Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Who Is My Neighbor? (plus plans for a rebuilt colossus covered with solar panels)


The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Emma Lazarus (November 2, 1883)

While I can't undo the fact that my ancestors were themselves immigrants who happily slaughtered the actual original inhabitants and then turned around and said "Fuck you, losers!" to every successive generation of immigrants, and leaving aside the fact that the colossus of Rhodes probably did not straddle the harbor for reasons of engineering difficulties, I still find Emma Lazarus' poem moving.

Let's try to make her poem actually true. 

Oh, and some people would like to rebuild the colossus of Rhodes, and cover it with solar panels.  That would be both ridiculous and awesome.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Fabulosity: The Symphony of Inexorable Fate

I went to the Atlanta Symphony! They were presenting Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 4.Which is about Fate.

In a long letter, Tchaikovsky himself describes the symphony in prose almost as overwrought as the music.

The introduction is the germ of the whole symphony, unarguably the main idea. This is Fate, that inexorable force that prevents our aspirations to happiness from reaching their goal, that jealously ensures our well-being and peace are not unclouded, that hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles, that with steadfast persistence poisons our souls. It is invincible, you will never master it. One can only resign oneself to fruitless sorrow. The joyless, hopeless feeling becomes more powerful and fierce. Would it not be better to turn away from reality and submerge oneself in dreams?
Oh joy! There is at least a sweet and tender dream appearing! A bright and gracious human form flits by and lures us on somewhere.
How lovely! And how remote the obsessive first allegro theme now sounds! The dreams have gradually taken full possession of the soul. All that was gloomy and joyless is forgotten. Here it is, here is happiness! No! They were dreams and Fate rouses us from them.
So life is a constant alternation between grim reality and evanescent visions and dreams of happiness...There is no haven. Sail upon that ocean until it seizes you and engulfs you in its depths. That is roughly the program of the first movement.
 That is one hell of a first movement. 
The second movement of the symphony expresses another phase of depression: that melancholy feeling that comes on in the evening, when you are sitting on your own, tired with work, and you take up a book but it falls out of your hands. Memories come flooding in. It is sad that so much has been and gone; it is pleasant to recollect one’s youth. One regrets the passing of time yet there is no wish to begin life anew. Life wears one out. It is pleasant to rest and reflect. There are so many memories! There have been happy moments when young blood coursed through the veins and life was good. There have also been difficult times, irreplaceable losses. But now that is all somewhere in the past. There is a sweet sadness in burying oneself in the past. 

The third movement does not express any precise feelings. These are whimsical arabesques, the elusive images that flash across one’s imagination when one has had a little wine to drink and is in the first stage of intoxication. One’s spirits are not happy, but neither are they sad. One does not think about anything: one gives free reign to one’s imagination that, for some reason, sets about painting strange pictures. Amongst them one recalls a picture of some roistering peasants and a street song. Then somewhere in the distance a military parade goes by. There is no connection between these images that are like those which flash through your mind as you are going to sleep. They have nothing to do with reality: they are strange, wild, and incoherent.
 Fortunately, we have an overly romanticized view of poverty to help us through all this. 
The fourth movement. If you find no cause for joy in yourself, look to others. Go amongst the common people and see now they know how to enjoy themselves, abandoning themselves completely to feelings of joy. Picture of a peasant celebration on a holiday. But scarcely have you managed to forget yourself and be distracted by the sight of other people’s pleasures than inexorable Fate appears once more and reminds you of its existence.But you are no concern of anyone else. They do not even turn round, they do not glance at you, and they have not noticed that you are lonely and sad. Oh! What fun it is for them! They are so lucky that all their feelings are simple and direct. Blame yourself and do not say that all the world is sad. There are simple but potent pleasures. Enjoy other people’s happiness. One can live despite everything.


The music is incredible.  As it was inexorably fated to be. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day 2017

                                   "In my city, women and children are not dogs and slaves."
                                                                              -main character, Voices, by Ursula K. LeGuin

I want this to be true in my city and my world. 

I want women to be fully equal human beings with equal access to education and healthcare and childcare.

I want women to be able to fully own their own bodies, including being able to divorce, marry, and not marry at will.  How much do we hear about men being denied viagra?  How much do we hear about women being denied birth control?

I want sex education for women to be free and inclusive and comprehensive (I trumpet Scarleteen as an excellent place to start, but it requires an internet connection and the knowledge that it's there), including a thorough overview of the risks of permanent damage (in many weird ways) and death associated with pregnancy and childbirth.  I want deaths like Savita Halappanavar's never to happen again. 

I want women to earn the same amount of money as male counterparts.  I want women to be able to drive cars, walk down the street and take the bus without being harassed or attacked, take out loans, and have their own bank accounts and property without any oversight.

I want women to be able to vote and be able to hold every public office that their male counterparts can and to otherwise participate fully in public civic life.

I want the cultural narratives that say that women are nice and submissive and gentle and good with children and not good with computers or math or science to die the death.

I want the sale of women under the guise of marriage to stop.  Yes, in America too.

I want individual bodily consent to be inviolable and individual life choices to be as free as possible.  For everyone.

No, it probably won't happen today.  Or even tomorrow.  Or maybe for a hundred years.  But we deserve this.  Everyone deserves this.  And I think that if we can imagine kinder, more respectful of our common humanity ways to live together as human beings, we can make it happen.  Here's one step forward: coming of age without female genital mutilation