Tag Archives: thoughts

Upkeep

If you’ve ever wandered the stacks of a library and thumbed through the books just looking for something interesting, maybe it took you a shelf or two — maybe even a series of shelves, ’cause even when publishing was thriving and not so much about it books, there was of course the catering to privilege — but surely something that spoke to you appeared. Something like, “Unlearning Hemperkin’s Rules for Optimum Snobbery.” Maybe the words were in a book that didn’t even have its cover sleeve anymore, something as tattered for the passing of time as it might have been for being read so much. I think blogs can be sort of like those particular volumes, except of course that they’re an ongoing process.

And that ongoing process isn’t always so big with the going. Some of my favorite bloggers came and went in an instant; I don’t think it was due to a waning attention span, at least not in and of itself. Life is hard, and if you’re not getting paid from some soft-ish perch to write about what it’s like for those folks on the rocks, written word upkeep means having to occasionally tear pieces of yourself off for fuel — metaphorically, of course.

One of the perennial Zeitgest narratives is about apathy; it’s usually more about “care more!” than the reasons people become apathetic. Having to deal with basic human selfishness is hard enough, but there’s also the manifest destiny of privileged comfort. Blogdom has a lot of greatness to offer, but at its generalized best its landscape also has these smiley commerce- and privilege-driven ideals that are nice to disconnect from for a bit.

a messy world, but don’t give up on it

The news about Robin Williams seems to have given millions of people a sense of pause, in a way that many people wish would happen for the loved ones in their own lives. Some have resented the enormous presence this has had in media, and such opinions have been dismissed as anything from insensitivity to the somewhat mythic “reverse racism.” But with the senseless shootings that take place everyday, such a reaction is hardly completely devoid of humanity. Maybe it’s not the beacon that the media likes to pretend humanity is when something senseless happens, but a little self-concern when your looks are demonized should be understandable.            

 As is feeling for Williams. I don’t know that people’s affection for him is generally about the admiration of stardom; he was a unique entertainer, somebody who mixed a lot of heart into that one-of-a-kind whirlwind humor. That he so obviously wanted to make people laugh and smile in a goofy kind of way might have worked against him a little career-wise, in an increasingly moment- and cool-obsessed media. The art of being a goofball is not one that always seems vital and contemporary, but the world would be incredibly dull without it. Quite possibly even to himself, Williams’ merits became underappreciated — in the way that most people juxtaposed with a one-sided notion of “vital and contemporary” often always are.

The tributes are understandable, but a substantial part of the media reaction is entirely about Williams’ stardom and what can be milked from the combination of it and tragedy. That this generally trumps the senseless shootings of people who aren’t stars or considered All-American enough is ridiculous. Even with what’s happening in Missouri, perhaps only such an extreme example of the kind of messy unfairness that happens everyday makes it linger in the media. There’s also a tiny bit of self-righteousness that gets to be utilized, with the crusaders of justice for all who are on the nicer side of some subdivision themselves.

The only positives from this all seems to be a greater cultural awareness of institutional bias and depression, neither of which should add up to someone being ostracized. Often it’s all a mess, but really, it’s not just a mess, and you’re certainly worth the fight to not be overwhelmed by acutely feeling the worst of it.  If it’s too much of one, don’t try to go it alone.                .   

emotional support

© pinero and me

While I was in this store that sold a few supposedly natural remedies for various ailments, there was a bald woman wearing a hat — likely undergoing cancer treatment — browsing with a friend of hers.   Even for the few seconds that we passed each other, it was hard not to notice the look of optimism and lightness the woman had. I just simply hoped she got better and didn’t think much more of it. But they could have easily been erroneous, is the thing — the woman likely having cancer and any sort of positivity. The emotional support she had, even just in the friend that was with her, had to have been a vital part of that.

 In the ad-driven world of media, emotional support seems like something of a commodity. But I think the kind that helps us the most doesn’t care if we’re coveted consumers or not. Having someone trying to relate directly to the way you’re feeling in a positive way (and no, “whatever you do rocks” doesn’t quite count) can simply be quite a boon. It may not make the world any more fair, but maybe it can make it just that much more livable.

Lifestyle TV

Via the 17th century (and Wikipedia), a courtly precursor to tennis, one of the most lifestyle-driven sports.

Via the 17th century (and Wikipedia), a courtly precursor to tennis, one of the most lifestyle-driven sports.

To some degree, most people probably covet a lifestyle at some point in their lives: some seemingly predetermined mold of living that just looks right. A show like Mad Men benefits from the sheen — the aesthetic, the lifestyle — that was the cultural ideal of the 1950s. Specifically, Mad Men benefits in exploring how empty and shallow so much of that sheen was, while also being able to milk those qualities for entertainment value. But beyond that narrow realm of idealized-looking people in fancy clothes, the disconnect between lifestyles and substance rarely seems to change.

Even as the economy has stagnated due to unrestrained greed, there’ve been more and more TV networks catering to an upwardly mobile lifestyle. And, well, why wouldn’t they? TV is generally a for-profit business that caters to advertisers, and lifestyles are a premier business model. There’s never just one thing to buy; items, places and experiences are all part of the lifestyle tapestry. Often that collective is unified by the idea of ‘the best’: consuming the best food, living in the best place, etc.

Even though it’s yet to put an ‘F’ for foodies in its acronym of Home & Garden Television., HGTV is probably the premier channel of the lifestyle lot; so many shows, so many boring privileged people looking for the best life has to offer in property.

Bravo has probably been at the forefront of shallow lifestyle TV. Its output seems increasingly obsessed with utilizing the insecurities of those who proclaim to be living some golden dream. A foodie-centric show like Top Chef almost seems quaint in comparison.

There’s also Esquire now, which slightly minimizes an obsession with drama in favor of yuppie/hipster driven reality shows with a magazine-like sheen. Glossy and not particularly deep, which is the thing with lifestyles in general.  In two weeks, the Bio channel will become FYI, another network focusing on — you guessed it — lifestyles.

Obviously lifestyle is quite a broad term, but I do think that the ‘style’ part of the word is intrinsic to how we think about it. As style is thought of by some people who use fashion as their ticket to being special, so is  the idea of a lifestyle.  In that vein, it’s not something everybody can have exactly. A lifestyle has generally been the domain of those with resources.

I guess the idea of a lifestyle will always be comforting, because it’s an insulated way to live. But places becoming tailored to lifestyles is generally one of the elements of gentrification — the process in which people  are mostly as (positively) relevant to society as their privileges are.  Maybe those privileges could entail resourcefulness as opposed to just resources, but it seems like we’re presented lifestyles as a dressed up approach to being a consumer as a way of life.

double-edged sword

Thinking too much is a double-edged sword.  Wait, aren’t all swords double-edged?  I’m no expert, but … never mind.  You see, thinking too much.

Understanding the world is vital, but thinking too much about its unfairness and myriad of hardships  — not a great time.  And yet, if you think awareness is the point of being conscious, that’s just par for the course.  A double-edged sword — though qualities do seem to have more depth the thoughtful way.  Maybe that’s a silver lining.

race actually

“i am the perfect hue for escaping endemic prejudices while reaping the benefits of good-hearted policies that attempt to suture age-old chasms with the silver thread of nominal acceptance.”

From “half” – a work in progress by M

I am not that perfect hue, but I am also a qualifier for the “half” label.  I don’t generally like saying as much.  There’s this notion that being such is its own thing, which can sometimes, it seems to me, be about distancing one’s self from whichever parent’s ethnicity is least white.  When it comes to being black, perhaps more prevailing now than the old one-drop construct is the idea that you’re only as black as you have to be via appearance.  This is inexorably tied to the very real pains of colorism in addition to racism.

Now and then, I’ll hear the sentiment that being mixed is this unique cultural marker or that being in an interracial relationship is a mark of enlightenment.  The ideas prevail enough that to feel otherwise seems almost jaded.  In that regard, I suppose the mindfulness of M’s post is something I appreciated.  Where blackness has become desirable in the culture at large, it’s often as a technicality, an exception, or in the form of coolness.  Among the demographic that benefit the most from affirmative action are biracial children who have at least one privileged parent.  The idea that this is progress comes from a perspective that likes diversity in theory, but always makes sure to distance itself from where it’s most populous and wounded.

Thing is, most relationships are at least a little shallow — particularly in their conception.  That interracial relationships can exist without some idiot’s sanctioned harassment is progress, certainly, but people generally want some empty but idealized notion of beauty sold to us everyday — along with security.  Why would the ones in interracial relationships be any different?

I don’t entirely agree with everything in this post by Evette Dionne, but it’s certainly interesting and in the following point she expresses a sentiment that I would hope would be obvious (but I know isn’t):

“Your spouse may be black, but that isn’t a ticket to the land of understanding.”

Positively solid

Robert Pinero art

You should check out anything by the blogger of Lila as… Jane Do-It-All like, for instance, the blog Lila as… Jane Do-It-All.  Lila’s got quite the intellect and devotes it to the idea that “we all need to be more introspective and work on ourselves.”  It seems like a simple enough idea, but I sometimes wonder if people only do anything like that when they’re in a nice place — and even then it’s easy to focus on exteriors.  Oddly enough, while working on one’s self may be easier some places than others, introspection is probably an uphill endeavor anywhere.   On janedoitall.wordpress.com, Lila manages it ebulliently.