Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning was sentences to 35 years in prison.* She seems to be okay with this. I am okay with this.

I am using the term okay loosely. Am I actually okay with -anyone- going to jail for 35 years? Not really. However, it is the best I could have hoped for for Chelsea under the current government. She is not going to jail for the rest of her life.

Chelsea is about six months younger than me. When she leaves prison she’ll be 61 years old. Sixty-one seems impossibly far off when I think about it. I cannot even conceive of where I will be in my life the day she leaves prison. However, I will only be sixty-one. At sixty-three my mother runs a business with my father. She goes for walks every day with her dog. She goes hiking and kayaking. Camping. She has friends and works on neat craft projects. She gardens, and is looking into getting chickens.

Chelsea will miss a lot of the experiences I hope to have. I don’t know where she’ll be, what she wants, and what opportunities will be in front of her when she’s released. What I do know is that isolation is hard, being held captive is hard, and waiting is hard.

What we–people, people who care about people–need to do is not just think of her now, as she is being sentenced and in the news, but to think of her in five years, ten years, fifteen years. We need to think about the woman who will emerge in 35 years and ask ourselves what she will need to be strong and powerful, full of agency and potential.

I don’t really know what I can do. I am going to start with sending her mail. She says she’s gotten a lot of it, and doesn’t respond to all of them, so I won’t be disheartened if I don’t hear back. I hope I will keep sending her mail. I hope I will do this for as long as she is in prison, because she isn’t just going to need support now; she’s going to need it every day for the rest of her life.

Bradley E. Manning
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304

*This link is not used for the general article content, but for the confirmation of time and name.


I am terrified. As such, I keep as much of myself in contact with the scaffolding as long as possible.

“Help me hold this,” she says.

Nervously, I lift one hand off the railing, grab the overhead support bar, and then use my other hand to help her.

I lean over the side of the scaffolding. I still can’t reach the light I want. I push myself up on my toes, one foot goes off the board I stand on. It creaks. I manage to just slip the wrench around the bolt.


Am I an artist?

I had some writers around me growing up. In my mind, to me, a writer was someone who wrote. Who got paid for writing. A professional. In general, this is how I used labels. I played music, quite a bit, but I wasn’t a musician because I was not professionally (or semi-professionally) one. I get a little annoyed when people declare themselves poets or writers or artists or musicians. Do you perform? I want to ask them. Is your work published somewhere? Where can I read it? An unreasonable response at best, as by and large we need to accept self-definition.

When someone declares themselves a runner, there is no question to it. They run. Cyclists and bikers are also only definable by the self, especially in cases where a person prefers one term over the other.

I won an art grant and for the night of the reception, I was an artist. Everyone told me I was an artist. Everyone called me an artist. When I recently saw a “Call for Pittsburgh Artists,” I wondered what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Artist, and then I wondered what it meant to be an artist. I have little room to try and claim myself as belonging to Pittsburgh (the adjectival form of the nominal). Pittsburgh, I sometimes think, belongs to me. A special part of it. I no longer live there and have lost my right to claim Yinzer just as I have lost my right to Philadelphian–especially as I claim myself a Somerville resident. I belong to Somerville.

Am I an artist? I ask myself this sometimes. I find the label stumbling out, it being the easiest thing to grab. I paint. I sculpt. I grow plants. I do all of these things and have reasons and commentary behind them. I am trying to capture what it feels like to breathe, I say. These are the colors of my existential crisis, I explain. This is what you look like to me, I said to someone, showing them a field of blue and green, rubbed into canvas until the sides of my thumbs were blistered. I just, I want to drink paint and scream until I cough. I need to see what my screaming looks like. I now have a piece of fabric, stained brown and green and so painfully lacking the red I wanted. Don’t you ever just want to cover yourself in paint, in oil and dust, so you can scrape it off? And then you ask someone to take pictures.


Nine is my Doctor.

People who are Doctor Who fans have a favorite Doctor. I actually feel a bit like a failed fan because Nine is my favorite. Baker (4) and Davidson (5) are quite popular among my friends–those significanty more dedicated to the series and self-described Whovians. There is a lot of love on the internet for the dashing Ten(nant), with his tardis blue chucks and jacket and tie. Nine is serious and stripped down. His costume was rather uniconic, compared to Four’s scarf, Five’s celery, or Seven’s red and whites. He stays away from slapstick. There is a humor to him–he was still the Doctor–but it is different.

There are three parts to the characterization of the Doctor: the actor, the companion, and the executive producer. The writer of a given episode has some say in it. In modern Who, I point to Moffat’s episodes during Davies run as producer: he paints a very particular kind of doctor. Chibnall has his own style of story, and his own focus.

Smith (11) was cast in 2010 and the first shots of him filled me with trepidation. In 2008, Twilight was released. In 2010 with had Eclipse. There was a particular aesthetic that Smith fit into: pale, messy hair, brooding. Moffat, the new producer, makes a lot of decisions I don’t agree with and generally I don’t like how he portrays the Doctor. I was worried. But then on set we saw a pink-shirted, bow-tied madman with a box.

Overall, I haven’t been a fan of Eleven’s run. Lots of reasons I’ll happily rattle off to you. I love talking about the show, pulling apart the characters and plot lines to examine what is good, what is bad, and why they are these ways.

Having decided to go and watch the rest of Elven, in a mixture of loneliness, distraction, and longing for my lost England, I nearly gave up midway through series six. I sat down and talked with G about it and he reminded me of something I’d nearly forgotten: the Doctor has twelve lives. He is now a man knowing he will die, and he will not overcome.

Now as I watch the show, I see a man staring at his own mortality. Something he’s evaded for over a thousand years. Suddenly, it’s a different show. Suddenly, I like it again. I sympathize and I understand and while Eleven is not my Doctor, he is still the Doctor. A man I have followed my entire life, who is going to soon lose his.