A Hurricane of Textuality

I guess I have some super-secret MezzoSherri playbook, where the private definition of “I’m going to post a couple times a week” means, instead:

I’m going to take two weeks off where I don’t write a damn thing at all.

I guess radio silence is sometimes unavoidable.

In part, this has been the result of living in a fortnight-long perfect storm. The last 16 days have brought me the following waves, in sequential yet overlapping order: deadlines, travel, more deadlines, illness, more travel. (Whee!!!)

Take a system already on the low slope of one’s personal energy curve and put her through that precise sequence of events and you pretty much have a textbook case of “something’s gotta give.”

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Expanding My Horizons

My decision to keep the Comics class out of the rest of my Coursera options isn’t just about the pop culture/high culture divide. It’s also a class where I have a very particular learning goal in mind. I’ve read comics and graphic novels intermittently throughout my life, but I am very aware of the ways that my reading has always been focused more on language, plot, and characterization — the things I’m good at and was trained for in grad school. This approach has always given immense short shrift to the visual content of comix.*

So by taking this class, and by choosing this particular class as the one to stay with, I’m hoping very precisely to strengthen my understanding of the visual elements of comix, and how to read them as visual documents.

Now, there’s no stakes, really, if you take a MOOC course and do it only halfway — watch only part of the lectures, or watch all the lectures while skipping the assignments. But I’m enough a believer in active learning that I usually try to do all the lectures and “homework” in the MOOC courses I take. This is part of why I try to be thoughtful about not overloading my schedule.

What I hadn’t counted on with this class is one of the main homework assignments: drawing your own mini-comic book!

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Lowering the Brow

Way back when — I mean, way back when I was right out of college and still in the musicology Ph.D. program I attended, before jumping ship to literature & culture, which was before jumping ship en toto — a few of my school friends and I took a road trip up from Philly to see a performance at the Met.

Enough years have passed that I can’t tell you which opera. It was definitely something 20th century and modern/post-modern, knowing the operatic tastes of the group members (myself most emphatically included in the tally of that preference). Strangely enough is how one of the clearest memories I have from that trip (aside from impressing the gang with my ability to surgically insert my Honda into the flow Lincoln Tunnel traffic) was something that happened at dinner before the show.

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A Walking Pace

Clearly, I took a little blogcation over the weekend. I wish I could say it was because Mr. Mezzo and I were having a romantic getaway weekend (though we have one of those scheduled for October), or even because I was at one of my hard-working spiritual retreat weekends (though I have one of those scheduled for October, too).

The truth is just much much more mundane: I simply couldn’t get my head in the game.

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Posted in Blogging Challenges, Memoir, Meta-Blogging, The Voices in My Head | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Breadcrumbs 3

There’s no one specific topic that I’m burning to write about tonight, so I’m re-instating something I did a couple times back during the HCG journey: stringing a series of random thoughts/vignettes together in a bricolage sort of post.

It’s a way to get some of the hamsters out of my brain, and at least ensures that I will get a post up here on JALC after skipping last night. (The pace of Wednesday night choir rehearsals finally caught up with me.)

Below the jump: more pumpkin spice, the endurance part of “endurance performance art,” and the futility of boob-plate armor.


It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Mother-Fuckers

gourd_mug_mockup_front-2My Facebook and WordPress feeds have shown me all the ways that the annual pumpkin spice festival is in the zeitgeist, as it were. Perhaps funniest was this essay from McSweeney’s (originally printed in 2010) in the form of a letter expressing the sense of loss and betrayal at pumpkin spice’s previous cycles of betrayal and abandonment. It plays a little bit too strongly into old cliches around “You left me! I hate you! Please take me back!” — at least for my comfort level. Nonetheless, the level of passion and the artfulness of the conceit (including notes of a rebound fling with peppermint in December): all this passion and spleen for pumpkin spice, ye gods, just makes me giggle.

There’s another McSweeney’s essay from 2009 — whose title I have shamelessly cribbed here — but I found the tone to be too mean-spirited for me to enjoy. Nonetheless, the title is worth enjoying for its own brilliance, and can even be purchased in mug form for your next autumnal cuppa cuppa.


Carry that Weight a Long Time

This article from art-blog HyperAllergic includes pieces of an interview with Emma Sulkowicz, a bit more than two weeks into her performance of Carry that Weight/Mattress Performance. The article contains one factoid that I very much appreciate:

“I’ve only had to do one walk entirely by myself, and that was because there were reporters swarming me and no one was willing to break through the flock.”

It comes back to something my friend Alice said in her comment on my main post about this piece (and the Carry the Weight Together solidarity movement that has been organized in response to Sulkowicz’s piece):

I suspect the most powerful impact will emerge, as it usually does, not in administrative reaction to large rallies but in conversations and allyships forged by small groups of people, finding each other over shared space of common cause.

Now, Gaia forgive my naive heart, I do still fervently believe that policies and legal precedents matter tremendously. (Did you see me back when the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision came down? Here’s a recap: initial outrage, growing anger, full-blown rage, never again, and a ray of solidarity. So suffice to say: I’m emotionally invested in big-policy.) But I also kinda think that the only way big policy change ever really sticks is when there’s a groundswell within the population that things must change and evolve — and that kind of groundswell is absolutely rooted in those small conversations and perspective-shifts. In that kind of yes/and space (or “having my cake and eating it too?”), I am pleased to see how Sulkowicz is receiving support from both formal and informal networks.*

But the other part that hit me more with this article than with earlier coverage is the endurance part of this “endurance performance art piece.” The article name checks some other practitioners of this genre — which I’ll admit I haven’t looked up yet — and has made me more aware of the particular kind of energy and discipline that is needed to sustain this piece.

Yeah, in all of the coverage from day one, the possibility has been voiced that Sulkowicz’s rapist may remain on campus without problem and that she would then be carrying this mattress until her graduation day. But something in reading this new article really settled into my body the sense of how likely that possibility is, considering Columbia’s less-than-stellar record on these issues. Sulkowicz could very well be carrying this physical weight, this talisman of trauma, until next June.

Talk about the kind of courage that’s demonstrated moment by moment and step by step.


Death-Trap Boob-Armor

As a more whimsical follow-up to my snark about the plate-mail bikinis worn by so many of the Disneyfied princess-warriors I featured about a month ago, here’s an article from Tor that uses science (Science!) to show what a bad idea boob-shaped armor would be:

Let’s begin by stating the simple purpose of plate armor—to deflect blows from weaponry. Assuming that you are avoiding the blow of a sword, your armor should be designed so that the blade glances off your body, away from your chest. If your armor is breast-shaped, you are in fact increasing the likelihood that a blade blow will slide inward, toward the center of your chest, the very place you are trying to keep safe.

But that’s not all! Let’s say you even fall onto your boob-conscious armor. The divet separating each breast will dig into your chest, doing you injury. It might even break your breastbone. With a strong enough blow to the chest, it could fracture your sternum entirely, destroying your heart and lungs, instantly killing you. It is literally a death trap—you are wearing armor that acts as a perpetual spear directed at some of your most vulnerable body parts. It’s just not smart.

Consider this a sliding-towards-Hallowe’en public service announcement: boob-shaped-armor will get you killed.

* Though not the TV networks. C’mon oppressive reporter-flock — could at least one member among you have been awake enough to let the helper-bees through? Or were you actively cordoning Sulkowicz off in order to get a better shot?


Image credit: http://store.mcsweeneys.net/products/its-decorative-gourd-season-motherfucker-mug

Posted in Flagrantly Feminist, Gratitudes and Thank Yous, Meta-Blogging, Pop Goes the Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Acts of Courage

And, as with other news stories in past weeks and months, I am returning to Emma Watson’s address at the UN on Saturday for another piece of discussion, through another lens of analysis.

I know that during the time I am returning again and again to this particular well, that there are many other stories I am leaving untold — it is that fact which sometimes leads me to have such vivid fantasies of winning the mega-millions and writing all the livelong day. Nevertheless, I find for myself that there is a value in looking deeply at one event from multiple lenses, rather than always popcorning to report on event after event according to the formula so brilliantly summed up by Kate Harding, back when she shuttered up Shapely Prose:

By last spring, I became increasingly aware that I was doing a lot of “Stock Intro A + Stock Feminism/Fat Acceptance Points B and C + Free-Form Outrage Interlude + Stock Conclusion D = done for the day,” and that is really not the kind of writing I want to be doing.

Rather than throwing myself over too strongly into “wind-up doll of feminist outrage mode,” I believe that by looking deeply at the multiple facets of one thing, I am sometimes better able to point to all the unconscious workings and cultural patternings that so interest me about the world and the patriarchy.

(And by “so interest me,” I mean “that I hope to name clearly in the vain hope that speaking the name of the Thing forces it to magically self-destruct like in the fairy tales.“)

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A Momentary Regression

Last night I was still working to finish my first Emma Watson post (and mentally beginning to compose my second for typing and pre-scheduling), when Mr. Mezzo told me he was about to head off to bed. And I remembered: I still needed to take my laundry out of the washer and hang it out to dry.

That task had occurred to me at least two or three times earlier in the evening. I think once before dinner, and definitely right before sitting down to write, and then again in the midst when I was walking to the kitchen to refill my water glass. During the last of those three moments, I even calculated to myself how I was probably about 10 minutes from concluding my post, so I could knock that out and then turn my attention to laundry before writing post #2.

But then gathering and writing my concluding thoughts became a longer and trickier process than I’d expected, and Mr. Mezzo’s schedule update summoned up this incredible sense of (internally-generated) pressure about how I needed to quickly shift attention and get the laundry hung out ASAP so’s not to disturb his chances of falling asleep. (The drying racks live in our bedroom, you see. Usually that’s a very good thing — but all good things have their down sides.)

That pressure, cascading on top of the frustrations over another wasted weekend, the awareness of how much more writing there was left to do, and the general dread over going back into a work environment that’s been kinda ugly for the last couple of weeks. All of it hit me like a ton of bricks. And then I said it.

I hate my life.

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Posted in Gratitudes and Thank Yous, Life-Long Learning, Memoir, Self-Acceptance, The Pressure to Fix Myself, The Subtle Body, The Voices in My Head | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment