writing to know, knowing thru being, being for writing... this is me, writing about the one thing i know, which is myself... and even that is sometimes a mystery...

Friday, July 28, 2006

words of wisdom from spam

look what i got in my spam email of the day:
The pen is mightier than the sword. Walls have ears 
Thingsare not always what they seem. Adversity doesnt
build character, it reveals it Better to live on a
corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome
wife Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you
cry alone
great advice, isn't it?

anyway, i am very sorry for the lack of thoughtful posts lately. i seem to be hitting a hard spot in my summer, as i just wrapped up both of my internships and am now wrapping up my love affair with this city i've come to call home. so, posts will be briefer and fewer in the next few weeks leading up to the fall semester of school. i have only one week left in the beautiful chicago and that's simply not enough time to explore all the wonderful things i neglected when i was busy working, and definitely not enough time to apply for a library card, a street performer license, AND a protesting permit.

aah life. so much to do. so little time (or so the spammers would say.)

love and a bag o potato chips,

Monday, July 24, 2006

a heads up

hey readers.

i've been thinking...

and i think i need to change my url.

so, after much debate, i decided that rather than bother with all the annoying steps involved with copying this entire blog to a new address, i would just change the address. no copying involved!!!

well, not totally... i mean, you will have to copy the new address to your address books and update your links and etc. so you can still find me, which i hope you will still aspire to do.

so, beginning the end of summer, the blog will henceforth be found here:

(note how much easier that is to spell out than the current one, which i'm sure most of you couldn't spell unassisted... which is why i love you.)


something new

i tried to post a link, but apparently nothing about this has broken out on the internet yet, as google didn't turn anything out...

anyway, i'm really scared.

i'm serious, i can't sleep, i'm too afraid to sleep.

i was watching the local news tonight when the reports came on, about four separate incidences on I95 and I90 involving gun fire from a suspected sniper that killed one driver and wounded others in southern/south-eastern indiana, on the freeway between indiana and chicago.

the same path my parents will be taking tomorrow to visit me in chicago.

oh God i am so scared. i just have this horrible feeling and i don't know what to do...

the police "have reason to believe there will be more" and i am so worried my parents might get caught in it.

i know it might seem silly but i have this horrible feeling.

i have been doing the weirdest things since i moved to chicago. i've always been a morbid pessimist in regards to things such as this. i always remind myself of murphy's law when i leave the house, and brace myself for anything to go wrong. it's kinda a sick obsession, where i think that if i prepare myself for it, i won't be so surprised when it comes and will actually find some sort of peace. i figure, if i expect it, i can focus on finding some peace and reflection before my time.

but i don't know how to prepare myself for this. i really hope my parents make it all right. i tried to convince them not to come, and i could tell they were genuinely frightened to come. i just hope they are all right and that nothing happens. i am so scared...

please, i don't normally do this, but i ask that all of you who read this please pray for my parents' safety. i don't know what else to do. i just hope and pray they will be all right.

they are all i have and i love them so much. i don't know what i would do without them, i just can't imagine a life without them. i regret every horrible thing i have ever done to them and every stupid thing i have ever said. if they could just know that and if they could just be safe and happy, i would be content to do anything to ensure that.

please, whatever you believe in, however you make sense of the things that happen in this world, save a thought and a hope for my parents.


Friday, July 21, 2006

putting the ACTIVE in activism

a long overdue post on the midwest social forum and my brief encounter with a career-related exitential crisis...

keep on keeping on...

This past weekend, as part of my internship with Chicago IndyMedia (CIMC), I traveled to Milwaukee, WI, for the Midwest Social Forum, a gathering of grassroots, nonprofit, and progressive organizations, for purposes of networking, combining efforts on a regional level, and discussing pressing social issues – immigrants’ rights, diversity and racial equality, and youth movements being the most prominent among them. We organized and participated in caucuses on independent/alternative media, and discussed the ways in which we could work within the corporate/mainstream model to achieve success for our causes. We also presented workshops on strategic communications and public relations for grassroots organizations.

This was something I had looked forward to the entire summer. In my mind, it signified my milestone in the internship experience, the bridge from grunt-work intern to deservingly invaluable member. I thought of it as an initiation ceremony into an exclusive club, a special social group I desperately wanted to join. It was an opportunity to prove myself, to set myself apart, to leave all the others in the dust and say that I, yes I, was the best intern… ever! (Of course, I was not in fact competing against any one at all. CIMC does not have any other interns. CIMC has never had any other interns. I’m their first and only. That, in and of itself, should have been enough to win their eternal favor. But I am, and have always been, a very competitive person. I’m neurotic about it. The competition’s invisibility only adds to the formidable list of all the compounded possible advantages they may have over me: just another thing to try to overcome with my simple and boring human abilities and strains of luck.)

But as it turns out, this Forum was not what I had in mind. I expected some mental strain and challenges, sure, maybe even some feats of power and strength, but never did I expect to be physically uncomfortable. The whole weekend, I was itching to run. It’s hard to explain, but I have never felt so uncomfortable or cramped in my own skin. I was itching to get away. As much as the subject matter interested me, I could not physically hold myself to such a place. I wanted to duck and run, to stretch and wave my arms wildly. My legs felt as if they were shrinking. My spine, electrified.

I felt like a hyperactive bound in a straightjacket. Everywhere I went, a restriction. Every action, a reaction. I was being contained.

Indeed, I was earning my membership at this Forum. This was the progressive grassroots organization’s answer to fraternity hazing.

It’s not that it was particularly grueling or tedious to be an organizer and/or volunteer. And it wasn’t that I was exhausted from attending the dozen or so workshops, nor from the lack of sleep in my pre-arranged homestay, where the house of rowdy twenty-somethings kept me up late and woke me up early when all I wanted to do was sleep until the headaches went away. No, the discomforts I experienced physically were only a projection of my existential unrest.

And it wasn't that I was bored or restless.

It was this, and simply this, that was causing my unfamiliar discomfort: I was confronting the harsh reality of grassroots activism, a jarring contrast to the glamorous and convenient image of gratifying change I had idealized and sought to implement in my campus activities. To my disappointment, the "real world" activism I was coming to know at the Forum, and in my experiences with IndyMedia, was unfortunately much more familiar than I had hoped it would be. I recognized the fragmented cohesion of core leadership that my activist groups at school struggled with in the past semester. I learned, to my dismay, of the struggles and disappointments of these "professional" activists, who I had hoped to learn and garner apprenticeships from, who I had hoped to model my own successes after. I attended workshops on avoiding burn-out, surprised and upset to learn that my brushes with exhaustion and insurmountable fatigue were not in fact casualties of my inexperience and green-ness to the activist business, but were the business, occupational hazards.

Indeed, it was a test of my strength, my endurance, and my motives.

Perhaps it was that I have never had to confront my (possibly selfish) reasons for wanting to pursue progressive projects and social activist movements. I’ve always been content to simply find the few things I care about enough to mobilize others and myself into a superficial commitment. I have always sought to work toward these few achievements, in even the faintest of semblances, and settle for that. It was not discomfort I was experiencing, but existential and motivational disconnect.

Had I been fooling myself? Had I been doing this for the wrong reasons? Did I actually think I could accomplish something of note and be happy to settle for that? Was I in this for the long term commitment, or was this just another fleeting hobby?

The feeling in my stomach when I thought this --that this might be a petty fascination, a childish fancy, a trend I was following, a phase of rebellion-- was wrenching. I felt sick, genuinely sick, and uncomfortable.

The Forum was a critical moment in my learning experience because it gave me the opportunity to examine myself and reflect my intentions and the intentionality of my actions and motivations. If I strip myself of my comfortable illusions and ulterior motives, if I come to see my activism for what it is --a genuine desire to change the world, no matter what the cost or trials I may face-- and still endeavor to pursue it, perhaps I can find the true happiness and fulfillment I may be seeking, may find something beyond the instant gratification of illusory control over my situation.

I wanted, I needed, to set out and invoke social reform. But not only in my own community or my immediate social circles any more, but also in my approach. I had to change the changes I was implementing to change the world. I had to change my idea and the way of the change I was seeking in the world.

In the context of the Forum, my simple and singularly conceived goals meant nothing. And I had no reputation for greatness or activism to ease my entrance into this culture of activism or to validate my membership. I had to earn it. I had to justify my need to be there.

At a regional gathering, the minor travails of a small student organization from Miami seemed meaningless compared to the national movement for workers’ rights, or the fight for immigrants’ rights and amnesty. Even the voluminous problems concerning Chicago’s youth and inner city were more than I could fathom to tackle with one movement or campaign, more than anyone could pretend to solve in a lifetime.

In my competitive spirit to distinguish myself as a student activist, I had forgotten to be active. There was so much to be done, so many campaigns to get off the ground, so many actions to plan, and such lofty goals to achieve. End world hunger. Reform the educational system. Eliminate poverty. Achieve fair wages and dignity for workers. World amnesty. Return media to the people. Ridding the world of sexism, racism, ageism, healthism… There were endless things in need of change; it would take endless numbers of people and endless amounts of time and energy to make a perceptible difference in any of these areas.

And I couldn't do it all alone. Change can't begin and end with one person, nor can it survive in just a few. It must be shared and distributed among the masses and we need to develop a culture of activism if we wished to see the changes for which we were fighting. Furthermore, change cannot be inspired by sitting in a workshop with like-minded individuals, but must be acted upon, must be brought out to see the sun, must be shared and spread across the world. I will not --cannot-- settle for armchair activism. Effective activism hinges on actions, not passive dreaming or hopes and wishes. Perhaps it begins with a dream, but the goal is to make the dreams a reality, to shatter illusions and conquer reality.

It’s hard to explain what happened to me at the Forum, or what epiphanous discovery I made that altered my perception of self or my work or calling. I just know that I’ve uncovered an itch unscratched, and the feeling of discomfort has been an altogether pleasantly unsettling experience.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

happy anniversary

you've come a long way, baby.

this marks the belated one-year anniversary of the beginning of this humble little blog of mine, something i am proud to have maintained and entertained long enough to see this day.

and it's been quite the journey: from simple cursory blog posts to prose, choreopoetics, theories and indie journalism, from a readership of none to an audience of a few, but dedicated and thoughtfully caring friends, from feeling alone, voiceless and aimless to speaking out and speaking my mind and speaking for others and speaking... this blog has become more than an outlet, it's become the electricity.

i hope that in another year, it will become something even more.

but for now, i am happy to settle for a few brief words from my dusty poetry notebook.
this is the first in a series of notebooks i have collected from the past two summers, and this piece happens to be from last summer. i never published it before, given its private nature, but i have since lost the feelings that accompanied its penning, and therefor feel comfortable opening it up and exposing it to the ethers.

pour les larmes des etoiles,

a flushing
a great unraveling of mind----
the tenuous build of body and melding of mind/spirit/soul to finally culminate in the conception of a magnificence beyond you and me and the world between us, the sunlight grasping the cool summer air as we lie awake on the roof of the world looking down on fiery furnaces and dirt pathways and a glistening mirror lake, reflecting our desires and fears and thoughts articulated to the open air of summer, animal spirits bearing witness to the communion of two souls thru words articulated to the dirt mounds of time, the childhood wishing fulfilled in the grasp of a hand, the feeling of congruent palms and the holding of limbs, like mountain goats we climbed to the top of our world to look down and into the future and into time and you said 'what if we are starting something?' and pointed to the stars and i gazed up to see, not the connecting of dots to form lines, but the creation of worlds to find a place for us in it, and the putting into figures and shapes a feeling wordless in breathing.

tiny pink feet

i found a dead mouse in a mouse trap on the floor of the copy room of my work today. [pictures forthcoming...]

poor little thing, the trap had flipped up and over as the snap released and was smothering her, so all i could see were her tiny pink geet, curled slightly, and her thin wiry tail, straight out behind her, possibly in fright or surprise.

hideous thing, the mouse trap. would we ever devise something like that to trap homeless people with? a large steel bar to come crashing down on one's head or snapping at your neck or breaking your hands and wrists if you reached to grab something you wanted to eat?

no, that would be cruel.

that's how i think of mice, such small and slight creatures, so gentle and delicate. like little office hoboes, displaced from their homes by xerox machines and water coolers. just trying to make a living and find a bite to eat amid all the stress and flow of the office.

people can be so cruel.

p.s. on another note, i haven't noticed any traps in my cubicle vicinity, and i will have you know i have been an exceptionally messy eater recently... ;-)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

brief thoughts on the go

hi hey hello and all the other combinations and permutations of salutations

i've got guests this weekend, so before i'm consumed with the various duties involved in hostessing, i thought i would do a post!


first off, i just awoke from a horrible dream. i was in my ex's apartment, just hanging out for some reason. in the dream, i told myself it was because i didn't want to be bothered or talk to anyone (i guess i was working...?) so i was hanging out there because i knew it was as good a place as any. certainly no one would talk to me there...

so i was hanging out... and i remember that his apartment had expanded, and there was this weird passageway... like a drawing/sitting room between his living room and bedroom, and i was sitting in there looking at this huge wooden china cabinet with large steel rivets, a lofty antique, and i was either drawing or describing the jars and vases inside.

and my ex and his new girlfriend walked by, she was wearing this bright red shirt and he was wearing a white polo and khakis and i remember thinking how odd he looked, his hair trimmed and slightly curled behind his ears, his face clean-shaven, and i thought to myself, 'he must love her, he never cleaned-up for me...'

and they just kinda glanced at me, laughing a bit at my pathetic-ness, holding hands as they walked past me to the bedroom. and i just looked at them and kept on doing whatever it was i was doing. and then i could hear them in the next room, because they had purposefully not closed the door.

the rest of the dream, it was me sitting in the same room, attending to the same task, and them finding various other ways of taunting me and flaunting themselves. (now that i think about it, what a strange dream! i don't think i've ever had a dream where i'm not the one doing the main action, or where i'm not the one whose emotions or senses are not the main focus. and in this dream, the ex and girlfriend were clearly the focus... huh)

and i remember one part in particular, because it was the moment which stirred me awake: my ex and his girlfriend had finished in the bedroom and were now heading out, so they exited by way of the room i was occupying. i was still busy being busy, and they came in, his gf glancing down at me, kinda whispering to my ex, 'why does she have to be here?' and my ex making this critical face in mocking me, and then he stopped right in front of me.

i looked up at him and said, "excuse me, i'm busy." he was looking at these pictures on the coffee table next to the leather chair i was in (the apartment of the dream is nothing like my ex's austere "real" apartment. this apt was something of a pier one novelty...) these were pictures of me when i was little, like when i was in elementary school (when i thought i was so much cuter...) and they were in these weird metal and wood frames, to match the china cabinet.

and he picked them up and was looking at them. and i just sat there, incredibly uncomfortable. and he says something like 'are you taking these back now that we're not together?' ...or 'these were left here from when we were together' ...or 'you gave me these at a different time' ...or 'you can take these with you now, i don't need them any more' ...something crystally cruel like that.

and then they left, and i was alone in his apartment. and really upset.

i went to the bathroom, and then i left.


got some fantastic spam this morning! check it out!
aesthete compensatory celebrate
prevention swamibusiness dystrophy rid
squatter bufflehead <--- my favorite #1
czechoslovakiapetalportrait <--- my favorite #2
truncate methionine
sellout associate
fairyheat hotelman array
hookworm toroid
i think that ever since i did that spam poetry post, i've been getting more of it. how lovely! am i too trusting to believe that spammers might be researching their victims and that this latest flood of spam to my mailbox is an attempt on their part to appease me?

or... is it because, in the search for good spam, i've fallen to opening every one i get, even the "married women need love too... watch them get naked and..." ones.

o funny turn of events!!

enjoy your weekends!! get some sleep for me!

Thursday, July 13, 2006


tired of titles...

i changed my blog's description today, as a result of recent self-observation.

this blog used to be a search for truth, an electronic poetry archive but has now devolved into nothing more than an online journal, a silly place for people to read my personal stories and woes.

i'm a bit sorry to see it come to this. but i figure if i change the title, at least people can't be upset or disappointed.

here's what the description used to be:
distilled & spontaneous creative & destructive poetry & essays, under the freedom of the pseudonym, "ogbuefi"

and now, it's not.

and before that, it used to be this:
An attempt to transcend the spaces and energies between you and me and the entity known simply as: "ogbuefi." (an outlet for the communication of self and thoughts thru poetry and rhetoric).
(this is when it was listed on under books & literature... ha. i bet no one would even think to count this under literature now...)

o so sad... but sick of feeling sorry for myself.

moving on,


sometimes i get tired of having to come up with original titles for posts each time i go to write one.

why must every post i write have a title, can't i be content just to leave it unnamed and informal?

anyway, i realized yesterday what's been bothering me: i suck at relationships.

yep, that's the whole of it. i'm all depressive and darkly mooded lately because i found out that my ex-boyfriend of the last two years is now living with this girl he's known for like a month.

ugh. my mind is in a blender.

i'm not even jealous. i bet she's cool.

nor am i sad about it. my relationship with my ex was rocky at best. though for about a half a year it was the best thing ever. we sincerely loved each other for that brief time, and i couldn't imagine myself being happier with anyone else. and then, he goes away for one week, and he hooks up with a girl and begins cheating on me until we finally gave up on trying to make things work and i left to focus on other things (saving my educational program, trying to get a living wage for miami's staff, writing poetry and working on school projects, research papers, etc.) while he continued seeing her. i saw them together uptown like a few weeks later and that pretty much was the end of it. until then, i had still even entertained the idea of taking him back, of wanting to get back together.

ever have that happen to you? it's like your heart is being ripped out. it sounds cliche, but it's so true. it's like someone took a giant set of pliers and jammed it thru my sternum and proceeded to pull it out from my chest cavity, the beating pulses like echoes in an emptiness that enlarges.

so, no formal break-up, not so much as even an explanation. it was pretty much one week we're seeing each other all the time, seeking comfort in each other's company, learning and growing into the other's life. the next, we're strangers, and i'm bitter and confused, he's blissfully (and unremorsefully) moved on.

ugh. my body is rejecting this antidote. my systems are shutting down.

i'm not even upset because he's moved on. i finally realized i don't want to be with him. i put myself thru enough shit to try to make that relationship work, so getting out of it has been a good (no, great!) thing.

it's that i'm so pissed because he's moving on fine and i'm having all these existential crises and i can't even decide what to do with my life (writer? journalist? novelist? poet? film-maker? graphic designer? politician? activist? teacher? business woman??) , can't decide what i want to study (math? english? psychology? film studies? art? interior design? fashion? political science? communications? business??)

can't even decide where i want to live (france? canada? chicago? lexington, ky? oxford??) or where to go (here? there? stay? go??)

ugh. my body's vomiting. it's rejecting everything inside.

see, the problem is, the one area i thought i was ok at was in being a decent person, being a pleasant person, a happy bubbly and optimistic person. i thot i had good relationships with my friends and family. but my romantic relationships have successfully changed the nature of my other relationships, something i am so sad to admit and realize.

so i'm having to own up to the fact that i suck at being with people.

and i can't decide if i want to be with someone or if i will be content to be alone the rest of my life.

it seems the only person who will put up with me is my self, and that's only because she can't avoid it. i'm sure she'd want to leave me too if she could find a way.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

chicago rains

the weather today
is more like Ireland than Chicago
cloudy and dark to match my affect
a moist humid windy
the sweat of the city vaporized
moistured heat rising
the sidewalk concrete's breath
thru pockets in my epidermal raincoat

heavy clouds descended on the city
like sodden woolen balloons
sinking onto satellites, gargoyle spires, and tower points
pinched, fit to burst

seagulls loitering the littered city lawns
speckled gray and white
storm cloud paintings on their wings
and gray sky gloom in the orbs of their eyes

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

occupational hazards of being a young adult at the crux of her life, confronting her disenchantment and her (im)possible future

i'm getting another intolerable wave of depression lately.

i get these crippling episodes of self-doubt and rage every now and then. they've been increasing in frequency lately though, so i suspect if they worsen in degree and magnitude, i shall have to seek the help and guidance of an existential doctor.

here's the thing:
my skin is falling off,
my hair is falling out
my teeth hurt
my joints ache

i hate my body
i hate my face
i'm going blind
i'm going deaf
i'm getting dim

can't write
can't sing
can't dance
can't play

no visions
no material
no calling
no purpose or drive

no friends
no family
no sense of self or being
no home
no in-between

the earth is just the place i live
and my body is just a casing

i want to jump out of my skin.
i'm so sick
and so tiring...

i feel like i've failed at everything
and only tried the baby steps
while climbing too high altitudes.

someone save me from myself.
i think i've fallen to sinking.

see, i've been living by myself all summer, and though i despised it before and was scared to live alone (i've never done it before) i find that now, i'm quite content to be my only companion. i find myself (or my many selves) to be quite reasonable company on one of my dark moods. or one of my crazy happy ones.

the thing is, i've discovered that after only 8 weeks living alone, i've become a misanthrope. it's true. i've given up on trying to please people. it's too difficult and requires too much effort and care on my part. pleasing so many people, playing to their wishes and desires, their devious little thoughts, trying to avoid trouble or misunderstanding... all these things are sooooo taxing. and it's sometimes such a waste of time. and energy. and i don't eat a lot these days, so i'm low on energy. in fact, the starship stephanie is encountering an energy crisis lately because i'm losing my energetic fizz. i suppose the summer's made my effervescence stale.

bubbly i no longer am. instead, i'm quite the cold and bitter shadow of a person i used to be. i used to humor people and make conversation easily. i used to strike out for the nearest social contact, heading to the bar, or a concert, or the park, or even the subway, talking to any stranger who would turn an ear my way.

but after a summer festering in my solitude with only myself and my thoughts for company, i suppose i've learned to talk to myself and respond back quite sufficiently.

so here's the deal:
i've forgotten how to love people.

it's true. i've always thought humans to be an inferior species, but now i'm actually finding my behavior corresponds.

so what to do? i desperately want to learn to love people again, but i can't.

the rejected has now learned to reject.

what now?

Monday, July 10, 2006

pssh. you don't know me...

blogthings quizzies pretend to know me...

the data:

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

What Your Face Says

At first glance, people see you as down to earth and reliable.

Overall, your true self is reserved and logical.

With friends, you seem dramatic, lively, and quick to react.

In love, you seem mysterious and interesting.

In stressful situation, you seem like you're oblivious to the stress.

Your Hair Should Be Purple

Intense, thoughtful, and unconventional.
You're always philosophizing and inspiring others with your insights.

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Your Birthdate: December 26

You lucked out the the skills to succeed in almost any arena.
Put you in almost any business or classroom, and you'll rise to the top.
You're driven and intense, but you also know when to kick back and cooperate.
Your ability to adapt to almost any situation is part of what's going to make you a success.

Your strength: Your attention to detail

Your weakness: You can be a little too proud of your successes

Your power color: Turquoise

Your power symbol: Arrow pointing up

Your power month: August

Exotic Dancer Name Is...


You Are 52% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Your Brain is 53% Female, 47% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female
You are both sensitive and savvy
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve

Your 1950s Name is:

Charlene Veronica

Your Porn Star Name Is...

Tasty Treats

You're an Expert Kisser

You're a kissing pro, but it's all about quality and not quantity
You've perfected your kissing technique and can knock anyone's socks off
And you're adaptable, giving each partner what they crave
When it comes down to it, your kisses are truly unforgettable

Your Personality Is

Idealist (NF)

You are a passionate, caring, and unique person.
You are good at expressing yourself and sharing your ideals.

You are the most compassionate of all types and connect with others easily.
Your heart tends to rule you. You can't make decisions without considering feelings.

You seek out other empathetic people to befriend.
Truth and authenticity matters in your friendships.

In love, you give everything you have to relationships. You fall in love easily.

At work, you crave personal expression and meaning in your career.

With others, you communicate well. You can spend all night talking with someone.

As far as your looks go, you've likely taken the time to develop your own personal style.

On weekends, you like to be with others. Charity work is also a favorite pastime of yours.

o, and my favorite:
In a Past Life...

You Were: A Greasy Magician.

Where You Lived: China.

How You Died: Dysentery.
Who Were You In a Past Life?

psssh. you don't know me at all...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

beauty in the ether: an analysis of spam poetry

one thing i did a lot of this past weekend at the convention was attend some "ill" (ill in this case being a good thing, like "sick") spoken word workshops. i learned to use poetry as part of a social change movement, and to incorporate my voice into artist/activist movements.

anyway, it got me thinking about the amazing ability of student writers and activists who were even younger than i am, and how i could never have been so prolific or talented when i was that age. but i acknowledged i had never been given the outlet, the chance, the opening to express myself, never found a space in which to develop that talent, to explore its potentiality.

and it made me consider the formalities of "art" and the limits we place on products before we deem them worthy of accepting the title. art is sacred, and we reserve that distinction for the distinctive. but this is limiting, inhibits growth and progress and change and innovation. because it stymies youth such as me and the young artists i was seeing perform their art this past weekend. if we reserve "art" for the elite and the practiced and the few, we limit its transformative capabilities. we commodify it. we relegate its place and its role in the democratic process, thereby diluting its very nature. art and activism are inherently similar, and difficult to separate. so, when you limit art to the few and priveleged, you remove it from the people. it is no longer art "for the people" or for the masses, but for the consumer elite. and that is a disservice to the population, as well as to the art itself.

the formality of the creation of art itself may also be formalized to the point of limiting creation. we see this in the editing process. here, i build on the poetic philosophy of one of my favorite revolutionary poets jack kerouac (who i deem "revolutionary" not so much in his ability to affect social change, which is the way in which i usually use the term, but i believe he was revolutionary in transforming the perception of language and the role of his art in terms of a movement, the beat generation).

i, like kerouac, believe in the purity of the spontaneous. spontaneous poetics seek to build on the beauty of the moment, which i liken to surrendering oneself and one's art to the chance and probability of nature and its forces and its ability to sweep you into something greater, that in trusting some aspect of your art to something uncontrollable (nature, time, other people), your abilities may be heightened, your art gaining momentum and force from the forces surrounding you. and i didn't realize i would get so ridiculous and philosophical here, but i'm gonna go with it...

consider the process of editing. parsing down, eliminating words and phrases that may be considered ineffective, clunky, etc. but to achieve what? art? beauty? how to define what is art and what is beauty, and who says that true intent and spontaneous poetry are not these things, cannot be these things? if the laws that govern nature are inherently given to chance and therefore beauty and are undivinable by humanity, and our art can lend itself to the same powers of chance and beauty, how then can we aim to censor and distill and produce something higher, produce something more beautiful, if after all, the art that is produced purely from true intent and spontaneous chance may in fact be messages pulled from the ether?

a spectacular example: SPAM POETRY

everyone gets those annoying emails from spammers. they get so clever these days too: designing subject lines that might pertain to something of interest to you. "hello dear friend." "thank you for your time." "in need of your assistance." "Alps." (i opened that last one...) even the extremely cleverly deceptive, "[Re]:"

inside, however, just lines of gibberish. perhaps only symbols. SPAM. initiate conditioned response... move to trash. remove. block this user. delete forever.

but, i've looked at several dozen of these spam emails over the past year, and it fascinates me to discover the totally unintentional, but unmistakably and undeniably poetic nature of many of them. more often than not, spam emails are a random assortment of words and letters, loosely assembled into word pairings and phrase blocks, often with little intelligible association. "jelly spatula rhino wing." "garguntusolarnebtitude." "Komodo Nicaragua sunset." gibberish... right?...

mm, maybe not.

on further analysis, i cannot help but credit spammers with some poetic ability. for, in caring very little about their actual message, they've managed to do away with conventional restrictions on language (which would limit word combinations to those that make traditional sense), relying on chance combinations instead, which, in no longer needing to adhere to rules of grammar and word orders, taps into a realm of infinite word combination possibilities, and explores the beauty of unfettered language, language reliant on no more than chance. in doing away with concern for the message, they've managed to achieve a better realized sense of beauty. accidentally perhaps, but no less remarkable. and arguably, no less exemplary.

consider these, from the aforementioned "alps" spam email i got just the other day:
joliet bromide deprivation
cowboy affidavitdied
what do these mean? "joliet bromide deprivation?" no clue, but i know joliet is a prison in chicago... bromide an allotype of bromine, an element on the periodic table... what do these words mean when compounded together with deprivation? "indelibleleash?" an image of a stinging welt on the delicate skin on someone's neck from a tightened leather cord...

one could spend days trying to ascribe meaning to these word pairings, with little success. proper language would never allow for these pairings in daily usage, which makes it all the more refreshing and extraordinary to encounter them in my spam emails each day.

...makes me want to forego spam protection and get all my poetry in spam digest form...

compare the SPAM poetry to the following SLAM poetry (from this weekend's spoken word forum):
sunlight spirits
i taste the angst but spit it out
louder than a bomb
angel wing ribcage fluttering
comparable juxtaposition of images, but the latter with a more predictable structure of meaning bordering on contrivance, drawing from similar (perhaps too similar?) image pools, while spam poetry relies on the random, the very source of its power being the impact of such glaring and garish dissociation.

spam poetry makes me reconsider the meaning of art, whether beauty is redemption enough for art, or if it must be heightened more by message. if it's not enough simply to consider the poetic potential of moments realized, appreciate the social space one occupies in a moment, and began to value the poetic potentiality of every word and phrase, and realize the beauty of incidental moments, the overlap of time and places signifying something extraordinary in the commonplace.

spam uses random assortment of words, but in combinations i could never have dreamed or produced under even the most creative of pretenses.

it is in the complete disregard for words' meanings that a reclamation of words' beauty is re-realized.

thus, the synthesis of nuanced and truly fresh poetry, unlike any i have ever encountered.

and what's more, totally free of that daunting and overused (and now meaningless) term: "art."

to the ether and the etherealized...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

catching up while winding down...

hello hello.

just a brief post before i totally CRASH from the longest weekend ever (read: nonstop organizational meetings and workshops, constant containment in small lowlit rooms in a small lowlit city [milwaukee=not fun. university of wisconsin, milwaukee's student union=even less fun.] no significant physical activity, prolonged sleep deprivation, starvation from fresh air and normal diet = hell on the body's systems.)

in sum:
i went to milwaukee for the midwest social forum, a gathering of grassroots and nonprofit org's for a networking and workshop extravaaganza, which was enriching and definitely a unique and empowering experience, but also totally draining (i have NEVER had to stay still in one small place for such a long period of time). i am now home and finally getting around to answering emails and messages from so many of you wonderful darlings, it warms my heart to have such terrific correspondences, so if you haven't heard from me and are wondering why, it's because i was in milwaukee without internet and i think i am coming down with a stomach flu, and will be getting around to answering your calls, emails, etc. when i am feeling well enough to eat again.

accounts from the weekend, some advice and knowledge to share, as well as some rants are all in the mix for the next few days.

until then, stay safe, and get some fresh air. it really does your body good (as i am now discovering...)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

taking on the army of one -OR- how i nearly got arrested -- an exclusive story from the ground

[sorry! it seems my links to the article don't work. while i try to figure this out, please just read ahead. this post is more detailed (tho more editorialized) than the article i wrote anyway...]

this just in!

the military and chicago police hate peace!


i had heard stories of police brutality in chicago. so harsh and disgraceful and heartless as to be compared to abu ghraib.

but i didn't believe it. could never have believed it. until this weekend.

yes, this weekend signifies my threshold of patience and understanding for the law and law enforcement and authority.

because this weekend, i witnessed the oppression --the unlawful and unjustified and unwarranted-- oppression of civilians and the death of first amendment rights at the hands of law enforcement.

what started as merely an effort on the part of ten to twenty pro-peace advocates to distribute information regarding the iraq war and military un-truths soon became a violent confrontation between civilians and an overwhelming police force.

and i only barely evaded arrest.

"well, surely she's being dramatic," you say. ha, i only wish i were. "stephanie could never have gotten in trouble with the law. that just seems so unlike her." ha, that's what i was thinking too. in fact, that's what i've been thinking this whole time. "surely this is all a bad dream and i am going to wake up any minute now."

well someone please pinch me and kick me in the head, cause it ain't happening...

i've always been a loud person. but i've only recently been a vocal one. and only recently did i start challenging authority figures (my parents, MU administration, President, bosses, now police...) in the name of justice and good conscience. but never, NEVER, would i have imagined it would one day come to the point where i'd be threatened arrest.

it started like any normal day: i rolled out of bed, awakened an hour earlier than i had planned to be by an urgent phone call. work-related. "hey it's eric from the national lawyers guild," is what the guy on the other line says. i've been working with him and some friends from my work, chicago indymedia, to sort out some reported police abuse and suppression of first amendment rights. apparently, just the day before, a group of student activists from various org's had been ordered and forced off park grounds during the taste of chicago for flyering. when i heard this it seemed too silly to be a big thing. "obviously this can't happen" is what i said. "it's a public park... there can't be 'designated' free speech zones. this is loony!"

au contraire mon frère.

i saw today exactly what the guild and other activists had reported to me about. and i was dumbfounded.

indeed, within minutes of us getting to the taste, there were people on alert. the pro-peace groups that gathered there, too many to count, consisted of no more than a few individuals, each representing their own personal agenda (i spoke with mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, and siblings of serving military men and women, many of whom constituted a support group of people who had lost loved ones in the war), but united under a common goal: to provide information to the passers-by in the park that day about military recruitment tactics. one father who lost his only son in afghanistan spoke of all the false promises made by recruiters to get him to enlist that had ultimately resulted in his son's death.

and i saw first-hand the insidious ways of military recruitment: the basketball hoops. the chin-ups challenge. the merchandise giveaways. the sexy recruitment "sales" persons. all sly marketing moves meant to enchant and brainwash and entice young children into enlisting. it looks so fun and rewarding! free steak dinners! movie tickets! cool free swag! and basketball! wowza! i was convinced: snow white's evil stepmother was more subtle than the military pretends to be.

and the most disturbing part was the targeted demographic: 8-14 year old boys and girls, who, with their parents' encouragement (don't be fooled, adults are no more wise or immune to the military's evil ways than children are) would participate in the army mind tricks and feats of strength, so that eventually two young prepubsecent boys would be locked in a manhood challenge, fighting each other to sign up for the military.

i overheard one mother say to her son, who was fighting gravity and a newly forming hernia to stay chin above the metal bar, "stay up there son! show them how strong you are!... but don't let them take you away from me!" then, realizing the company she was in, and feeling the favor of the crowd turn against her as they shunned her with their eyes, nervously corrected herself, "just kidding! hahaha...ha"

there was also the unmistakable care on recruiters' parts to pay special attention to the minority boys in their unwitting audience. kids from black, hispanic and asian families were of special interest to them. and if they were lower/working class... JACKPOT! they were preying on the impressionable youth of our macho-aggrandizing culture, and much to their success. i was disgusted and ashamed.

my fellow activists and i, no more than just ten to fifteen of us (only 5 of whom were actually doing anything, the rest being lawyers and legal observers, or friends of participants. even then, all we were doing was distributing literature and talking to people!), each representing a different organization, armed ourselves with flyers and leaflets, handbills with information on the military and their enlistment tactics. we spread out around the army's booth and began passing out information.

moments later, police began appearing. in the matter of a few minutes, there was a wall of law enforcers blocking people (including those interested in enlisting, ha!) from the army booth. i had two officers push me away. ME! of all people... i guess my slight 5'5" frame, peaceful nature, easy smile, and literature were a clear threat to public safety...

i said as calmly and strongly as i could to one officer, who was of a particularly irritable nature, to "please don't shove me." surprised by my assertiveness, he towered down at me, shoulders thrust back, chest puffed up (you know, typical male animal battle stance) and snarled, "i'm not shoving you. i'm touching you. you want to see what shoving is like? i can show you!!" he then put some extra pressure into my shoulder, a push which, had it not been for the now tightly packed crowd and my surprising sure-footedness, should have sent me hurtling to the ground.

he eventually backed down, but only after one of his fellow officers, who must have noticed the absurdity of the situation (large muscle-y policeman tries to start a fight with a skinny teenage asian girl) asked him to move away and "cool off." (pssh, really. that guy was so riled up i could see the veins in his head and eyes popping. hope he never takes the CTA. that might be enough to kill him...)

the growing mass of police, now well out-numbering our already small group --at one point i counted 6 high-ranking officers (white shirts) and about 10-15 others (blue shirts)... that's more than three officers per acting peace advocate!-- began to threaten arrest if we did not relocate to a "designated zone."

um, excuse me?!???!!!

"designated zone?" we cried, "there are no designated zones for free speech!"

as we cited our rights (um, does the FIRST AMENDMENT sound familiar? um, like "there shall be no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble..." hmm...) the cops told us that they respected our concern, but we needed to move to another "approved" area to exercise those rights.


last time i checked, there were no restrictions to the first amendment. and it doesn't get any clearer than this: we were there to practice our right to freedom of information and voice, our right to assemble peacefully (tho we had never even intended to "assemble" in the first place!)

the officers told us that if we wanted to protest, we needed to move away from the army's booth and relocate to a "public" street.

hmmm, last time i checked, neither the army nor the police owned the sidewalks of the public park.

furthermore, it was not a "protest." it wasn't even a concentrated effort. in fact, in all my history doing progressive demonstrations and actions, i had never seen one so poorly planned or executed. more than half of those in attendance were merely standing silently holding flyers, hoping that someone walking past would take one. i got so upset watching the fruitless efforts that i joined in the efforts to offer my talents for voice projection and persuasion (i'm a weathered street teamer. a usually fearless veteran of numerous grassroots street actions).

with the growing tension in the situation, and the escalating hostility from police, our efforts seemed to double in volume and persistence. soon, the threats of arrest were being drowned out by chants of "resist! don't enlist!" and my reading of names of soldiers killed in the war.

and i only got louder and louder. i could feel the blood rushing to my head. i could feel my neck pulsing, the muscles buckling with the strain from my backpack and my voice. i felt the eyes of people walking by, heard their snickers, but also the awe and appreciation. i received hi-fives, hand shakes, shoulder gropes, along with hateful glares, confused expressions of disapproval, garbage tosses, and the growing negative attention of the local law.

but this did not deter me. i'm stubborn. and i work especially well under pressure and duress. if anything, the police were making things worse by taunting me. i love to challenge probability. if things look hard, i like to prove people wrong. if people threaten to take me down, i make sure i don't go down without a fight.

as i could see them eyeing me, most likely debating handcuffing me on the spot, i began shouting the names. and as i got louder, i also got faster. it was ridiculous. i could see people in my periphery walking past with looks of urgency. they must've thought me mad.

my friends came up to me. three of them. "we want you to know," they said, "that those officers have been talking of arresting you." a sick self-gratified smile crept onto my face. "we love what you're doing. it's working! the booth has emptied." i looked and saw it was true: since the first arrest, the number of people visiting the booth had dwindled. now, there were hardly any. "but we want you to know, that if you keep doing it, you'll probably get arrested." i said that again to myself. i felt the meaning with my lips. the words in my mouth were like a bitter refreshing drink. it woke me up to the reality of the situation.

"if you do get arrested," my friends said, "we won't let them take you alone. we'll go with you. can you afford to do it?" i thought about a night alone in a jail cell. the police twisting my arms. cold steel cutting into my wrists. my parents learning their first child had been arrested. it wouldn't matter the circumstances, they would disown me. i thought about my clean record, now reading "arrested for protesting." i began to shake.

"bastards!" i spat. i became quiet.

my friends took me out of sight. i sunk into a ball on the ground, nearly sobbing, but angry at myself. i couldn't get arrested. despite how much i wanted to, despite how much i wanted to be a martyr for our cause, i couldn't do it. i was a coward. i was scared. and i was selfish.

"i'm so sorry" i gasped. "i can't do it, i can't!" they rubbed my back and comforted me. but it wasn't enough. i was struggling with myself. i didn't know who i wanted to destroy more, my self, or my opponent. the destruction of one required the sacrifice of the other.

and in that moment, i couldn't do it.

i sat on the sidelines, helplessly watching as our efforts began dying down. the cops had pulled out ziplines, plastic makeshift handcuffs resembling the plastic ties used to close up garbage bags. i wanted to sick on myself as i watched the police take 7 of my friends away, their arms twisted painfully behind their backs. two of them were still in high school. many of them were the parents of soldiers in the army. one was a 60-something year old woman, clad in bright fuscia from head to toe, her shirt reading "stop the next war."

as i chanted "shame! shame! shame!" with the others, it became clear that we were in a war of our own that day. we were in a struggle to defend our rights against the face of a cruel and hostile military authority.

there were cries of unrest and disapproval. those left began verbally attacking the police. we loudly demanded to be told the grounds for arrest, only to be denied comment. we told them they were wrong, they were denying first amendment rights, that they were breaching the law.

the police didn't care.

and i saw the fear and disbelief spread on everyone's faces. it was a grave day.

"ladies and gentlemen!" i yelled, "you are witnessing the death of freedom and democracy today! innocent people are being arrested for practicing their constitutional right to free speech!"

cries of shame and anger rang out that night. they still haunt me now.

because in that moment, when it mattered most, i was too scared to defend myself and my friends against a clearly wrong authority. and it shames me now to call myself an activist.

what right do i have now to exercise my rights, if i was too scared to defend them that day? if you don't speak up against wrong, what right do you have to consider yourself right? if you allow yourself and the voice of your cause to be silenced in the face of oppression, when are you ever going to be able to overcome it?

freedom must be earned. and once you have it, don't let it be taken away.

celebrate your freedoms, your rights, and your voice! people too easily become complacent in this society and fail to challenge wrongdoing by government and authority. our trust in government authority has become an opiate for individual choice and freedoms, and i beg you, on this day, if on no other, to celebrate your freedom by practicing your rights!


see video footage of the events and the arrests
see my first-hand account
read my article on indymedia
read the tribune's story
more on police brutality in chicago