Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: January 2007

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

seen at the cinema

Dream Girls

Well--for a musical movie it was great. It's worth seeing just for the performance of the newcomer Jennifer Hudson. Her performance is stunning--and not just the song "You're Going to Love Me" but throughout the entire movie.

Eddie Murphy's performance is a little tired. Too much time in body make-up? And Jamie Foxx who I generally love is too tight in this performance. Beyonce who can so easily go over the top, doesn't and it saves the movie really.

All in all, a good time--if not a perfect dream, certainly not a nightmare.


Almodovar strikes again. In the early 90s I was the consumate Pedro fan and saw everything he did--and then I phased out, can't really remember why. Maybe it was the once too often reference to S&M in his films? Doesn't matter, because he's back to his luminous form with Volver. Funny--shockingly funny, absurd, stunning and of course, knock-out women in red! Penelope Cruz is great! And the rest of the ensemble is perfectly cast as well. Go see this movie!


Thursday, January 25, 2007

more on the politics of Race--the human one

I couldn't sleep last night and I wrote a great piece in my head, but I can't seem to remember a word of it now. I do want to put a word in for Gary Kamiya at Salon and his piece called black vs. "black"; I think he says what I was trying to say but in a much more thought out essay. Check it out. He's my favorite staff writer there and I think his spin on what we allow to define us versus how others define us is very interesting, especially given the work I'm in right now, working on Level Two of Teacher Training here at KRI. It seems every question of identity is surfacing, whether it's how we relate to ourselves, to others, to our mind, or to our purpose, what we call ourselves and the stories we tell about ourselves are a direct cause for what actually happens to us. This is where consciousness and awareness come in.

So what is the consciousness of being "white". I realized that in my earlier essay I mentioned that I was very aware of my 'whiteness'. And yet, in a dyad exercise in class the other night, to the question "Who are you?" not once did the word 'white' come up as an answer, nor did middle-class. So, now I question whether my perceived sense of consciousness of these issues isn't actually just a bullying of my agenda and not something that I actually experience on a day-to-day basis. My working theory has always come from the activist political talking points which says that if you're black in America then it's in your face--every day. Now I question that assumption, especially for blacks who live in primarily black neighborhoods, or latinos who live in primarily latino neighborhoods. Maybe there are entire days, weeks, months even that people don't think about their class or their race. Maybe it's only thought about it when the bills are due or the promotion doesn't come. I can't say. I'm as white as you can get.

But I do recognize now that 'white' isn't something that I identify with; I'm not conscious of it on a working, daily basis. Does this make me a part of the white privelege culture? Am I that same person that I condemn? But maybe like Kamiya, I've moved beyond the identity politics? Maybe I just don't relate to the polemics of race politics anymore. Maybe it's time for there to truly be only one race--the human one.

On that note: Can it be possible that a major newspaper, when announcing Richardson's pending candidacy said, "Richardson throws his sombrero in the ring." Ah. . . it rears its ugly head again.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

the politics of race--the human one

Well, along with my flu, there's been an epidemic of Democratic candidates throwing their hats in the ring. Who will know what falls out of all of that? But I do have confidence that the democrats can always pick a loser. sigh. Reading Dickerson's article about Obama yesterday on Salon was very disheartening. I don't always agree with her positions, but I usually find her fair, even-tempered. Yesterday she waxed on and on about what being 'black' really was--and Barack Obama is not it. I am one of those whites who's very sensitive to the priveleges of being white; very aware of the endemic social patterns caused by 350 years of slavery; and in response to Dickerson's article very tired of hearing it all, suddenly.

I don't want to swing to the other side and begin reading Ayn Rand again, but nevertheless, the power of the word is so strong. And the power of our stories is incalulable. But our stories can change--and they must change--in order for us to be free of them. In many ways I am in agreement with those that want restitution--that believe that until the US government, corporations, etc. make a formal restitution, admitting their wrong doing, admitting their profits based on slave labor, admitting their separation and complete decimation of the family unit in slave-holding states, then yes, perhaps the 'black' people of America (see Dickerson's definition) will never be free to re-write their story. But just like the victim of child abuse often has to move on without the restitution and amends of their parents, so, too, it may be time for the 'black' people of America to drop their story and move on--with or without the 'white man's burden' off of their backs. Many have done so--and have often been scorned by their own because of it.

It is the human condition. My own father rose above his background and his parents could hardly forgive him. It wasn't that they weren't kind to each other--but there was always that sense that because he had become a physician, gone to school, travelled the world, that he had made himself better than them and they couldn't forgive him for it.

We are all afraid of change--even though it is the only thing we're guaranteed, along with death and taxes. What I've learned about my own story changes with the waxing and waning of the moon. Sometimes I'm indefatigueable and ready to take everything on--head first. Sometimes I feel so defeated by my story that I can't even lift my head to serve and be a part of life. It's a battle. But the only losers are those who buy into their story 100% without ever questioning the truth, the relevance, the application, or the possibility that perhaps it doesn't fit you any more.

Maybe it's time for a new pair of shoes.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

from Gary Kamiya on

What follows is an excerpt from an article on Today's Salon. If you'd like to read the entire article, just click onto the Salon link to the right. Like Kamiya, I believe poetry is one of the ways that we can make what seems so unreal, real.

Because we are not acting...

"We must wait. Wait until there is no choice but to leave. Wait until the smoke and chaos and hatred have driven us away. Wait until we have asked another person's kid to be the last person to die for a mistake.

But there is one thing we can do while we wait. We can stretch out our fingertips and imagination and try to at least make this unreal war real. We can truly support our troops, whom many of us will never know, by doing everything we can to end this war. We owe those who have died in Iraq, and those we are about to send to die, that much.

Poetry, perhaps even more than pictures, makes war live. We understand the true horror of World War I not because of newsreels, but because of the searing words of Erich Maria Remarque and Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. And Iraq has produced its own poet, Brian Turner, who was an infantry team leader there for a year. In 2005, he published a collection of poems, "Here, Bullet," that is destined to endure long after the shrill arguments about the war have been forgotten.

In a poem titled "2000 lbs," Turner opens with a description of a suicide bomber in Mosul's Ashur Square, who is watching in his rearview mirror for a convoy. He writes of two men, an Iraqi taxi driver named Sefwan and an American Guardsman named Sgt. Ledouix, who are also in Ashur Square.

A flight of gold, that's what Sefwan thinks
as he lights a Miami, draws in the smoke
and waits in his taxi at the traffic circle.
He thinks of summer 1974, lifting
pitchforks of grain high in the air,
the slow drift of it like the fall of Shatha's hair,
and although it was decades ago, he still loves her,
remembers her standing at the canebrake
where the buffalo cooled shoulder-deep in the water,
pleased with the orange cups of flowers he brought her,
and he regrets how much can go wrong in a life,
how easily the years slip by, light as grain, bright
as the street's concussion of metal, shrapnel
traveling at the speed of sound to open him up
in blood and shock, a man whose last thoughts
are of love and wreckage, with no one there
to whisper him gone.

Sgt. Ledouix of the National Guard
speaks but cannot hear the words coming out,
and it's just as well his eardrums ruptured
because it lends the world a certain calm,
though the traffic circle is filled with people
running in panic, their legs a blur
like horses in a carousel, turning
and turning the way the tires spin
on the Humvee flipped to its side,
the gunner's hatch he was thrown from
a mystery to him now, a dark hole
in metal the color of sand, and if he could,
he would crawl back inside of it,
and though his fingertips scratch at the asphalt
he hasn't the strength to move:
shrapnel has torn into his ribcage
and he will bleed to death in minutes,
but he finds himself surrounded by a strange
beauty, the shine of light on the broken,
a woman's hand touching his face, tenderly
the way his wife might, amazed to find
a wedding ring on his crushed hand,
the bright gold sinking in flesh
going to bone.

What does poetry have to do with politics? Nothing -- and everything. It is too late to stop the fatal endgame of Bush's war. But at least we can honor those who have died in that war, Iraqis and Americans alike, by refusing to look away from their deaths. Poetry, as the great Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz once wrote, is a witness. And if we the living highly resolve, as we must, that these dead shall not have died in vain, the only way to do so is by ensuring that we never again launch an unjustified war.

On that subject, the poet should have the last word. Here is another Turner poem, whose title means "friend" in Arabic, prefaced with a quotation from Sa'di, the 13th century Persian poet.

It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more.

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Nothing comes for Free

Seems like everything I read these days refers directly or indirectly to Free Will--do we have it? Do we not? What meaning is ascribed to whether we have it or not? What is the function of the 'self' if we don't have free will? etc.

Here's some words from the master, Yogi Bhajan:

We don't need Free Will. We need the free flow of energy so we can handle our life when it is challenged.

There's nothing like a re-direction from your teacher to make all arguments fall away. Thank you Yogiji.

Seen at the Cinema

Children of God

Clive Owen is my archetypal man, so pretty much anything with him in it is going to be on my 'must-see' list. I was interested in this 'near future' flick for other reasons as well though. I saw it with a friend and it's always a challenge for me to see films with other people; I can't just isolate within my own experience.

She couldn't really take how violent it was and my response was that in a way I was strangely grateful. Because the movie makes so obvious and frequent allusions to US diplomacy (or lack thereof), I said that I found it helpful to make what we're doing and have been doing for the past five years more real to me. That we have held prisoners without due cause and without due process for more than five years; that we have bombed and terrorized (yes, terrorized) an entire nation and generation of Iraquis based on nothing but heresay and empty revenge; that we have tortured people and have made no apologies for it is terrifying to me. And to see a movie that depicts all these acts in some way makes it more real. Makes me unable to simply ignore it, not relate to it. I want to be able to cry over what is happening because of our policies and my tax dollar. I want to be able to mourn it. But the news shows no footage of what is actually happening; we are carefully groomed to know only enough to reinforce the status quo. Seeing what was actually happening in Vietnam was the beginning of the end and the government knows that--so any footage of the caskets covered in flags, any footage of women and chidren in hospital because of bombing or shooting by American troops, anything real is denied us.

Children of Men is not about the Iraq war--but it is about the neo-fascism that is some of our policies and the emptiness of counterrevolutionary violence. The natural outcome should disaster strike. Remember Katrina? Homeless, dispossessed people shot at by police. It doesn't take much of an imagination to extrapolate from recent events to imagine the world depicted in this film. I am not an apocalyptic accolyte; I do not believe that things are getting worse. But I do believe in the cycles of history and man. And it's coming around again.

The Freedom Writers

This is a genre film and there are problems with it--you're never really given a reason why her husband pulls away, the kids are clearly not 14-year-olds, and the oscar-winning actress is a little out of her element--but overall, I have to admit that I enjoyed this film. Probably because it affirms for me so much of what I hold to be true: if you're really seen, then you have a chance to shine. One person, one relationship can be the catalyst to change everything. This teacher, Miss G., becomes that for a classroom of kids in post-Rodney King riot's Long Beach. It is about the fundamental human quality of story. The story we tell, the story we create, and the story we have the power to change.

Now if I only had the _______ to change my own.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chuck Hagel Barks But Does He Bite

I was pleasantly surprised, taken aback even, when I heard Hagel's blistering comeback to Rice's explication of the "new plan for Iraq" (which looks like the old plan, smells like the old plan, what's new about it). Perhaps the momentum of the election is snapping a few republicans awake as well? Their constiuency are the ones who's sons and daughters are dying over there. They have a lot to be accountable for and maybe, finally, they're waking up to to that. What will history have to say about these men and women in the house and senate that let another president go to war--without even a whimper.

Not that it hasn't happened in the past and not that it won't happen again. But it was a wonder to hear Hagel -- a republican -- snarling a bit. The dogs are barking but will they bite and put a stop to this now meaningless presence in Iraq? Meanwhile the Alpha Dog needs to tuck tail and be willing to get out of there....not only admit it as a mistake which he finally conceded to Wednesday night, but also be willing to get out of there and not continue trying to push an agenda that takes us deeper into territory we don't belong in (must I say it, Iran)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Living Your Destiny Versus Living Your Fate

For years I have always struggled with the idea being the creator of my own destiny. For a long time things just seemed to flow--one right into the other. The next promotion, the next opportunity, the next and the next. And then I entered that dark night of the soul when everything was hard. Nothing came easily (other than the generosity of my family): work, love, friendship, etc. So even though I thought I was following my heart and creating my own life, it all fell apart.

Over the years, various people have triggered these thoughts about my Destiny with random comments or direct feedback. Today my friend and chiropractor said she thought that my life was too small for my soul. That I felt trapped. I had to agree with her. But keeping my life small has always been a way for me to manage my emotional body, which when unmanaged, can be quite devastating. And yet, what do I do with this 'knowing', this sense that my life isn't what it's supposed to be.

I've often just written it off as egotism....the grandiosity that is often associated with the mind of an addict. Yet the longing still hangs around the edges of my consciousness. On the other hand, I've experienced tremendous guilt for not manifesting in some meaningful way the gifts that I've been given: my voice, my intellect, my passion. Will I have to pay some price for not being what God created me to be has often crossed my mind. And yet, even as I write this, it sounds marginally delusional.

How to simply be? Be to be is the mantra of the age. And yet, I'm still asking to be or not to be in my weaker moments.

Maybe I just need to eat more vegetables.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

sufjan stevens . . .

. . . is my new favorite musician. I feel like he must be some mad genius locked away somewhere in the midwest; but evidently he's just a guy living in Brooklyn who records with his friends.

Check him out! Quirky, brilliant, fresh, innocent and dark at the same time. Amazing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Now on Video


Well, I'm generally not a fan of Spielberg and so resisted seeing this movie in the theatres. But had heard good things recently and decided to rent it. I thought it was a really compelling story about the transformation of a man and of a movement. It didn't condone Israel nor did it completely demonize Palestine. It spoke of home and the desire for everyone to have a place on earth that is their own. It spoke of a man haunted by what he'd done and nobody wanted to know about it. It showed how we are all destroyed by decisions we make--good and bad.

Powerful, haunting, and beautifully acted, esp. the performance of Eric Bana.

Down in the Valley

I typically love anything that Edward Norton is in, but this strange fable of a mentally instable man (schizophrenic?) and his interlude with a young girl and her volatile father and vulnerable brother is disturbing, shocking, and ultimately, not very well told. I felt disconnected--even though his performance is great, as is the performance by the father (David Morse)--from the overall flow of the film. Wouldn't recommend.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Greatest Game

Well, the weather kept me home long enough to see all of the bowl games last weekend. And the one that I will remember for a very long time was Boise State vs. Oklahoma. I was done with football by the time this particular game came on and tried to beg out of it, but my parents were having none of it. They wanted to see Oklhahoma win since Texas A & M and UT had both lost their games. So, I stuck it out and man, I'm glad I did! This was the greatest game of football I've ever seen--and I've seen a few great games.

I was moaning along with all of America I'm sure when the Boise State Quarterback threw that last interception. All they had to do was take the ball down the field--safely--and kick a field goal. Instead, the Sooners intercept and make a touchdown. BSU has only 1:20 seconds to get the ball down the field to tie the game. And, incredibly, they do! Then begins the tie breaker and again, it felt to me that BSU would lose heart when the Sooners so easily (in one play) made a touch down. But they're gamers and they struggled into position and finally made a couple of trick plays that won the game. Amazing!

The icing on the cake was the proposal from their star running back to the head cheerleader. Ah! Nothing like fairy tale romance to make a 38 year old woman depressed! ha!

Great Game! Now to change the system so that these guys could actually make a run for the National Title.