Monday, December 07, 2015

reach out and touch someone

what a title, huh? you can't say that kid of stuff nowadays, else you're apt to receive a knock on your door and paedophile charges faster than you can follow up with, "but it was from a commercial in the 80s!"

in an age where everybody is offended by something and more vocal about it than the average human being should be, it's more difficult than ever to relate to people. that barbra streisand song people is a historical vestige, a sad reminder of an era when the basic human need for the companionship of other humans wasn't stifled by the made-up differences that cause so much division as of late. nowadays, merely referring to someone is cause for offence, a direct adjective inadvertently making a case for racist, xenophobic, homophobic or transphobic claims. it reminds me of the episode of 30 rock during which liz lemon questions the derogatory-sounding puerto rican way in which salma hayek, playing a puerto rican character, describes herself. "no, i'm pretty sure you can't say that," she says, and it's true, in much the same way calling someone simply 'black' feels a bit wrong to me, as if i'm generalising and therefore negating their actual heritage. my mind races with alternatives; african american? no, we're in the UK. maybe i should just ask them, and clear it up once and for all. nigerian? ok, lovely. 

part of me is enchanted by this surge of more specific ways to identify ourselves. i think it's nice to pay tribute to one's ethnicity, cultural values, etc. unless you're a dick like that rachel dolezal, and choose someone else's values. definitely don't do that.

the other part of me, the one that sees the reality of the situation, a world in which mistaking one's identity can so easily damage the fragile ego that keeps it intact, causing way more conflicts than this world can handle, is like "enough already. one day you will die and this whole fake network of self-identity you've glued together with tears and snot will be the same smelly mass of rotting skin as you. deal."


the other day, something magical happened. something that, as people are wont to say when something fortuitous happens that usually involves someone doing something nice for a sick dog, restored my faith in humanity. we live next to a school, and a teacher who teaches there parks in our driveway. we've become friendly over the past few months, so i wave to her each morning as i'm in the kitchen doing whatever. on friday of last week, she waved back as usual, but a few seconds later i heard a knock at the door. it was her, and she quickly said, "i have to run, but i need a hug. i'm about to go into a really gross situation, and i just need some love." i gave her that hug, and as the degree to which she put her vulnerabilities right out there set in, i started firing cheeky compliments at her, from how her hair looked extra spiky to how great her five inch heels made her ass look. we both knew they were cheap shots, but in that moment, they were more valuable than gold because they were exactly what she needed. 
this tiny act of one human simply asking for the love we all deserve, we are all owed, and my ability to give it to her without consideration, was a clear reminder that this bond between people does still exist. we are people who need people, and for that we are, in fact, the luckiest people.

i took this energy to work with me that day, and wanted to scream it to others. it was a major oprah moment, and i hadn't felt one similar in some time. after reading an article on the persecution of muslims in the US, i emailed the local islamic cenrtre of my hometown and pledged my support, telling them i have faith in the people of that area not to succumb to the recent wave of assholeism that's sweeping the 'states, and my solidarity stands strong with them. (i hope i'm right). i was abuzz with happiness that world maybe isn't as shitty as it appears. i didn't do much else that day, though, because the workday ends at 4 on fridays when the booze cart rolls around, but i still earned a gold star.

anyway, get over yourselves and be nice to each other. 
and listen to more barbra streisand.

Monday, March 23, 2015

thank you, i think.

as i'm just about to finish the bell jar for, probably, the 50th time, a thought occurred to me. sylvia plath has been heralded as a  major figure--she's even been called a martyr--of the feminist movement, and while all the acclaim she's won as part of that movement is both indisputable and well-deserved, i will go even further to say she's a martyr for all writers. i'd say she died a terrible life because she only truly lived when she was producing work, writing to somehow contain her feelings into a place that made them at least somewhat accessible to her. she suffered for her art, and not simply because she was mentally ill, but because we let her suffer. the approach on mental health back then, especially for women, seems medieval compared to today's pragmatic approach. women "in hysterics" were regarded as different people altogether, feared, and ostracised. her methods of treatment were brutal, unresearched, experimental and--as a result--ineffective. that's why i say she died a terrible life, because i feel she died a long time before her suicide in 1963.

so how does that make her a martyr? as a writer, i subscribe to the philosophy that artists are not, as society likes to believe, these great inventors, these almost-supernatural beings vested with abilities well beyond the everyday-you-and-me, but instead vessels to a higher form of creativity, gifted simply with the ability to extract unique, lasting vestiges from the ephemeral comings and goings of everyday life. and yet because what we produce, whether it's a painting, a song, a story, or a sculpture, is thought to be a source of inspiration for the common folk (as they, the general public, tend to categorize themselves in relation to any type of artist), we find ourselves under enormous pressure, simply because we attach our self-worth to whatever we create. this, in turn, puts the validity of our self-worth into the hands of nobody and everybody at the same time. people we know, people we don't know. masses of people that may include a few genuine appreciators of art, but mostly those who choose to pass harsh judgement on something simply because they don't understand it. and a non-artist reading this would say, "but who cares what they say? they don't know their ass from their elbow, so why does their opinion affect you?" and the answer is, it just does. because as artists, we care. as vessels for a higher form of creativity, we get the divine call to create, but we don't get the divine answer on whether or not what we created is any good. and in a world that tries so hard to make subjectivity work, objectivity always prevails, and when you're starving for both food and a good review, the tiniest amount of negativity can inflict a mortal wound on the vulnerable soul of an artist.

sylvia plath cut two very deep, very lasting parallel paths during the course of her career. as a writer, a poet, and a student at cambridge, she did what women "shouldn't" have been doing at that time, considerably fueling the feminist movement. she also did what all artists do, which is to create under pressure, to submit to a life of judgement, for which she suffered greatly, but, unlike today, there was no free clinic, no charity-funded group therapy organisation around to provide the type of psychiatric care she needed. she wasn't even regarded as genuinely needing help on account of her being a woman and thus considered merely 'hysterical,' rather than simply mentally unwell. and whether or not what she wrote was as unique and genius and amazing as critics have said over the years isn't important. what's important is that it exists, each poem a tiny tombstone and each story a mausoleum that form a cemetery, a memorial, a place where writers and any other kind of artist can go to have a moment's silence as the commiserate with one of their own.

happily, her tragic story doesn't pull me into depths of sadness over the despair of the situation, but instead actually pulls me up to street level. the more i read sylvia plaths' stories and poetry, the more i research her life, the more i read her journals, the more i see she was the same as any of us creative people. she came alive when she was writing, and she was sick when she wasn't because she felt she couldn't. and what do i do when i feel i can't write? i turn to writers like sylvia plath. i read their books, their diaries, even overviews of their lives on wikipedia. then i search for their strange habits, foods they loved, foods they hated, what they ate for breakfast and what they drank or didn't drink. i seek the solace of the lives--both celebrated and tragic--of writers i respect with a religious fervour, as if their stories are biblical and the act of thinking about them is akin to praying. and for me, sylvia plath, the martyr, the saint, will always be a golden beacon of hope, a voice that, instead of the preachy, "sermon on the mount" cadence, speaks to me in a loving, gentle way, and says, "we're all in this together." 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

straight outta shoreditch

there are three things that could be said of nikola tesla. the first is that he was a genius, and for reasons so obvious, i don't need to elaborate. the second is that he's hot. i mean look at him. the hair may be a little dated, but in the age of hipster-driven fashion, it would be considered appropriately ironic, and therefore quite in vogue.
which brings us to the third, and by far the most prevalent. he's so east london, it's not even funny. he's giving the shoreditch semi-smile, filtered by instagram's finest vintage look. he could have just walked out of the joiner's arms. he could be sat at that long table in the lobby of the ace, face illuminated by his macbook pro, waiting for some tattooed guy to bring over his flat white from bulldog edition. this photo may have been taken in 1890, but if it were to be posted on someone's facebook profile today, i wouldn't think twice.

and an honorable mention goes to the fact that the man knew his look (or his lewk, apparently) because he kept it until his dying day. now that's a level of consistency we can all appreciate.

Monday, February 09, 2015

dance moms AKA how not to raise your kids

there's nothing i crave more when i visit the states than american TV, and by that i mean trashy reality TV. my past few visits have included dunkin donuts coffee-fueled afternoon marathons of here comes honey boo boo, hoarders, braxton family values and--my favorite, up until yesterday--mob wives. but thanks to my dear friend james and a chrome VPN, we found dance moms on american netflix.

it's everything i love and secretly miss about america: bad highlights, SUV-driving mothers who wear one-shoulder rayon chiffon dresses to pick their children up from dance practice, girls named vivi-anne, and, of course, no shortage of those 32oz. dunkin donuts coffee tumblers.

look up--that's abby lee miller of the abby lee dance company in pittsburgh, PA. she looks like a grown-up pageant girl, doesn't she? a glamour gal gone wrong, several decades later. she's a dance instructor, a raspy-voiced dictator of dance, and owing to the success and fame she's achieved in little old pittsburgh, i'd say rather good at what she does. but enough about abby lee. it may be her show, it may be her dance studio, it may be her name, but what dance moms really is is a three-ring circus of amazing, psychopathological behavior.

i could go on and give examples but i'm only six episodes into the first series, which means i've got a lot of catching up to do. just watch it.

Friday, February 06, 2015


i miss american coffee. not overall, just in this moment. it's friday morning and i slightly overslept, an accidental move that threw me into the abysmal depths of the next sleep cycle, leaving me feeling like i'm drugged up and stuck inside a very tightly insulated shell.

so maybe it's not the actual coffee i miss, but the all the hoo ha and morning drudgery around the consumption of it. the moody girl literally dragging herself into the office, eyes puffed halfway shut, makeup hastily applied, making the lines of demarcation clearly visible. one time you said "good morning!" to her but she shot you a sudden daggers glance that said, "not before my coffee." half an hour later, after she's sufficiently caffeinated with a 32 ounce (909.21ml) coffee that tasted like a yankee candle, she's a completely different person. awake, alert and ready to converse.

you don't really get that in the UK, at least not to the american extreme. and i feel like that girl today, in need of the transformation that turns her from a surgery patient, just awakened from her anaesthetic, to a fully functional human being, capable of answering phones, replying to text messages and tweeting at the same time. 

i'm gonna write on this thing again.

but i'm not going to tell anyone, so if you arrive here, good for you. i have these urges to say something first thing in the morning, and that's why i started this thing to begin with, right? and it is a blog, so if i felt like i was being pretentious by actually expressing these rather declaratory statements, it's ok because that's why blogs were invented. before they took over and kardashianed the world.