Friday, February 29, 2008

We Feel Fine

Check out We Feel Fine:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.).


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Be Kind + Muppet Babies

I was trying to think of a cutesy way to say how much I liked Michel Gondry's New film Be Kind Rewind, but I have to just start by saying I just plain enjoyed it. The movie was funny, it had heart, it made you feel sentimental without feeling overly cheesy. The feeling I got from watching it was similar to watching films as a kid. The whimsical nature of the film hooked you in, said don't take things so seriously and entertained and moved you all at once.

My friends and I all joked, half seriously, about going home, grabbing a camera and making our own "sweded" films. Therein lies the genius. As Gondry stated about the exhibit at Dietch Projects (which allows people to create their own films and have them displayed in the exhibition) “I intend to prove that people can enjoy their time without being part of the commercial system and serving it. Ultimately, I am hoping to create a network of creativity and communication that is guaranteed to be free and independent from any commercial institution.”

It reminded me a lot of watching Muppet Babies as a child. Something in the fact that it stimulated our imaginations and encouraged us to find inventive ways of playing. We'd watch the Star Wars episode and suddenly we'd be using the couch pillows as the starboard of our space ship and with pots on our heads we'd launch our own exploration into the great imaginary unknown.

Big ups to everyone out there grabbing their cameras and playing like they're five again.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Are You Normal?

Last night I found myself engaged in a discussion about normalcy in regards homosexuality, but it ended up spreading into the larger idea of normalcy itself. Normal is by definition confining to social norms; living up to social expectations set by the society in which we lived. (A redundant statement but one which I found myself repeating) It might have been normal in the 1500 or 1600's to wear tights and a large brimmed hat but would not be considered by today's standards unacceptable. It might be normal during the Roman era to partake of homosexual relationships with young boys, but again would be condemned by today. This is not a praise of one set of standards over the other or not saying that the world should exist without morals. Just that viewing one thing as normal and another thing as abnormal can plunge us into a different sort of immorality. Especially when morality, in and of itself, is such an arguable thing.

To bring it back to more modern ideas, normalcy still exist in America in nuclear families, while the western civilization is changing to include a large variety of mixed familial types not bound by blood. Normalcy still dictates that women over a certain age should be married. I'm just getting started and am not quite ready to go into full rant mode, but once we begin to examine our lives we realize the ways in which we might all fall outside of normalcy's radar. I think of my own current affairs, which have not subsided to "normal" coupledom, but which have, at least for the time being, tried to find a way to work beyond the current ideology of the status quo relationship. It may not work but at least we pushed the envelop. And this is only looking at one way of thinking. I feel that once we begin to entrench ourselves in the idea of normalcy we lose the motivation to find and/or try something new.

Let the fundamentalist hold fast to their views of normalcy. the saying goes, "I am human and therefore nothing is foreign to me."

it might be a better argument were it not four am, but I'm sure you get the idea.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Praise of Melancholy

I came across this article as sort of happenstance, reading about the dumbing down of America. Eric Wilson's name was briefly mentioned and I had the urge to find out more about his beliefs regarding false happiness--as I wondered about my own pervasive happiness, which seemed in some ways a denial or rather a disregard and pushing away of the sadness which sometimes affected me. Not to say that I should suddenly be plunged into melancholy, just that I, in my nature, am particularly found of questioning certain states of being. I felt that it was an on going conversations that I've had with friends in regards to so completely immersing oneself into one thing so that it became a religion of sorts. The cult of shiny happy people...which I so deeply embraced. That being said, I am not necessarily in complete agreement with everything thats said in his article, but I do find that there is a certain degree of artistic creativity that suffers from a denial of melancholy, pushing it to the corners of the soul. Not allowing it to travel through oneself to the page. There is a repression that I find, from time to time, myself embracing. Just as a matter to think about:
Why are most Americans so utterly willing to have an essential part of their hearts sliced away and discarded like so much waste? What are we to make of this American obsession with happiness, an obsession that could well lead to a sudden extinction of the creative impulse, that could result in an extermination as horrible as those foreshadowed by global warming and environmental crisis and nuclear proliferation? What drives this rage for complacency, this desperate contentment?
I for one am afraid that American culture's overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am concerned that to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful of our society's efforts to expunge melancholia. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?

My fears grow out of my suspicion that the predominant form of American happiness breeds blandness. This kind of happiness appears to disregard the value of sadness. This brand of supposed joy, moreover, seems to foster an ignorance of life's enduring and vital polarity between agony and ecstasy, dejection and ebullience. Trying to forget sadness and its integral place in the great rhythm of the cosmos, this sort of happiness insinuates that the blues are an aberrant state that should be cursed as weakness of will or removed with the help of a little pink pill.

I'm not questioning joy in general. For instance, I'm not challenging that unbearable exuberance that suddenly emerges from long suffering. I'm not troubled by that hard-earned tranquillity that comes from long meditation on the world's sorrows. I'm not criticizing that slow-burning bliss that issues from a life spent helping those who hurt. And I'm not romanticizing clinical depression. I realize that there are many lost souls out there who require medication to keep from killing themselves or harming their friends and families. I'm not questioning pharmaceutical therapies for the seriously depressed or simply to make existence bearable for so many with biochemical disorders.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Poem Of Friendship: Nikki Giovanni

We are not lovers
because of the love
we make
but the love
we have

We are not friends
because of the laughs
we spend
but the tears
we save

I don't want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
to speak

I will never miss you
because of what we do
but what we are together.

(Happy Valentines Day Everyone Everywhere-
over and out



...I am posting love letters.

Heck its valentines day and I have a vagina.

So enjoy.


Rainer Maria Rilke on Love

To love is good, too: love being difficult.
For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it.
With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered close about their lonely, timid, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love.
But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and so loving, for a long while ahead and far on into life, is--solitude, intensified and deepened loneness for him who loves.
Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over, and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate--?), it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself for another's sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things.

Love Letters: Robert Browning to Elizabeth Browning

You will only expect a few words, what will those be?

When the heart is full it may run over, but the real fullness stays within.

You asked me yesterday "if I should repent?"

Yes, my own Ba, I could with all the past were to do over again, that in it I might somewhat more, never so little more, conform in the outward homage, to the inward feeling, What I have professed, (for I have performed nothing) seems to fall short of what my first love required even, and when I think of this moment's love...I could repent, as I say.

Words can never tell you, however, form them, transform them anyway, how perfectly dear you are to me, perfectly dear to my heart and soul.

I look back, and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence, you have been entirely perfect to me, I would not change one word, one look.

My hope and aim are to preserve this love, not to fall from it, for which I trust to God who procured it for me, and doubtless can preserve it.

Enough now, my dearest, dearest, own Ba!

You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another.
I am all gratitude, and all pride (under the proper feeling which ascribes pride to the right source) all pride that my life has been so crowned by you.

God bless you prays your very own R.


Love Letters: Napoleon to Josephine

I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil.
Sweet incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart!
Are you angry?
Do I see you looking sad? Are you worried? ...
My soul aches with sorrow, and there can be no rest for your lover; but is there still more in store for me when, yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire? Ah! it was last night that I fully realized how false an image of you your portrait gives!
You are leaving at noon; I shall see you in three hours.
Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.



Love Letters: Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer (Excerpt)

Fräulein Felice!

I am now going to ask you a favor which sounds quite crazy, and which I should regard as such, were I the one to receive the letter. It is also the very greatest test that even the kindest person could be put to. Well, this is it:

Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday—for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you?...


Love Thy Enemy

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.”
(via Zen Habits)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Loving Day: Dr. Phil Style.

Valentines is quickly approaching.

My friend asked this past weekend about my best valentines and nothing immediately came to mind. It wasn't because nothing good had happened, over the past few years my ex and I would usually celebrate with a card or candy, sometimes with dinner but we usually kept it relatively simple (with the exception of our first valentines, which was sweet and fun; punctuated by a horribly bad dinner at serendipity and the best of intentions). I think a few times there might have been flowers.

I was raised in such a way that I always viewed romantic love as such a small part of the holiday. Not that it lacked importance but it was equal in proportion to the weight of familial love and platonic love. The first thing that came to mind when he asked the question, were my younger years when my grandmother (and later my mother) would buy small boxes of chocolates and cards for my brother and I. Little love notes and tokens of their affection. Miniature snoopy dolls. Flowers. The mini-cards that we'd exchange at school to our friends in elementary. The carnations and cards I gave to my friends in high school. I miss those.

I miss my grandmother's most of all.

When we focus so much energy on one thing we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Movie Night: Underdogs and Mafioso.

Eastern Promises- I can't quite put my finger on why I liked this movie. At times it was slow and not much happened, but the fight scenes were definitely brutal (the russian bath scene definitely lives up to the hype) and the end was rewarding. I highly recommend.

Rocket Science- I wanted to enjoy the movie and I think I even enjoyed the movie for the first half hour. The Wonder Years/Winnie the Pooh-esque voice over. The smarter and more clever than humanly possible debate student; rooting for the awkward stuttering lead character with a backpack full of notebooks (which we rarely see him utilize, except to drag it around). In the end, the movie just wasn't rewarding enough. All of the adults seemed kookie and a bit oversexed. All the young people were weird enough to have rolls in Napolean Dynamite, which I personally didn't think was that much of a film in the first place. While I appreciated the point of the movie, which didn't give lead character Hal Hefner the miracle, overcoming the odds transformation that a lot of Hollywood movies might have, I still felt set up for disappointment every time he competed (and lost) a debate tournament. But in case you felt you didn't catch the lesson, Ginny hits you over the head with it near the end, stopping mid-debate to tell Hal how she improved the quality of his life by making him more of a fighter.

Mr. Brooks- Don't. Even. Get. Me. Started.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Internet has Murdered My Already Fleeting Attention Span

Last night I stopped to write my friend a letter, on the train ride home I'd been composing it in my head, working out all the nuances and thinking of the perfect turn of phrase. Its one of the things I find fun and exciting.

Once home though I turned on the computer and it all fell apart.

During the course of writing my letter I stopped numerous times to check tumblr, flickr, facebook, twitter and god knows what else; despite that nothing had conceivably changed I stopped again to check it a second or even a third time. I stopped to write a shorter email to someone else. Even during the course of writing this post I stopped and clicked on the headers in my tabs section, which seemed to have no apparent purpose except to give myself a mental break.

The last few times I've picked up a book I've found the task of focusing on each page equally as difficult. On average, in a book that I find quite enjoyable I get through about a page and a half before my mind starts to wonder. Hopefully I start writing micro fiction because I can barely get through what I'm writing lately, averaging about five or six hand written sentences before I stop to do something else. This blog post began yesterday, was written partly this morning and will hopefully be completed now, this afternoon.

I've always had a bit of difficulty focusing on things over a long period of time, most of all on movies, least of all on books. But it seems over the past couple of months as my dedication to various sites has increased, my attention span has completely decreased. My productivity on the job has become a problem when every two to five minutes I feel like I need to check my email or see if I've missed a twitter. I'm always online and I'm always available but it feels like I'm getting less and less done. Apparently a BBC article reports that I am not the only goldfish in this internet ADD pond:
If you are spending too much time on the internet and are concerned that it is affecting your concentration, you are not alone.

The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds - the same as a goldfish.

"Our attention span gets affected by the way we do things," says Ted Selker, an expert in the online equivalent of body language at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

"If we spend our time flitting from one thing to another on the web, we can get into a habit of not concentrating," he told the BBC programme Go Digital.

Great, first it was commercials breaks now its the internet.

I feel like I should join a IA support group.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Nuyorican Poetry Slam Finals

The Nuyorican Poetry Cafe is always a good time and a requisite for anyone living in New York City. Its the place where a lot of the best and the brightest of the city have started their careers and its been a dream of mine forever to read on their stage (it will happen eventually).

I'd love to offer a detailed account of which poets performed and the nature of the poems as well as my opinion on each of them, but I was much to busy enjoying myself, and listening to the message and the words, to focus on pulling out my notebook on the smaller than small tables and trying to scribble while they were introduced.

The guest poet was Amanda Diva of MTV2, Def Poetry and Sirius Radio Fame. I'm hoping that my homeboy jumps on putting his vids of her from the show somewhere online, giving me the opportunity to link in and show instead of tell. (Usually I would take this opportunity to give my opinion on her weakness and strengths, but I'm still tired after a long night. I will say she was dope, in spite of whatever qualities might have eluded her).

She also encouraged everyone to check out her blog.

One of my other favorite poems of the night came from Chad Anderson. Find it on his myspace page titled splitsville (yes us girls were all suckers for his brand of breaking up).

I didn't catch the last name of Adam from Bushwick, the guy I was personally rooting for but if I figure it out I'll amend this post with links to his stuff as well.

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Adventures in Sobriety Part Trois: Temptation and Dancing With My-se-elf*

And lead us not into temptation...

In clubs and at parties, not having a drink is not particularly a problem, but throw in a rainy friday and the type of bars where the only thing to do is have a reasonably priced drink and there you have a recipe for temptation. Small quiet bars certainly offer more reasons to suck from the sweet nectar of jack daniels. I was alternately slightly repelled by the liquory sweet smell and drawn to partake of its goodness. Not to mention that week one didn't provide as much challenge as week two, when the craving to involve myself in some sort of debauchery finally started to overwhelm me. Plus it always strikes me that NYC was almost designed with the drinker in mind, there is hardly a place you can go that doesn't at least offer wine and 90% of all the people I know are in a constant state of partaking.

* * *

The dancing part took place at a small dance. club that a few of my friends and I occasionally frequent. The last few times I went out was with a group of girls, which was sort of different being that usually in their various stages of drinking, from beginning to end they're usually still a little ready to dance. Where as the fellas were a little more willing to post up on the wall and gawk at the fly girls on the floor (and they were fly). The problem was that I suddenly became aware of myself when it seemed that I was dancing alone in the corner of the room, standing next to girls who looked like they had just stepped out of magazines. Usually this sense of self doesn't strike me in a club setting, if it strikes me at all, but last night was a little different without anything else to focus on (besides my sober bust a move) I turned inward. I did eventually venture out onto the large part of the dance floor, but it was so hot and crowded that there was barely room to move amidst the wriggling bodies leaving me after a few songs slightly uncomfortable (especially with random guys pawing me) and drenched with sweat.

It reminded me of a passage I recently read in Alain de Botton's On Love in the chapter titled "Mind over Body" about the corrolation between thinking in clubs and during sex:
If the mind has traditionally been condemned, it is for its refusal to surrender control to causes supposedly beyond analysis; the philosopher in the bedroom is as ludicrous a figure as the philosopher in the nightclub. In both cases, the body is predominant and vulnerable, so the mind becomes an instrument of silent uninvolved judgment.
I did in retrospect attribute this to the battle of the sexes (hanging with guys vs. girls) but I think that it was just having people around who were occasionally willing to indulge you and join in OR having a place that was sensible for solo sober dancing i.e. somewhere that your nuts didn't start sweating the second you entered the room. I say this because my first crew was comprised almost entirely of persons of the male variety and while I usually preferred for them to indulge me a bit (there was one guy who was always and is still always down to shake his grove thing); I was also okay with the singular dancing. Maybe also I should consider the order in which it happened, it usually tended to be that we ALL started dancing together and then they got tired and left me to my own devices, by which time I was usually so comfortable it didn't matter that I was dancing alone.
Plus I hate to attribute too much of my enjoyment on others which (it seems unfair and lacks personal accountability), though I do believe sans drink I'm much more likely to feed off other people's energy.

Whatever the case, I did have fun while it lasted even if I felt slightly removed from the scene.

*My favorite song to grove it alone to.