sounds

I make noise more or less constantly. It is as though I have an aversion to silence. I sing to myself on the bike or in the shower or at the gym. I click my tongue. I also make sound effects.

I don’t know when I started making sound effects. In learning to write kanji, each type of stroke took on its own noise. Broad, sweeping strokes sounded like the wind. Short marks make a tick: from the middle of my mouth if they are horizontal, from the tip if they are vertical.

A “skin the cat” is a miserable piece of physical manipulation. You hang from something by your hands. you then lift your legs up, piking, and then over your head. You fold your legs to get them under the bar, and then straighten them once you are past. You turn with your legs, until you are upside down and they are parallel to the ground. You lower yourself as far as you can, turning with your shoulders. Finally, you do it all in reverse, landing back on the ground.

As I pushed off from the ground–for I do need to push–I make a noise. It is a noise I did not notice I make until EB pointed it out to me on Monday.

“It’s your lift off noise!” She said as she assisted me in my turning.

Now I make it when I am lifting off to fly.

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Dentist

(I’m actually just posting this because I want sympathy from my friends–not going to lie. I really did send this to the Dean of Tufts Dental though.)

Dear Dean Thomas,

In the winter of 2010, I had partially erupted wisdom teeth that brought me both pain and frankly disgusting infections. Commonwealth Care and Tufts were kind enough to provide me with full anesthesia and a wisdom tooth–and infection free–mouth.

As a kid, my parents made a mistake of telling me that if I took care of my teeth, they wouldn’t fall out. Later, I found my grandfather’s dentures and this connected in my mind to form a life-long deep rooted fear of my teeth falling out. Wisdom tooth extraction was conceptually very traumatic, but the dentist was a lovely woman with very good drugs. I woke up part way through the procedure with this beautiful hallucination that we were in a jungle.

Afterwards, as feeling returned to my face and mouth, my tongue remained numb. Ultimately, the trade off between semi-regular infections and losing the ability to taste in half of my mouth seems fair. I don’t know if I believe in karma, but I do believe in balance.

Somewhere, between cavity filings (what I get for not seeing a dentist for several years while I was locked into that horrible situation of not being able to access health care because I had no access to health insurance. Dental care is usually exempt from a lot of health care initiatives, which is a damned shame because, I believe, good health starts with your mouth), I needed a root canal. This brought about a set of worries, nightmares, and anxiety attacks. I blame my parents for these. Lovely people otherwise.

The root canal itself went fine. That was in February. I got to take lovely naps in the middle of the day. I was told it would be two to four weeks until I would get my permanent crown. It was going to be gold.

This was at the beginning of February.

Today it is July 25th and I still don’t have a crown, gold or even temporary because the temporary ones keep breaking. This root canal been a litany of disasters. The worst part is, I can’t actually blame anyone for it. It’s not the fault of just one person–rather a series of bad things happening to people. Sure, it’s easy to blame the teacher dentists for their cold, removed ways. It’s easy to get mad at students and believe they’re incompetent even when they’re not. Between the anxiety attacks, nightmares, and random crying in the middle of the day, I have even gone as far as to blame you! This is entirely unfair to you, as you have in no way ever been a part of this process.

I apologize if this seems dramatic, but to me it has been. I have had a miserable six months, dealing with a consuming fear that has affected nearly all aspects of my life. I feel like no one at the dental school has taken my fears seriously at any step during this process. I understand reassurance is a liability issue, but I still want it, and have throughout.

I was told that, finally, possibly, hopefully, this mythical crown will arrive at the end of next week and that I’ll get an appointment, but frankly I don’t believe that anymore. I feel like I’ve been really fucked over by Tufts Dental. I’d apologize for my language, but let’s be honest, I could just delete it.

That’s why I’m writing to you. I want someone to acknowledge, and hopefully apologize, for the emotional trauma, difficulties to my work schedule (I have missed so much work for this), and overall inconvenience these experiences have caused me. It would mean a lot to me just to hear back.

Faithfully yours,
M.

Linguistics

Language holds power. When I was a freshman at Pitt, an English professor introduced me to close reading. He coached me through writing my first real university level paper–something I wrongly believed I had done before. I was a cocky kid at seventeen. Professor B still managed to get through my thick shell of my own awesomeness that the minute points of a sentence hold immeasurable power.

Usually I hear people talk about the power of language in a general way: the power to inspire or scare, warm or cool, bring anger and bring happiness. Words and ideas can do these things, but there is a much quieter power in the comma.

Close reading is all about reading closely. It’s as though you’re reading with the book to your nose and can only see so much at a time. Examining the structure and order of sentences, even word choice, and attempting to find meaning within these. New Criticism, a literary theory movement that peaked in the 40s, was all about using a text as a self-contained piece and then breaking it apart–or breaking parts of it apart–what effectively came down to character by character. While New Criticism liked to view a text as autonomous, Professor B loved to draw on anything he could find that could be considered even remotely relevant. Context, context, context. The fact that Bram Stoker is Irish–and a Dubliner!–a monarchist, and a believer in Home Rule, must at least be in our minds when looking at Dracula, even if we’re discussing the sentence when Jonathan Harker stabs the count with a kukri knife. Well, if we’re looking to create meaningful, well developed and informed criticism.

One way the meaning of sentences is affected is the order of clauses. Conjunctions and disjunctions (or disjunctive conjunctions) are one such way to organize clauses. Recently, it was pointed out to me how different the choice of order and connection change the meaning of sentences:

It’s hot and I’m happy
I’m happy and it’s hot.
I’m happy, but it’s hot.
It’s hot, but I’m happy.

My analysis:

“I’m happy and it’s hot” has a connection that can be argued, but it’s easy enough to ignore it. These can be two separate ideas. They can both be good things–and I believe this is implied–but they are not causally related. I am happy. It is hot.

“It’s hot and I’m happy” implies a connection between the two clauses. Because it is hot, I am happy is what this is saying.

“I’m happy, but it’s hot.” This is really want I am trying to get at. Even though I am happy, it is hot [and that negates the former]. Having a positive clause followed by the disjunctive ‘but’ and a negative clause says that the former has less value than the latter, possibly to the point of the former not mattering at all.

The counter to the third example is the fourth: “It’s hot, but I’m happy.” Even though it’s hot, I’m still happy. This is a little assuming (that heat is a bad thing), but inspiring. It can be a bad thing, but I can still be happy. That’s kind of cool.

After thinking about this for a few days, I began to try and be more conscious about how I spoke when using the word “but” in reference to other people.

“I love SGM and EK, but they keep sleeping on the couches, tempting me to return to my own slumber.”

is now

“SGM and EK keep sleeping on the couches, tempting me to return to my own slumber, but I love them.” Anyway can be tacked on or implied. SGM does this thing that bothers me, but it’s okay because I still love her. (SGM and EK do, in fact, sleep on the couches during the hot hot heat. And it does make me want to go back to sleep. Sleep looks so nice.)

I am not always successful. I am trying to do this in order to create a more positive environment for those around me. I don’t want to remove criticism, but I want to separate it from praise. (Similarly to how it is important to criticism companies for bad practices, but cheer them for good ones even within the same company.) I think dropping “but” altogether would be great. “When I see SGM and EK sleeping on the couches, I want to go back to bed because sleep sounds so nice” is a much better sentence, and idea, in and of itself. It doesn’t need much more to justify it.

Paragraph

“Oh, are you a vegetarian?”

“I’m a vegan(paragraph).”

Identification is something we cling to because it is not only useful, but necessary. We default to simple terms to represent complex things. These terms never fully say what we need them to, but they approximate it well enough for basic social interaction.

There are lots of self-identifiers I use or have used: vegan, educator, musician, girl, free culture advocate, crazy, techno-hippie, girlfriend, post modernist, daughter, house mate, Bostonian. These are just a few that have been applied to me in the past 48-hours. The thing is, none of them are really accurate.

I’m not -really- a vegan, I generally eat vegan food more than 90% of the time, but I’m not a vegan. Sometimes I eat eggs. Sometimes I don’t ask. I recently purchased a leather saddle for my bike. I work in education, and I  used to teach, but calling me an “educator” seems like a huge misnomer. I develop education content, and not really even from a pedagogical perspective. I don’t even  live in Boston! I’ve been in the Boston area for two years now, but my drivers license says Massachusetts, and it’s an easier word that “Somerville transplant.”

In order to recognize the lack of truth in many of these terms I, or others, use surrounding the entity I sometimes think of as “M.” I’ve begun to add the classifier “paragraph.”

“Paragraph,” which in turn needs to be explained, is my current way to try and add a footnote to conversations. My mileage for this term varies. This term is not accurate, and I will be happy to go into more detail, but I am using it for now. Paragraph stands for “there is a paragraph actually explaining what I mean.”

 

 

Heat

The summer I moved to Somerville was not that bad. The heat had been worse before, and it’s worse now. The apartment I was living in was hot. The front rooms, where my bed was, had a wall  of windows and it was fine. Comfortable even. The kitchen, the dense kitchen with its stove and oven and water boiler and black roof, became unbearable hours after the sun rose.

Mika and I sat at the table across from one another. We were visibly sweating. I could feel individual beads of water rolling down my neck and back. Over bowls of hot pasta and pesto, we looked at one another silently, and then smiled.

Grounds

There are these guys called No Media Kings. They make stuff. Creative stuff specifically.

I backed a Kickstarter for their film tour of GHOSTS. I did this entirely because they’re releasing their film DRM free. In fact, they do other things than just make GHOSTS. They write books which are also DRM free.

I have both practical and philosophical reasons against DRM. My time with the FSF gave me the opportunity to develop the former and understand the latter.

Philosophical grounds are a good basis for things. Foundation might be a better word. These can be moral, ethical, pick your poison. When your standing against the wind–and the wind shrugs off DRM–it’s nice to have practical arguments. These can be well built on your philosophical foundations.

I have a collection of stories about how DRM has negatively affected people on practical levels: losing content, losing important documents, memories, work. I throw these out to people and sometimes someone grasps on and thinks about it for a while.

Practicality is nice, but sometimes your philosophy is all it takes.

One time going through security, a young TSA guy asked me why I was opting out. He told me I was his first opt-out. He had the official literature about the health risks memorized. He knew about security risks. He was prepared for what he expected to be thrown at him.

“I think it’s wrong,” I told him. “Because I don’t think we should treat each other this way.”

“I never thought about that before,” he told me.

November is hosting some of the people who made GHOSTS as they’re on tour screening it. If you want to join me July 14th to see GHOSTS at MIT, I’d like that. details about the 8pm showing are online.