It is always tough to leave for 4 weeks especially when you want to take your bike, computer, recording gear and the like. It becomes all the more tough when you throw out your neck the day before leaving. Friends rule though and I hear (from Geoff) that all Dutch people are like 6’2 and strong so maybe they can help with all my stuff..
I have only like 5-6 errands left for tomorrow which is amazing given that I am leaving for a month! I hope to get them done in time to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Critical Mass especially since it is also a car free day!
So I, sato, take off on Sat morning to the Netherlands mostly for research although I have some fun activities planned like biking, playing ultimate and I even hope to do some conventional touristy things like visit the home of Anne Frank and visit the large colony of
chimps at the arnhem zoo. I don’t know much about our furry relatives, although I should given that many people think that as an anthropologist, I study chimps or lemurs, or gorillas in the wild. I should just humor people and offer some extravagant theory on chimpanzee language acquisition and its relationship to childhood sexual play. And that everything I know, I know because of my mentor Jane Goodall. But I usually just correct people and let them know that is usually referred to as primatology (although admittedly it is often considered physical anthropology, which is well, anthropology). Since I am on the subject of monkeys, here is a monkey site that always makes me laugh.
Anyway, tomorrow, I hope to also find some time and write about why it is that I picked the name sato sato as mine. It would make a perfect entry before I go for one of my longer roams
Yesterday, I had this flash of insight as to why I love the blog genre (despite, its well, less than flattering name). I have been in grad school for six years now, writing mostly in my private journal and for classes,fieldwork notes, or conference papers. Thus, the two main bodies of my writing were really separate in style, form and content, one of which, my private journal (which I have nearly stopped now), was well that exactly private, the center of attention being me! The later stuff was my analytical writing where the “I” is totally exorcised as if the I had nothing to do with the material being that the subject matter (in terms of my papers) is about culture, history, and politics. But really the I is always there at some level, I just get rid of myself for those pieces. The blog allows for that nice melding between the I and not-I. I have also enjoyed getting away from my private journal externalizing and exploring topics that I probably would not have either written about in either my public or private writings; they are thoughts that mostly sit in my head and until the blog they had no where, no place to go And then there is the fact that the blog is so perfect for the short attention span that I have, both in terms of reading other people’s blogs or writing for them. As much as I know that my entries are way longer than your traditional blog, they are a heck of a lot shorter than writing a conference paper, proposal, masters, dissertation, etc.
Speaking of writing, I met one of my favorite writers yesterday in the afternoon. Will and I talked with Ellen Ullman for over an hour about so many different topics that ranged from her new novel, “The Bug” to the dangers of identity politics, transformation of geek political orientations especially since the DMCA, and why we should treat computers like a notebook. We were talking to her to see if she would like to join one of the advisory boards of the Online Policy Group.
One of my favorite pieces ever written on Linux and the humanizing experience of having access to the source is “Programming Under the Wizard’s Spell” written by her for Harpers in August 1998:
“That this sudden movement to freeware and open source is our desire to revisit the idea that a professional engineer can and should be able to do the one thing that is most basic to our work; examine the source code, the actual program, the real and unvarnished presentation of the system. I exaggerate only a little if I say that it is a reassertion of our dignity as humans working with mere machine; a return quite literally, to the source.”
When I first read this, I probably had still not seen source code and was not really studying free software academically, just spending inordinate amount of time online reading about it. This little piece inspired me in part to have the confidence to pursue something that seemed so antithetical to my path at the time.
Las summer, I read her semi-autobiographical book Cose to the Machine which is an insider and very intimate account (and a female perspective) on the life of a software engineer in the Bay Area that neither lauds or rips at the industry/technology but offers amore subtle and complex narrative, sometimes being critical, other times passionate of technology and at time neither, leaving the reader to be the final judge. After reading it, I was like “wow, this Ellen Ullman, is quite a lady, very unconventional, racy…” and I always wondered what she was like in person!
It is always interesting to meet someone you have literally wondered about. She was quite charming and as complex as she paints herself in Close to the Machine, brimming with stories from the mundane, to the fantastic, to the political, most stemming from her own experiences. I could have stayed talking for hours. I look forward to her next book “The Bug’ which is about the software developer who spends an entire year trying to solve this one bug. Ha, sounds like somewhat of a horror story One thing that made me laugh a lot is that she treats laptops as literal notebooks, in that they have a beginning and end in terms of a project. So when she is done with a large project (which might span years), it then is time to retire her laptop and she puts it up on her bookshelves with her other books. It of course got me thinking “hmmmm, I just might need that new laptop for when I start to write my dissertation”
So, the other day when my throat was feeling kinda scratchy and itchy, I was given watermelon frost, a powdery substance that I basically snorted down my throat with a little straw for relief. I can’t really say if it worked or not although I completely fell in love with the name of a medicine called watermelon frost. So much more evocative and compelling that something like prozac or contact or mylanta. But I don’t think that they were really going for a cool, evocative name, as it really, honest to god, happens to be made from watermelon rind although I am not all that sure where the frost comes in (come on, the rind is not that frosty). Luckily, my throat is no longer sore, and I am feeling better so I don’t have to use watermelon frost. I can just think about it instead.
There is not too much that is stable in my life these days except there is this one weekly anchor point, my volunteer shift at Quan Yin Healing Arts Center. Despite my travels I amazingly have avoided missing my Thursday shift, choosing to leave Thursday evening or Friday morning and returning by the following Thursday. At this point, it seems like it is one of the more centering things in my life. I look forward to the simplicity of completing my few tasks there: pulling needles, providing moxa therapy, and changing sheets. The energy there is very calming acting like a weekly oasis, allowing me the space to recenter after the fragmentation that travel sometimes causes. I have been there over a year and it saddens me to think that I will be leaving there sometime during the spring or summer. Part of this is entry is to let local San Franciscans who might read this (not many I believe) that they are now accepting volunteer applications. If you have the time, I say grab this opportunity. It is a wonderful place to spend three or four hours of your week and you will learn something about Chinese Medicine and acupuncture too, treat lots of people with moxa and be reminded of the important things in life. So, if you have sometime during the week, drop on by and apply!
This last Thursday seemed a bit more special than most, although a little more sad than most too. Patients tend to come to see the same acupuncturists. As a result I have come to know some of even them though verbal exchange is kept to a minimum. There is one large treatment room so it is important to be quiet. Every once in a while, a patient decides to be chatty or the room is empty so conversation flows. This last week was one of those times. One woman brought in her photos from her trip to Chicago knowing I lived there for a while and that I have a soft spot in my heart for the amazing cityscape that is Chicago. That was really thoughtful of her. My second conversation was not quite as cheerful. I am not sure how I even began talking to this other patient, who I have seen over the last couple of months, starting up at the ceiling very calmly while I treat her with moxa. Oh, wait, I remember now. She was surprised that moxa could be smokeless. She then basically told me that she was so glad that we used smokeless moxa because she suffers from MCS –> Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. It is an illness that simultaneously fascinates me, breaks my heart, and scares me . Those with MCS are sensitive to manufactured modern industrial chemical products ranging from perfumes, plastics, dyes, smoke and other caustic chemicals, so much so, they often have to shield themselves off from the environment and people, creating a “Safe” space away from that which makes them ill. Illness, as a social state is or can be an isolating experience. MCS brings this state to another more harrowing level of isolation.
With chronic illness, the body as it regularly functions ceases to be, unraveling one’s ability to conform neatly to the normal rhythms of life and relationships. The experience of and moving through time, space, and social relationships must change to accommodate this state of dis-ease. Healing often is a reconstitution of self, place, and time so that one can reintegrate the self back into the everyday rhythms of life as much as possible. Chronic illness never allows the same full type of reintegration although there is usually some level or form of reintergration. But with something like MCS, reintegration is nearly impossible as long as the chemical sensitivities exist so that the self cannot exist outside of it self, so that one remains a prisoner to oneself:
“You are inside most of the time…. The inside, brought about by built environments of late capitalism, provides your habitat, the milieu for your environment. Then one otherwise ordinary day your throat begins to constrict when you enter your newly renovated office building. Or your chest tightens at the photocopier. Or you notice you’ve been overwhelming fatigues and foggy since they fumigated your apartment. A nebulous constellation of symptoms grips your body and will not let go. Your doctor can’t find anything wrong, yet your body seems to have run amok. The built environment, so familiar, that pervades your daily life becomes the site of your suffering” (Murphy 2000:87).
The patient at Quan Yin at one point confessed to me: “I can’t work, I can’t do what you do here. If some patient walked in with perfume, I would choke.” Here I was doing something I absolutely love being told that there was no way that she could ever do such a thing. It is not easy to hear those words but it is important to hear them.
It is National Talk Like a Pirate Day! So, do it, take the risk and have a teeny adventure for the day. If someone pisses you off, tell them to talk a walk on a plank, give someone you love a bearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr hug with an extra Large YARRRRRRRRRRRRR, and if you live in San Francisco, go to the wonderful, amazing, truly great 826 Valencia Pirate store which is not only a fantabulous pirate store but primarily a space for tutoring kids for writing. You see, the pirate store is like this “front”, this means for another ends, and well, it is also just plain fun. Why not have a pirate store as well as a tutoring program in the space? Why not think out of the box every once in a while ye matey?
I went there yesterday for the second time and I think it has to be one of my favorite places in San Francisco even after I put my hands in the “guts” drawer which was entirely HORRIBLE smelling. So, that is about the only thing that I would not recommend. But otherwise it is a fantastic little store filled with little fun treasures from pirate stockings, books, lard, whips, maps, bottles, keys, and the list goes on.
But the store is not cool because it is filled with all this cool stuff but because it is precisely not a store, well at least a conventional one. I am not sure how well I can articulate this with three hours of sleep (I was so excited about National Talk Like a Pirate Day that I could not fall asleep. All Right, that is a lie but sometimes pirates just need to fib a bit) but I think the fact that the the store is not really a store but a means for something else and a place for fun, captures what it is about pirates that is so compelling and interesting. I really don’t know much about the history of pirates except what I learned in high school (about Sir Francis Drake taking over the island of Puerto Rico for like three days until all his mateys got sick so they booked out of there) and what I heard about modern day pirates while I lived aboard a ship when I was 18 but let me tell you, I have thought So Much about what the ideas of pirates represents on the seas and otherwise (that is like software pirates). It is almost embarrassing to admit that I spend hours thinking about the concept of piracy but well, you all now know my dirty secret.
You see, the first thing about pirates is that they never are what they seem. There is a perception tagged onto pirates whether it is of the high seas or the supposed software pirate kinds that is based more out fear, misconception, and battles over the meaning, of well BOOTY!!!! You know stuff, and who has the right to access it among many other things. I think one could write like a whole book on what the cultural fear of pirates has to say about the society that is generating the misconceptions and fears but that is like my 4th book
What I love about the pirate store is that just like with the cultural image of the pirate, the store is not what it seems to be. I mean, there is not even a sign and looking at it from the street, onewould have no idea that there is this, well, this treasure. You sort of gotta know from word of mouth which is such a powerful means of communication that this wonderful little and outrageous spot exists and when you discover it, it is like finding a large pot of booty. You feel special which is unusual for a store. It is a front for something else even if the store is still a pretty darn cool thing in its own right. The store and its booty helps to fund writing programs, which are all about unleashing creativity and freedom in kids something, (that is freedom and creativity), that at least in Biella’s Imaginary is something heck, that I do associate with piratery. I mean, at least I associate it with life on a ship where one has this amazing freedom of roaming the planet always open to experience new adventures. Despite the confines of a vessel, there is the openness of the sea that lends itself to a certain form of adventure. The writing program gives access to a certain type of freedom and creativity that I think the pirate concept captures so very nicely. I think it is no accident that there a pirate store was chosen as a front for something else.
Ok, I am going to have to finish this later but believe me there is a lot more to say on this topic.
So for now. I will just have to say Bye me fine readers. I will tell more adventure stories Lateeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Wow, I CANT WAIT till tomorrow, it is a
National talk like a pirate day. How knarly yard and rad, yarrrrr, is that?
More on pirates later, I promise.. My weekend has been all about pirates and booty and adventures!
Finally, finally, I can kiss Saturn’s 28 year cycle goodbye tonight….
What happens when every single dimension of your life (work, personal, research, family) decides to pay you a visit the weekend before your birthday which also happens to be your birthday celebration weekend? I dunno, have fun with it and breathe a lot and drink a lot of caffeine to deal with the lack of sleep. But I think I am really able to deal with all of this craziness because my passport finally arrived in the mail so I now know that I can leave the country at the end of the month!
I am off to the beautiful pacific coast for the night. Hopefully that will have some effect on my psyche. It always does.