Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mary Gordon is a terrific writer. I don't like her writing all that much--clearly my loss. She is speaking tomorrow (Sunday, October 1st, I think at 1) at the Koret Auditorium of the SF Main Library, and I'm impressed. She is much better known than people are usually who speak at the library for free. (As the flyers always say, "All events at the San Francisco Public Library are free.") I'm impressed that she's doing that. Points for Mary Gordon.
"How much do you love me?"

If asked to guess the gender of the person saying that, many people say that that's a woman.

That's King Lear, in the Shakespeare play of the same name. The beginning is he is going to retire as king. He wants each of his three daughters to say to him publicly in the court how much they love him. He will then decide how to divide up his kingdom.

Two do this with smarmy over-the-topness that he likes. Cordelia, the third, won't.

When I first read "King Lear" I was reminded at this point of how Shakespeare's company had titles like "The King's Men." They performed at court regularly. Shakespeare put in time around the monarch and people close to the monarch.

When I read this scene, Cordelia's refusal, I felt like I could feel Shakespeare's disgust with the ass-licking around the head of state, the power person. I felt like he made his disgust Cordelia's disgust from watching so much self-serving psuedo affection, and she just won't and can't.

The "How much do you love me?" part of "King Lear" is based on a very old story, old when Shakespeare used it. Maybe part of the draw of the story for him was thinking just once he'd like to see someone refuse to fake positive emotions for the monarch.

She gets nothing from Lear. He is enraged with her, and banishes her. As it happens as foreign power guy with his own land and power basedvalues her, so she marries him and goes into exile but is not penniless or anything like that.

I thinking of "King Lear" now because I'm thinking of the lack of big parts for women.

King Lear is a gigantic and difficult part. I think it would be easy to gender-shift it.

Change the "he"s referring to Lear to "she"s, change the "king"s to "queen"s and you're there with a great and difficult part for an older actress.

King Lear, the character, doesn't have a partner--the other parent is never mentioned. He doesn't start a war. He has a deal with his two daughters who mouth affection for him that they will divide his kingdom between them. He will live half time with each and be treated with respect.

Doesn't work out. He has misjudged his daughter's characters, the good one is far away, and it's not too long before he is thrown out into the wilds and the storm by his bad daugthers.

None of this seems highly gendered to me, even in traditional gender terms. It's set in a vague, long-ago England, and there might as well be a Queen Lear. If there were lots of big parts for women and old women, maybe it wouldn't be worth the trouble. But there aren't.

If it were first done by someone famous on stage or in a movie, it would be high risk, because of the being made fun of factor, and it would be high risk because no matter what it is a tough part. Shakespeare's language somehow makes Lear be something other than a whiny idiot who makes bad choices that work out badly. But that is always there, and must be overcome, at least partly, by performance.

Some people try to be loyal to be Lear and Cordelia, the good daughter. Loyalty to him means telling him how he's wrong about Cordelia and getting banished.

That kind of larger loyalty to a queen would have a slightly different vibe than to a king--I love you so I know you wrong right not.

When Queen Lear figures out her daughters whose coerced affection words she believed want her out of both there houses, the hurt of that would be different--a mother betrayed by daughters is different than a father betrayed by daughters.

One thing women say among themselves and not so much in mixed groups is that women really know how to hurt women. Not physically, but knowin knowing how to get inside and really do some damage in a way that would elude most guys.

I think that kind of hurt could come out between Queen Lear and her daughters in the words as written. I think more of it could come out in looks in a movie of Queen Lear with great actresses and closeups.

Julie Christie has let the nature that gave her beauty also age her. It's seeing her look the way an older beautiful woman looks that helped start me thinking of this. The first time I saw her in the movie "Darling" where her character was in theory having a great time in a life that was a party her character and the Laurence Harvey character looked at each other with such pain.

Christie got great reviews as Queen Gertrude in Kenneth Branaugh's movie is "Hamlet." I think she'd great as Queen Lear in a movie of same. Or Judy Dench, movie or stage. Meryl Streep, movie or stage.

Any of these women could look like great fools, but anyone who plays the big Shakespeare parts risks that.

Not seeing women in such parts in a corset stay that is pressing in on our thinking and doing and keeping us from moving freely. It might be better to try it out at the college or regional theatre level, but I hope somebody goes for it, and changes the world.

Someone sees a woman actress take up as much space as Lear takes up, it changes their world. That, and a lot of other things. More space for more kinds of people--making that happen is part of the process of making the human us smart enough to not kill ourselves and everything else.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What type of thing is happening?

What type of thing is being noticed?

What type of thing is happening but not being noticed?

What type of thing is being over-noticed relative to how much it happens?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sneezes have the goodness that they make it okay to bless a stranger out loud in public.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Playing Joan" is a good book of interviews with women who have played Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw's play "Saint Joan." It was created by Holly Hill, herself an actress.

Joan from Arc led armies, told a king what to do and he did it. She changed history.

The number of women who led armies in person and won battles is finite.

The number of plays where a woman has the lead and plays someone with real power and dominates the entire play is very finite, especially if you're looking for a play by a major playwright.

Guys who are serious actors can age through Romeo, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear if they are determined.

The women in "Playing Joan" feel like "Saint Joan" is it for them in terms of a huge part about a woman with actual power. There is nothing else. Shaw isn't Shakespeare, but then Shakespeare didn't write that kind of play for a woman character. (In Shakespeare's England, everyone on stage was a man, so the women character, roles of any size, were all played by men. He never wrote a huge masterpiece dominated by a woman's part like his big tragedies.)

Joan of Arc died in early twenties, so women who want to play her have to get a move on. In current theatre taste, they can play her when they are older than she is, but not that much older.

"Saint Joan" has a huge cast, which makes it the kind of play hard to put on these days.

The women in this book who played Saint Joan felt lucky and challenged. Some of them made it happen for themselves, like Lynn Redgrave.

She went to a lot of trouble to make a production of "Saint Joan" while she was still passably young enough. While she was doing it, she basically really liked what she was doing. She also once had a negative mystical experience.

Joan was instructed what to do by the voices of two women saints, Catherine and Elizabeth. When she temporarily, under pressure, gave in and said she was bad and wrong, what she said that was worst to her was that her saints voices weren't real.

When Lynn Redgrave playing Joan talked to the saints and listened to them she always looked at a particular point in the ceiling of the theatre.

One performance in the long run of the play with a long part for her, she phoned in her performance. She wasn't really there, used those actor's tricks to make it seem to work.

When she looked up the the saint's part of the ceiling, it felt terrible. It felt bad, as in bad/evil. It was scary.

She never phoned in a performance of the part again.

Joan of Arc was not only a general but a mystic. We have her words about her own life and experience.

She close enough to modern times that at her show trial, everything everyone said, including her, was written down. Shaw used many direct quotes in the play from the living, soon to be judicially murdered Joan.

With the actual words, not some guy's imagination only, not some modern woman's imagination only, Joan is there, more than play people usually are, and if Joan is there, changing history, her saints are there, and not to be messed around with.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The morning sun on the leaves goes through the leaves and makes patterns on the sidewalk which are interesting and encouraging. The bill on the front page of the newspaper which limits car emissions and which the governor will either let go through or veto--that's the kind of thing that seems so less interesting than the morning sun but relates to it strongly. Tomorrow in the morning sun or morning fog, I need to write a letter and send some sunny mornings forward to the gurgling toddlers of the gurgling toddlers I walked by this morning.
She's very smart, so it's a matter of creating a space where she can relax and know what he knows, a space where she doesn't have to adjust and adjust and pretend she got the answer slowly.

Friday, September 22, 2006

But if love is the substance you're made of, you can't walk away from it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You are smart. You just have to notice how to be smart in this situation.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Clothes reform can sound boring. When it was a hot issue in the US, making fun of clothes reformers was common.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony both tried wearing clothes that didn't hurt them, but they decided they couldn't do that and also work on other reforms. Amelia Bloomer wore very wide pants gathered at the ankle with a waist length overdress. That was bloomers, at a time when women in the United States didn't wear pants at all. She was following by little boys mocking most of the time when she went outside. All of us women in slacks owe her an occasional backward thank you.

A clothes reformer visited a first grade class on the East Coast in the late 1800's. She asked the children to raise their hands above their heads.

All of the boys, and none of the girls could raise their hands above their heads. (Thinking of women's basketball, the clothes and the movements, is inspiring in this context.)

In corset time, the average woman of privilege was wearing at the waist seventeen layers of cloth. Her daughters would have been wearing not seventeenlayers, but lots more than one. The layers for both mothers and daughters would be pushed in by a corset.

Women autopsied were sometimes found to have marks of their ribs on their internal organs, like their livers, the ribs pushed in by the corsets.

Isadora Duncan and her draped look can look silly from here. At the time, women of privilege of all kinds, who didn't think of themselves as dancers, would drape themselves in Isadora Duncan style loose, long fabrics and do free movement. Women wearing the Isadora look were freed for those hours from the binding of the torso which was the essence of affluent respectibility.

To honor them, Isadora, Amelia, the brave unknown mocked women wearers of clothes that let them move with ease, your mind must have regular periods of being loosely robed.

--facts about children's movements and corsets and layers of clothes from the book "Where She Danced: The Birth of American Art-Dance" by Elizabeth Kendall (1979, University of California Press] The book is fairly short and more widely interesting than the title sounds, being partly about how 19th and early 20th century women changed how they lived in their bodies.

"Getting Our Bodies Back" might be a title for the Kendall book. Getting our bodies back bit by bit. Important history--how's your health if your ribs are pushed into your liver and how can you think? But important history of how people's lives actually were minute to minute is often hidden in things that look specialized or minor. Not just pursuing happiness but getting it sometimes. Having the process of being here now not hurt. These things matter.
It's not about showing people that they are inconsistent.

It's about showing them a way out.

The inconsistency is producing discomfort. A way out to greater consistency feels good.

Saying "Ha, ha--you're wrong" creates resistance and more "us and them" tension.

The thing is to point away from both us and them to a better place to be. People may go there without writing you a thank-you note, which is a big win, because it's not about you.

It's about a better place to be for everyone.
Go up the shadowing early morning hill. Get to the top of the hill; turn left.

The sunrise right in my eyes and beautiful. Almost no clouds. It's all about orange.

The orange is a little bit off in a way that indicates pollution.

I'd rather just go with the beauty, but I don't want to get to the point where I don't notice the difference between natural colors and air-borne chemical spills.
The present of being present.
[This site is being improved and therefore there may be times when I can't get on and therefore do not post.]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

As I was walking out of the Castro Muni station, a guy handed me a postcard which was an invitation to a gallery art show.

Excellent idea. I don't think I've ever seen that before. They have all these cards printed up; why not just hand some out?

The card shows photographs of the artists rather than the art--Matt Pipes and Christopher Stout. Study revealed that the guy who handed me the card was probably Christopher Stout. He confirmed that this was so.

Artist's reception--Friday, September 22nd, 6-9 pm

LGBT Community Center
1800 Market Street (Octavia)
San Francisco CA 94102

The fine print says the reception is sponsored by Grey Goose Vodka, which instantly made me think--"Good food, I bet."

I never had an artist I didn't know ask me to a reception before.

When Tip O'Neill who was eventually Democratic Speaker of the House of Representitives, first ran for office, he won. After the election, his kindly, older next door neighbor told him she had voted for him even though he hadn't asked her to.

He stumbled around with words and said he had assumed since they were old friends that she'd voted for him.

She said, "Tip, people like to be asked."

That story is what O'Neill put first in his autobiographer. It is nice to be asked. connects easily to both artists' sites.

I like how starts, the opening page.
A way to make walking up hills easier is to sometimes run up them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

They make it really hard for women to achieve the idea of beauty so it soaks up all the energy women might use making actual beauty, making the whole world beautiful. People walking around feeling safe and taken care of and flowing into taking care of others and making great stuff--world of beauty, people of beauty.

Many of the "they" referred to are women which makes it in a way harder to change the whole sceme but maybe in a way easier. At some point we cease to collectively bind our own imaginations, our psychic ability to move.
If the Earth were not accessorized with air, it would have a very different look and feel.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Fashion model" is the US term and in the UK that person is often called a "mannequin."Which is confusing and interesting from a US point of view, since mannequin here means the clothes dummy in a store window that shows off the clothes.

The meaning is so near and yet so far. Models are supposed to have a uniform look, a uniform expression, which is actually easier for an inanimate object to achieve.

High end models in expense clothes are supposed to look a very particular way that isn't friendly. I hadn't thought of exactly what that odd expression is until it was explained by Ruth Gershon as she wrote of growing up in a family where the father owned a London factory that made women's outerwear.

Ruth Gershon knows the ins and outs of clothes. She knows what that expensive clothes expression is about--aristocracy.

She writes of "the haughty disdain affected by mannequins at the very top of the trade: women who had to be, literally, models for the aristocracy, to impersonate them on catwalks, in

showrooms and in glossy magazine images, without betraying the reality of changing in cramped back rooms in Great Titchfield Street, and submitting to the touch and scrutiny of designers, manufacturers, customers. With stern, abstracted faces, chins and noses in the air, they pretended to own themselves and the clothes they stood in."

The clothes Ruth Gershon lived in were always from her father's factory or those of his friends. As she reached adolescence, her father said she was "model size" which wasn't true. She wore high quality clothes that didn't fit. Often, even if they had fit, the color or fabric wouldn't be right for her.

As an adult, Gershon is great at making clothes work, which she likes, making the unlikely combination be a great outfit. She doesn't like that she is always internally critiquing the clothes of every one she sees, or at least every woman she sees. "Nice skirt, shame about the shoes."

She writes of the way it was when she grew up, London, 1950s and 1960s: "Everyone got married. It happened by magic, but it happened to everyone."

And then, after it has magically happened to everyone, it's supposed to look like it's great.

Gershon's favorite thing to play with was a high quality paper doll set with many outfits for many occasions.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ronald H. Fritze says that one reason most Europeans didn't reach the Americas in numbers for so many centuries is they didn't try.

The Norse tried, and they got there--founded a settlement in Newfoundland which has been found and excavated. They didn't stay because they didn't have the skills to beat the people who already lived there and because the climate changed for the colder, so their string of northern settlements, in Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, became much harder to live in and were abandoned.

The Atlantic is the roughest of the oceans of this planet. Many Europeans were used to the Mediterrean, which isn't even an ocean and is a much milder sailing experience.

So those that saw the Atlantic crashing away would think no way. They might think no way without ever formulating the thought.

The Norse tended to think of water as a road. Cultures tend to think of water as a road or a barrier, and the Norse, the Vikings absolutely saw it as a road.

And being up in the north of the Atlantic they could go from land to land, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland.

In the 1490's the political entities between European traders and the Asian trade were more together and more hostile to European trade than they had been in centuries. That, says Fritze, was the biggest change--not technology of sailing. Motivation. People who had been making good money trading with Asia found it much harder to trade across land so they started looking harder for sea routes.

Although technology made another kind of difference--not sailing technology, weapons technology. The Vikings who settled in Newfoundland couldn't consistently win fight against the local. By the 1490's, the Europeans had what Fritze refers to in explaining how the Portugese dominating the trade from India--better naval and weapons technology "and a ruthless willingness to use it."

The ruthlessness was presumably always there. The superior technology emerged beforethe Europeans tried to find a westward route to India and stumbled on the Americas and started to cut a swath of destruction that still goes on.

Fritze says the Atlantic could have been sailed sooner, as the Vikings did, if people had wanted to, but they were, without knowing it, saying, "Who needs it?"

Columbus knew there was money to be made in a sea route to Asia, and he brought to the search inaccurate optimism.

Fritze says all educated people knew the earth was a sphere. The controversies relevant to sailing West from Europe to get to Asia were two: How big was the Earth? How big was Asia?

How big was the Earth--one theory was smaller, 18,000 miles in circumference; one theory was larger--24,000 miles. Columbus liked the smaller theory. The larger theory was right.

How big was Asia? Some people thought it was about as big as it is. Some thought it was a lot bigger than it is. Columbus chose bigger.

So with the Earth smaller than it is and Asia bigger than it is, getting from the coast of Europe to the coast of Asia seemed doable to Columbus. Those who didn't buy his theory weren't flat Earthers--they were people who believed accurate theories about the size of the Earth and of Asia.

For Columbus, Asia was always the right answer, the accurate answer. He thought the islands he first explored were off Asia. All the local people who directed him to Cuba told him it was a big island, but he kept believing Cuba was the mainland of Asia.

On Columbus' fourth voyage, he told his crew that anyone who said that what they were exploring was something other than Asia would have his tougue cut out.

Speaking of brutality, Fritze says something interesting about Juan Ponce de Leon's trip to Florida. He was believed to be and usually still is the first European to go there. He went in 1513, 21 years after Columbus' first voyage. When de Leon landed in Florida, he and his crew were instantly attacked. That was the first time in 21 years of extensive exploration of the islands and the coasts of Central and South America, that the people who lived there attacked the Europeans right away, at first contact.

Fritze says, "The hostility may have been a product of earlier, unrecorded Spanish slaving raids."

I'd like it if we could knock it off with the vicious. Are we really trying to? Is there a way to somewhere else that is right there if we try? It might not be as physically difficult as sailing the Atlantic? It might be a short mental trip we keep not making because we don't know it's there to make.

There were many years that people did math without a zero, which is difficult. It massively limits what you can do.

Even people really good at math in those centuries couldn't see zero. They didn't know what they were missing. Real math wonks of those times would have been made happy to the max by finding zero, but they didn't. They didn't even see a barrier like the barrier the people standing on the Atlantic beaches saw. The barrier stopped them from knowing there was a barrier.

There's a good history of math called "From One to Zero." It took a long time to make that journey, from the idea and practice and counting to the amazing powers of understanding and fun that having zero leads to.

I wonder what we are missing now. The roads we see as barriers. The barriers we don't see at all. The squiggle of notation that would make many things easier and many things possible that weren't possible before.

The barriers that mean if we notice new people, places, and things we are likely to destoy them. Or the people most likely to notice are most likely to destroy. I'd just love to get past that, to know how to deploy love to get past that.

There's a road around to the non-destructive place. that looks like a barrier. But it isn't.

--Ronald H. Fritze's thinking, and the quote, is from his book "New Worlds: The Great Voyages of Discovery, 1400-1600" In his book, Fritze uses language differently than in the title of his book. In his introduction, he says he avoids saying New World and says Americas instead. He talks in the book about exploration far more than about discovery. He refers to Columbus' "first Western voyage"--that would be the one where Columbus hit the islands between North and South America and had no idea where he was. And in that reference Fritze uses neither the word discovery or exploration. The book by Fritze is European centric, but more enclued to current thinking than the title indicates. Norman Davies in "The Isles," his history of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, talks about the Norse seeing the North Atlantic as a road that they could easily use.
What everybody knows varies from place to place--different everybodies.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

She sees the other side of the tapestry and finds it to be gorgeous.
Then there's the other healing, like life has a point.
The wind is blowing more than it blows on a basic windy day. A front is moving through. By tomorrow, everything will be different.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leading, Leading, and Letting

"Leading." Most times and places, people say it "leeding" and mean "being ahead, showing the way."

In printing and graphic design, "leading" is pronounced like the soft heavy element leading. In the land of type, "leading" is pronouced "leding."

It means the amount of space between lines of type.

Type used to be made of lead and the space between lines type was also made of lead--hence the space between lines of type was leading and is still called leading, even when it has become a computer dream that in some cases never gets physical.

Leading in type has a lot of do with whether or not people read something right away, or whether they never read it.

Eyes are physical. Eyes physically like having space between lines of type to move back and forth in. Eyes that look at something with lots of leading think it feels easy to read, even though the person with the eyes isn't conscious of the leading factor.

The person with the eyes consciously looks at something with lots of leading and other physically helpful features and starts reading. The person with eyes sees something with dense type and little room to move back and forth between lines and decides, "Later"--which so easily can become "Never."

There is a kind of leadership, a way of leading, that leaves room for people to move and find their way. The person who is leading has introduced a topic, an idea, and then the leader leaves spaces for people to find what they know about this and add it to what the leader knows.

I have seen two different women speaking to a few hundred people about a better world who having the luck and blessing of making the audience believe, yes, a better world can be and we can help it be.

The moment of audience belief was marked by a rich, deep, growing silence. Who was growing in the silence was the audience.

One of the women, hearing this silence, rushed in with many words. And with new ideas--it was ideas she hadn't said before in that speech. It was like she was having a reaction that at last she was heard, now she could say all she'd ever wanted to say.

It was tiring to hear her, and killed the silence and the potential of the silence.

Since she was a person who gave a lot of speeches it was odd to feel like she went through life feeling basically unheard, so when this silence emerged, she had to fill it with her.

The other woman talking about a better world, when that growing silence emerged, she shut up and went with it. I honor that. I am not sure I could do it. She let the silence, and the audience's
growing of its own ideas go on on for a really long time--an infinity, in US terms. I thought she could have let it go on twice as long productively. I note that I myself probably couldn't have let it go on half as long.

***The woman who stepped on the audience's hearing silence where they could hear themselves gives speeches all the time. The woman who let the silence grow ha given a number of speeches in her life, but it wasn't part of her daily routine. Perhaps that helped her be present to what was happening with this particular speech. ****

To be able to notice when what we want starts to happen and be able to go with it, not stop it--bless us with this skill and the courage to use it.

Women sometimes open a pubic statement by saying, "Of course, I don't really know about this. . ." or "This is only my opinion." Women often open a public statement by undercutting what they are about to say.

Peggy McIntosh points out two ways to look at this.

1. Women don't think they have the right to think. They don't have the self-concept the present what they have to say as being as valuable as what others say.

2. The way opinions are presented in a public space often involves an inaccurate amount of certainty. The standard way of presenting opinions is more certain than anyone can be about anything. So women who sound like they are undercutting themselves are groping for an accuracy about what is known. None of us know, regardless of gender, race, creed, color, religious background, ethnicity, sexual orientation. We don't know anything with the certainty that used to be a standard for the people with the mike to say stuff, back when the people with the mike were almost always of one gender, race, etc. So the apology that sounds much like groveling and self-abnegation is a try at reflecting accurately the state of knowledge we have which is the only state of knowledge we're ever going to have--partial and personal.

It would be good to include the uncertainty factor without sounding like a self-devaluer.

If you could include uncertainty in a way that respected self and others, you've created more leading, more space between the lines for people to move around in, feel unconsciously comfortable in, and space to combine what the speaker knows, what the listener knows, and what reality knows and hasn't said yet.
Today feels so much like Monday to me. It keeps feeling that way no matter how much I say and read "Wednesday." I don't know if I'm clueless, or if something is starting.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Helena is a determined woman.

She grew up in the same medieval household as Bertram, only she was a dependent of a dependent and he was the son of the house. They were living on very different levels of a tiny town. Her father was a doctor, which seems to be here in terms of class about like garage mechanic or chauffeur. Maintenance.

She decides she wants to marry Bertram. She loves him, she says. It would also be a huge class jump up.

He doesn't want to marry her. He doesn't like her. He may not have noticed her much before she starts to go for him, but now he doesn't like her a lot.

She engages in many manipulative ploys to get him to marry her. She does a huge favor for the lord Bertram owes obedience to by curing him of a dread disease with a secret medicine her father left her. The lord says, "I'll give you anything you want." She says, "Give me Bertram, make Bertram marry me."

The guy tries, but Bertram skips town and goes to war.

She follows him to war. War is medievel and is mostly hanging out in town and occasionally going outside of town to fight.She finds a poor woman Bertram has the hots for who doesn't want to have anything to do with him.

Helena pays that woman to set a date for them to make love. The woman says to Bertram, as per Helena's instructions. "Show up at this time, but because of secrecy we can't talk or have any light." Helena is the one he makes love with.

She gets pregnant at one try.

At the end of the play, they are in fact married. This play is called "All's Well that Ends Well." It's by Shakespeare, and reading it, I have to save, in re the title, Shakespeare, give me a break. It doesn't look like happily ever after.

** [cut] Helena knew what she wanted, set out to get it and, in a way anyway, got it. Helena is the central character in the play, does much, says much. Helena is a big part for a woman.

An actress who played Helena said, "Nobody ever asks if Hamlet is likeable." These kinds of questions are asked about Helena: "Do you like her? Is she nice?"

No. No.

Women around here tend to be raised to feel an eternal duty to be likeable, to be nice, to be friendly on demand. If anybody needs a bit of friendliness, many women will feel they have a duty to provide it.

Women may feel they can set a goal and go for it, but all the time is the background question, do they like me? Do they think I'm nice?

A woman out in public can easily err in two direction. She can by the very way she presents herself be asking for it. Her public display invites bad things to happen to her, it might be said.

Another way for a woman in public to err is to be unfriendly, stuck up. To not be instantly available with someone needs that friendliness hit. She might be thinking of other things. She might be avoiding the asking for it danger. It doesn't matter. People in general are not allowed to think at the same time of the demand for not asking for it and the demand for friendliness.

How much space is there between these two things--asking for it and being unfriendly? Is there any space at all?

We could try for a larger nice.

Some United States women are deeply imprinted with the idea that they have to be as nice as possible under all circumstances.

Wouldn't it be nice if children didn't starve to death? Wouldn't it be nice if almost everyone voted because they wanted to and felt like their choices made a difference? Wouldn't it be nice if every child felt safe and treasured?

Getting to a bigger nice might involve having some people affected by relevant cganges not think you're nice.

Also being nice as possible and being prepared to always be as nice as possible takes alot of energy.

That energy might be needed for building the bigger nice.

Helena could be seen as inspirational in willing to be unnice but what an old-fashioned woman goal she had.

She chose a relationship brick wall, a man who wasn't interested in her, and beat her head against it for five acts of a play.

Interesting if she had chosen to go for someone who was going for her, or who might be reasonably expected to go for her and then gotten a life of some kind--like healing, for example.

A lot of physicians of this time didn't know much, but Helena's father seemed to know something since he left her the secret cure for a dread disease--which worked.

Her only interest in it was using as a tool against Bertram to make him marry her.

Helena isn't nice, isn't likeable. So what? I want her to use her willingness to be not nice, not likeable to do something bigger than getting herself in a marriage where anyone sane would say, "How could this work?"

So much of the human world works barely it's shameful. If women who have been trained to be nice released to energy for other purposes, if women who go for high-maintenance, low-contentment relationships learned to be willing to design a life that feels good, redesigning the world feels possible.

A determine woman can mean a woman with strong will who acts on it. A determined woman can mean a woman whose choices and actions have been determined by someone or something other than her--her past, the movies she's seen, the larger societal set-up.

Some women are determined both ways. They are strong willed and active, but it isn't really their own will they are acting. I want that you should determine the best and most pleasant to you way for you to determine the best and most pleasant for the most people future for us all. Thank you.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Walking in the Castro, two men with a baby in a stroller stopped to talk to a man and woman with two dogs.

The women kept looking at the baby very seriously--no baby talk, no making of faces. It's like she was looking to see what she wanted her future to be.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bassinio said to Antonio, "When I was a kid playing with my bow and arrow, sometimes I lost an arrow. I would shoot another arrow in the same way, and try to watch where it went. Then I found both arrows.

"It's the same way with helping me, Antonio. You know that I've lost my own fortune by living in a showier way than I can afford. You know that you've loaned me money that I can't pay back. So I suggest you do like I did with the arrows. Loan me more money, and then I'll be able to pay it all back."

Antonio said, "Sure, absolutely."

It is available to us to think that Antonio is in love with Bassinio. It isn't required by the author, but it's very available. The whole thing works better if Antonio is in love with Bassinio, Bassinio is in love with Bassinio, and Bassinio is gorgeous in that special way that turns off other people's brains.

What Bassinio says about arrows doesn't make a ton of sense, but I imagine Bassinio as used to being believed, or used to having people act like they believe, because he's so good-looking.

Bassinio's insatiable need for money drives the plot of "The Merchant of Venice" by Shakespeare.


When Bassinio makes his pitch, Antonio, the merchant of Venice, doesn't have on hand the kind of money Bassinio thinks he needs to look good.

Venice was a commercial empire. Antonio, like many merchants of Venice, makes his money by sending out ship filled with good stuff people in far away places want. As the play begins, he has five ships out, to different parts of the world, and not much cash.

So he says to Bassinio, "I'll borrow the money you need. Let's each go out into Venice and look for someone who will loan me the money."

Bassinio comes back with Antonio's bitter enemy, Shylock, an investment banker of Venice.

So what's up with Bassinio bringing back an enemy to loan Antonio money?

Maybe Bassinio is one of those folks who likes to be the maximum drama out of any situation. Maybe he's a real meanie who thinks it's good times to not only borrow money from one who loves him to court another, but to make the guy borrow the money for the loan from an enemy.

Or maybe Bassinio doesn't know Shylock is Antonio's enemy. People as self-absorbed as Bassinio do tend to miss a lot of what's happening around them.

Question: Did Antonio also go out and look for someone to loan him money? He's a five ship guy; surely he would have more than one choice of lender.

The first line of the play is spoken by Antonio--"I don't know why I am so sad."

Depressed? Antonio has the play named after him but doesn't take the initiative hardly ever as the play goes by. Other people think of thinks to do. Can Antonio take the iniative, or is he inert through bummed-out ness.

We don't see the other side of Antonio in the play--the high energy (manic?) part, but as soon as Shylock shows up, brought by Bassinio, they talk about what can get Antonio moving.

He sometimes goes down to the Rialto, public gathering place, and spits on Shylock. He does that with great venom, and talks about it with great venom.

Maybe all the venom in his rich passive life that he can't get out he spews forth in public on a man who can't hit back. If he spit on one of his fellow merchants, he'd have a duel on his hands, but since Shylock is legally looked-down on, there's nothing Shylock can do. Til now.

His scheme to use Antonio's new loan is to go after a woman whose rich father has just died and who has to choose a new husband by her dead father's odd rules.

Bassinio wants to go there and go for her, and look good while he does it. The way to marry her is to solve a puzzle correctly, which isn't really money related. But he wants to look great when he arrives, and he needs lots of money to achieve the look he wants.

If Antonio is in love with Bassinio, borrowing more money from him to go after the rich heiress, Portia, is not prize-winningly kind. But neither Bassinio or Antonio seem bothered by this.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Cars can help make people suspiscious because they can't see the other drivers and sometimes think the worst. Busses not so much. People talk a lot about the weird bus moments. Weird bus moments happen, but the vast majority of moments are available for the seeing of similarity. People also sleepy and going to work. People also tired and going home.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Drawing hearts on a piece of paper while sitting in the busy, built-up downtown. Drawing hearts, thinking hearts, hearting hearts. It might make a small, tender difference, and it probably doesn't hurt.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Walking in the morning on Market in the Castro past a gym, a guy in front of the gym is being twitchy and unhappy and moving oddly in a way that makes me wonder if he's dangerous.

That is, I wonder if he might be dangerous to someone other than himself.

He's clearly crazy. But, California with its long closed mental hospitals and San Francisco with its tolerance, I see a lot of unusual behavior. I rarely wonder if people are dangerous. I would say, on the whole, even people who seem nutty aren't dangerous.

Why do I wonder about this guy? The very fact that I wonder makes me wonder the more.

I walk past. He isn't a danger to me; I'm beyond him.

Who you gonna call? I just read an issue of "Vice" magazine that was about cops and was mostly direct quotes from New York City police. One guy talked about EDPs, emotionally disturbed persons. "Everyone knows what you shouldn't do with them, and no one knows what you should do with them." Yes.

I wanted to call someone large and motherly of any gender who could say that thing, that one word and tone, to bring this guy down a little bit, just a little bit closer to shared reality.

He was simultaneously too far away from the rest of us and moving too much. Come in closer, guy. Here is weird but it's better than where you are.

I'm not good at identifying the effect of drugs other than alcohol, but a large portion of his problem certainty could have been drugs. Witty posters in the Castro saying crystal meth is bad and a man acting bizarrely speeded up. Yeah, could be a connection. But either way. . .he wasn't home to an extent that looked dangerous.

I did nothing, and evidently nothing much happened. Anything awful enough to make the paper I would have seen.

Is worrying a prayer? Sometimes I pray that my worrying be taken as a prayer, and that I learn to take the worrying energy straight into prayer.

Charles Dickens took long walks around London, often all night, at a time when social and economic change meant people were in awful straits. One of his most famous books "Christmas Carol," ends with the happy crippled boy whose family has been helped by the conversion to compassion of the mean rich boss saying, "God bless us every one." Good idea.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The guy who wrote the book "The Age of the Baroque" sometimes uses the word "theocracy," but he points out that it's the wrong word. The rule of God never happens. What you get is the rule of the priests. When it comes to a government job, God won't show up for work.
"Weapons: A Pictorial History" by Edwin Tunis. Nice pen and ink drawing make me able to see the march of cleverness. On the back of the book is a drawing of a Roman phalanx, men with swords and shields in formation more or less facing a tank. Hasn't it been an adventure to get from one to the other? It's involved a lot of intelligence, I guess.

I used to have a drawn postcard that said it was from Planet Earth and included a drawing of animals, labeled "intelligent life" and a drawing a humans labeled "intelligent stupidity."

Maybe also there could be nice pen and ink drawings of the wounds made by weapons through the ages. An advantage would be that drawings might be more something people could look at, that I for example could stand to look at. Another advantage would be--hey, this is what they are for.

It's surreal to read about Los Alamos at the time that the United States government was gathering the best available minds to make a weapon, the atomic bomb because ot was partly big fun.

The phyicists got to meet the other good and great ones in their field. They were doing a good thing, stopping Hitler (except that he was stopped without their help.) They were led by a great administrator, Robert Oppenheimer. Those who had been quite smart alone or in twos or threes got to see what a community of the brilliant to unbelievable was like.

One of the physicists who stopped by Los Alamos but didn't work there said that an amazing thing about Oppenheimer was that he never made a big breakthrough discovery, which was surprising since in he very smart in a field, nuclear physics, at a time when there were many discoveries to make.

The man suggested that the thing about Oppenheimer is that he could profoundly understand 95 percent of anything in his constantly changing field very quickly. But that last 5 percent, never. And discovery is finding the next 5 or 10 or 20 percent after the last 5 percent.

His ability to understand 95 percent off all parts of the field is part of what made him a great administrator. He could talk with understanding to all of the people there. He could explain them to each other.

Something about the non-weapons equivalent of Los Alamos, where the best are gathered, there is focus, there is lots of money for the project, though not particularly for salaries.

And the best in a group discover. . . .What?

I don't even know what the best would be best at. I think many would be known locally to be quite good at knowing what was going on and maybe kind? at reacting to what was going on. Finding these people would be harder than finding the best young and old nuclear physicists.

Just getting smart enough to find them might be half the project.

And of course--gathering lots of people, lots of money--all that big project thinking might be part of the problem not part of the solution.

The Weapons picture book doesn't picture the atomic bomb. Or any bombs at all. High above them, it blows them away.

And we high above, down below assumptions about the big push to change things, we make weapons much less interesting by challenging our intelligence to really change things.
Recipes are the language of keeping people alive.
I'm coming out of the dream. I can feel myself thinking in considerable detail, but I don't know what I'm thinking about.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I'm reading "Political Theories of the Middle Age" by Otto Gierke, introduction by Frederic William Maitland, published in 1900, and it ain't easy.

If a person were to know the name of one legal historian, likely that would be Frederic William Maitland. That's me. I had heard of him, which is one reason I picked up the book. He's a fun read, sort of, but he spend a lot of time being sarcastic, which is confusing.

Being sarcastic when talking to someone with limited knowledge of the topic is deeply unhelpful. Sarcasm aleays assumes a bunch of knowledge.

So I've read Maitland's 38 page introduction to the 100 pages of text and the 96 pages of footnotes.


The law sometimes assumes that certain groups of people can be treated partly as if they are individuals.

Examples would be corporations and the State itself.

How, Maitland wonders, did human beings and law people arrive at the common assumption. To think that a group of people are for some purposes much like one person: is that in some sense true, or is it one of the things that humans chronically feign?

English and therefore US law arrived at its assumption about this in a different way than Germany did.

Otto Gierke's book is about how German law got to what it thinks about groups as people as people, what German law does (in the late nineteenth century) think about groups of people as people, and what German law should think about groups of people as people.

Maitland's introduction is a try at putting what Gierke is writing about in context by comparing to British, and a little bit US, approaches to the group-as-person issue.

Gierke is big on sweeping generalizations. Maitland is bit on knowing many many details and assuming the reader knows a lot of details too.

It is hard but it's likeable because so much of how we humans dealing with each other is dealing with group sort of as if they are individuals with one will. It's not just the law that does it. It is a deep-seated human condition.

When I am on jury duty, which means for me so far jury selection, I'm always one of the last ones into the courtroom after breaks because I hate the crowding around the door to get in thing. Here are these wildly different folks called for jury duty with usually different thoughts and around the door everyone is filled with one big thought--"I want to get in." Crowd psychology. Loss of perspective. A certain samey simple mindedness.

We are there to represent the people, and once we're passed the crowded door we're more different individuals again, not so samey.

Then if it's a criminal trial, the prosecutor is also the people, representing the people and often referred to as the people. "Do the People have further questions?"

Maitland wonders who this People is in US courtrooms, since the underlying reality is constantly changing. I never thought of that. I thought it was kind of cute. All these prosecutors being the People and if one of the people is crossing the state line to move out, then they aren't one of the represented people of the State of California, but if they are just leaving to go on vacation they are. Maitland is trying to point out that like many legal assumptions, it doesn't bear much thinking about.

I didn't mind Maitland being sarcastic about that because I understood what he was saying, and it wasn't any particular disrespect. He is sarcastic about many things about legal presumption. I just dislike it when I can't understand what he is saying or implying.

I read a book once about how the idea of the sovereignty of the people developed: "Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America" by Edmund S. Morgan. It's a good read. He's a historian that wants people in general to know their history and he helps out by writing readably.

The idea of the sovereignty of the people was developed to replace the idea of the sovreignty og the monarch in the era of the divine right of kings. The monarch had all power by getting it from God.

During the English Civil War of the 1600's which including beheading the king, another idea came up.

It never was presented by the people who developed it like this: "The sovereignty, the power of the state, resides in the people." No, never in that brief and lonely and politicianless manner.

Rather, the Parliament stated the idea thusly and very fast, without any pause between the first and second part:

"The sovereignty of the State resides in the people and we represent the people so we have the power." A politician never wants to take a breath while saying that.

The point of this book was that usually that is how it works. The idea of the sovereignty of the people is much talked of, and people let politicians fight out what to to.

But every once in a while, this book shows, the people, as a group, awake and notice they have sovereignty and want in vast majority what they want.

The politicians are then, for a while, in different world, one where the people are sovereign and very attentive to what politicians are up to. Then it passes, and politicians have their usual privacy of inattentiveness, and the individuals who make up the people pay more attention to their own lives than their collective life.

Maitland doesn't bug me sort of making fun of the legal idea of the people. I'm be sotted with the idea of the People, a good group, a wise group, a group to work for, the worst group to give power to except for all other possibilities of who you might give power to. (To take an idea from Winston Churchill.)

It's such of relief to have some parts of the propaganda that I've grown up with that I can really get into. "The People, Yes" as Walt Whitman said, and I'm there with him.


The idea of the people is indeed theoretical, as Maitland points out. Which makes it he more charming that Whitman was so concrete. He liked to walk in crowds. He liked to praise crowds. He liked to meet guys in crowds and take them back to his place and talk to them in detail about their lives, and, all willing, make love with them.

I read a gay guy's book about Whitman. He argued with straight Whitman biographers' idea that Whitman met all these many guys on the street and broought them back to his place and only talked to them On ongoing survey of the male part of the people.

The gay author thought the no-sex idea was ludicrous. I have a tough time some days remembering to notice individuals on the street around me. Gay guys are good at not just noticing but going from "hi" to ecstatic touching in very short order. Whitman thought this was a great way to express democrary. The people--wow!

Many of Whitman's early poems are in love and lust praise of particular guys. They go well with his poems of rah-rah about the glory of the crowd because they are softer, more specific feeling, more believable.

The people is individual people who feel good to touch, who like being touched. Whitman brings the people down from the level of legal abstraction to good times in his New York apartment.

When the US was getting into nasty regional arguments that ultimately let to civil war, Whitman had an idea--"Affection shall solve the every one of the problems of freedom." He described men from every region meeting and clasping hands and kissing as they meet and part. The poem, "Calamus 5" begins--"States! Were you lookin g to be held together by the lawyers? by an agreement on paper? By arms?"

He goes on, addressing the powerful abstraction of the states, to say they will be brought together by arms but not be weapons, but by the arms of men in friendship clasping each other, men from north and south, east and west.

That'll never happen.

In a way that, much later, has happened. Gay guys from all over migrating to the cities to meet and touch. And eventually, to meet and touch and work, with gay women, at expanding the notion of the people. Many of the good parts of US history are about expanding who the people includes.

The people is an odd abstraction, as Maitland implies, but an attractive thing to join, to have some power, to have some power as your whole self and not have to hide to be part of the group that runs things.

As Whitman aged, he was less into talking about his love of men, much less making it the possible answer to war. But his younger poems were so very not ambiguous. They didn't signal; they said. And one of his last poems, to be published by his instructions after his death said,

"Full of wickedness, I--of many a smutch'd deed
reminiscent--of worse deeds capable,
Yet I look composedly upon nature, drink day and night
the joys of life, and await death with perfect
Because of my tender and boundless love for him I love
and because of his boundless love for me."

--Walt Whitman, "Of Many a Smutch'd Deed Reminiscent" from "The Neglected Whitman: Vital Texts" Edited by Sam Abrams
Bless my best intentions, and make them very smart.