film Festival as the featured dancer in TRIP -- Remix Your Experience, a multimedia exhibition of film, live music and art. Steele has also performed as a featured dancer for RJ Reynolds (CAMEL) promotional events. Steele currently manages the go-go dancers of "Poor Impulse Control," who perform frequently in San Francisco's industrial, alternative, and rock venues.