<<<<<<<<<<<<<< written yesterday (though edited today to some degree)
I decided earlier today to walk from Capitol Hill to University District – a three-and-a-half-mile escapade I have done a few times before, though never on the particular route I took today and never when I actually lived here. Peter spent the previous weekend in Portland, so I hitched a ride back up to Seattle with him on Super Bowl Sunday. It amuses me immensely that Super Bowl now creeps up so suddenly; I find out about its existence a few days before, and it always comes as a complete shock. Not that I was ever extremely gung-ho about it, but I can appreciate most sports – baseball being the only real exception – and do find it interesting to miss out on such a huge part of American culture now, when I had at least some sense of it before (that sense shaped as person who was throwing a Super Bowl party or even more than a handful of people attending a Super Bowl party). Now, I don’t even have a party to attend even if I wanted to (and I would rather want to) unless I went up to Seattle and asked my Seattle friends if they knew of one I could attend, I guess! Perhaps even more interesting than that, though, may be going to a bar and watching it, given the recent hobby of visiting the most random bars ever and the fact that I’ve never done that before but nacho-eating huddled around a television is probably more or less the same no matter where you are or who you’re with…
As I was saying, I walked to U-District and was certainly more or less over the walk by the time I got there. It was nice to retrace my steps to my old workplace at the Experimental Education Unit, though; over the course of one summer I walked to and from work daily and lost an exorbitant amount of weight doing so. I would be so sweaty by the time I got to work that it was the kind of sweat that soaked through parts of your shirt you didn’t want it to soak through.
Losing weight is no longer such an easy feat, even if I do walk for miles at a time. I know this because I do that. I am curious what the difference is; is it really as simple as metabolism and growing older? It may also be the fact that I eat way more now… pretty sure that is a truth. It’s a mystery.
I walked through the University of Washington campus to the University District post office, making a couple of pit stops along the way. The first was stopping near the fountain by the Architecture building. The last time I was in Seattle, Troy and I happened to be in the Suzzalo Library – a true beauty, with one hell of an amazing reading room I had never taken the liberty of using when I went to school there – when I ran into Tammy and we came across a series of posters describing a Cultural Fair they used to have on campus. The heart of it was around the Architecture building, and it looked fucking incredible. While doing research to find photos of this, I also just came across this awesome blog of University of Washington’s historical photos. This article tells more about it as well (written in 2009, it celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the event). Am I getting school-sick? Seattle-sick? It seems that I am, big time, and I guess it’s pretty appropriately timed considering some things I will mention later on in this post.
Back to where I was. Walking through the UW campus, there was just one lovely stone bench that wanted so badly to be sat upon, the sun just slightly having been introduced to a corner of it. I granted it my ass! And faced slightly east and sat cross-legged upon it, welcoming in the morning sun with eyes closed, long my favorite way to meditate. Something about the rays upon your eyelids and turning everything an equalizing red, while highlighting patterns of eye dust, really just feels cathartic and radiant. (I also vaguely remember someone telling me once that looking into the sun in that way gets rid of some cells you no longer need and ultimately makes your eyesight or something better. Who told me that, and is it true? Who knows.)
I distinctly remember one meditation session in the backyard of the 716 house in Greenlake when I still lived there. It dawns upon me now that I may not even have purposely been meditating, as I’m not sure it was a practice I did then; it was just an appealing thing to do. I remember opening my eyes for the first time after an extended session adoring the sun in that way, and the world was not the world as I had seen it before; it was tinted blue, or green, but all things were visualized as they were in comparison to the sun’s strength and color. This tinting gradually subsided, but it was powerful to me then, a type of inducement of hallucinogenic states through doing nearly nothing at all. Today, meditating in front of the fountain, I expected difficulty; I expected that those passing by would distract me, that I would get lost in their footsteps and chattering and not be able to focus, similar to what had happened to me the other night with the Shamanic Mysteries. For the most part, though, I meditated for perhaps twenty minutes and many passed by, but none were chattering, save for a man who burped right towards the end of my session. And because I was out in the open, for all to see, I figured that some were looking at me while passing and wondering what I was doing, while others were perhaps not at all curious. As distracting as those iterations on human reaction could have been, they were a minor aside, small notes considering what I was actually thinking. The meditation thoughts were more worthy, rising to the top while the other portions sank down. I was proud to have been influenced so little by the thoughts of them, more interested by the thoughts of them inside me. It was a self-back-patting moment, the non-barrier to meditative entry always a graceful and satisfying moment.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<< written today
I have been reading much of Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Capricorn, and quite pleased to say that after putting it down for months I am now nearing the end of it (note: my copy does not nearly look this awesome). This book was purchased by he, one named The Unmentionable Other, back in January 2011, and it was gifted to me by Rose when she headed off to the East Coast. He had left it at her house, and she knew not who better to give it to than me. But of course, the book’s existence was of eerie timing, similar to how Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea had been, and I can’t help but think that the silly Unmentionable has some sort of magical ability, akin to what I have developed, to manifest wishes desired into reality. But the difference seems to be that he wishes to manifest tragedy, imposed tragedy, inexplicable tragedy, where I desire for more peaceful, soulful, constructive things. I suppose our romance never would have worked. I suppose the place we are now is the perfect place – and I do not doubt this, have not doubted this, but it is always popping again as the type of reminder that might never die or dispose of itself, that pigeon-pecks seeds of reality. But more fitting, though, is that one sir Mr. Henry Miller writes like me, or more I write like him, though if you take the logic that he subscribes to of there being no time but only present – we both write like each other, quite mutually. But not always. The writing is mutual when I am feeling poetic and down in the dumps, when my internal monologue is strong and rambling and stream-of-consciousness rather than analytical and exacting. The writing is mutual when my roots are, as Miller says, rooted in the ground rather than in the brain – when the brain is in the heart rather than in the head. Of course, unlike Miller, I think I find value in both, whereas he seems to find value only in the one, in the heart-in-brain…
I am here, right now, in Albina Press in South Portland. I am playing catch-up on yesterday’s activities, as they are more of note than today’s. Yesterday, I was in Seattle, and after my morning meditation which I previously described, I happened by the set of lecture halls I previously had known so well – the ones which seated hundreds of people for General Ed courses, the ones which I fell asleep in innumerous times…
I passed by at 10:15am or so, and classes were just letting out. It had crossed my mind many times to visit one of these halls again, to barge in on a random class and let fate decide what I would learn that day as though I were some Freshman or Sophomore once again. But every time I return to Seattle, I never follow through with this plan because to actually plan the plan takes away from the magic of the plan. This particular morning, however, was ripe for my education! In I walked, decision made in a matter of seconds – straight into Kane 130, site of where I failed the hardest in college (Linguistics, Dinosaurs 101… I’m serious…)
I sat down, the same college awkwardness I had once known so well once again rearing its ugly head. Am I sitting in the right place? What if I’ve taken someone’s seat? What if I end up making conversation with a college student? Wait, what the hell! I’m almost 30! Shouldn’t I be over this shit?!!! But it seems not, as in this case, I am worried I might somehow be caught and that my imposter, education-gold-digging ways might be discovered, leading to ostracization – or probably not ostracization because I don’t think anyone would have that extreme an opinion – but misunderstanding, yes. Definitely misunderstanding.
To my chagrin, the class was a Communications class. I suppose in some way a Communications class should be something I’m interested in, considering I run a music and arts publication… but by god, there’s a reason I didn’t do Communications in Undergrad; it’s just not interesting to me in the same way that Sociology was! It’s similar to the lack of magic in planning on going to a random lecture class versus the magic of stumbling into one on a whim; deconstructing Communications not my jam. Making communications more my jam. And anyway, the concept we were initially presented with in this lecture – media bias and objectivity – were ones I learned about in high school Journalism class ad nauseum. Not to say that the information wasn’t valuable, but I was seriously hoping for some information about Linguistics or Dinosaurs (maybe to make up for my previous failures) or at least something I’m a little less knowledgeable in. C’est la vie, though, and the class was interesting in very particular ways, as it was a meta-commentary upon itself (which I will get into in a little bit here).
Some things have changed since I went to school at UW. For starters, laptops are now allowed, though only in the last five rows in this particular class! I suppose this comes as no surprise, but they were never commonplace when I went to University. But I just remember someone telling me recently that students don’t write real words anymore in class, and this is clearly a lie, I’ve now discovered through first-hand knowledge (though perhaps with younger generations this is indeed true).
At one point, the teacher, Randy Beam, put up one PowerPoint slide that asked the students whether M.I.A.’s flipping off people during the Super Bowl (see below) would “fall under the FCC’s definition of indecent content?” along with a multiple choice poll where 1 meant “Probably” and 2 meant “Probably Not”. All the students immediately reached into their backpack – a point of great confusion – and retrieved teeny tiny remote controls with which they punched in their answers! What! My mind was blown! What is this madness! Technology! Interaction! Teachers who actually employ participatory tactics in a class with hundreds of people and succeed?! This is remarkable!
In fact, the teacher did much back-and-forth with the large class, and students were surprisingly responsive. No question was met with complete silence, though I will say that most opinionated students were actually rather lacking in backbone. At one point, a series of cases were presented, and students were asked to decide whether they considered the cases to be news or not news. There were some quibbles amongst the class, wherein some considered The Daily Show news and some did not; some considered an opinion piece about supermarket purchases news, and some did not. A discussion ensued. Beam asked students how they arrived at the decisions that they did, and it was altogether too easy to back those students into corners! Come on, kids! If the professor saying something like, “Why isn’t [The Daily Show] news to you? Isn’t it from the World News Headquarters in New York?” – a clear joke – is enough to notably rattle your foundations, you’ve really got to think through your answers a little more! He in fact played Devil’s Advocate a lot, and almost every time the students gave up their original opinions and some even became confused about what their original opinions were. But I suppose they are still youth and the growth of backbone and well-thought-out opinions will come in time. Or not…!
My favorite response came from the individual who decided that celebrity gossip news (about the custody battle over Anna Nicole’s baby boy – or whatever, who cares) is news, despite the fact that it may not be particularly interesting to everyone. He said, “Just because news is esoteric doesn’t mean it’s not news. Some people wouldn’t consider sports news news.” This was perhaps the most profound and well-thought-out argument in the class. Kudos!
Though I left half-way through the lecture, during the conveniently-timed break (I really needed to leave then, and it would have been awkward if I had to leave mid-lecture!), the teacher hinted at what he would go on to discuss in the second half: how certain stories are picked over others, and why.
“It’s kind of chance [and idiosyncratic] what gets to be news,” he said, “because there is no standard definition of what is news and what is not.”
But the point of mega-meta-hilarity came from Beam’s earlier question. “Why isn’t anyone going to cover Com 201, unless I am doing something illegal?” he’d asked.
Exploding silent giggles to self! I was planning to cover Com 201 the whole time! And he wasn’t doing something illegal! But is this news? What is news? Is a blog post news? Is this too esoteric to be news? Is my opinion news? God, I don’t know anymore! I am reporting facts but my opinion is all over this thing! But isn’t that all news? Isn’t that the Daily Show? Isn’t that NBC and Fox News? Help me, Mr. Beam! What is news!!!!!!!!!?
Of course, I wrote the professor. His response: “This is a hoot — the irony of you “covering” a class about news when I was suggesting no one would ever consider it news. I just gotta talk about this tomorrow. Thanks for sending, Vivian. –RB”
These things are fun.