natural growth

I stopped shaving my armpits a few months ago. At first it wasn’t to make a statement. I was just curious how it would feel to keep it.

It happened when I got really sick for about a month. I felt so horrible I could not care less about shaving any part of my body. When I got better, I looked under my arms ready to mow down the short black tuft that had grown and realized it had never been this long before. To shave or not to shave never felt like a choice that was given to me. It was presented to me, by a combination of social pressure from other women and Seventeen Magazine (a garbage publication btw), as if it were a plain fact of being a woman.

Since I realized I felt like I wasn’t supposed to have a choice in the matter, I stopped. I trim it once in a while but for now I’m not shaving it anymore. I get the occasional glance of curiosity or subtle surprised look from people when I lift my arm in front of them. I’ve actually grown to like the feeling of it. I feel more me.

So I decided to make a series of six drawings about body hair. Each of the ~unsightly haired areas~ are replaced with native California plants, which are all also classified as weeds (likely by anxiety-ridden suburbanites or OCD gardeners). Like body hair, weeds are purely a matter of taste. It’s all about what you think other people care about, what they assume about you, and all the random social stigmas that come from tedious norms.

You can see them as ugly and problematic, or you can see them as beautiful and interesting.

 

butt_flowers


shoulder_mustard

 

 

stomach_clovers

 

the rot that was there all along.

This past week, the digital security community had to confront the fact that a major figurehead in the movement is a rapist, after about a dozen people came out with stories of his sexual assault. I’d heard vague stories about him for a while. Mainly that he’d push people’s boundaries and disregard their consent. Even given what I knew, it was still horrifying to read what he had done to women.

What gets me the most is how he violated these individuals’ bodies, along with their trust, and the trust of an entire community who looked to him as a strong leader who spoke truth to power. He raped and assaulted people between public speeches advocating for transparency, democracy, and human rights. He did it, as he spoke out against other rapists and perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment.

It makes me wonder where else this rot lives. Who else in the social justice community is in fact themselves the embodiment of the social decay they publicly stand against? I wasn’t personally affected by him, but what he did and who he turned out to be shakes me to the core. The harsh contradiction between what he claimed to fight for and what he did to these women makes me feel vulnerable, the paranoid kind that makes me want to roll into a ball in my bed under the covers and never trust anyone ever again.  It also makes me ANGRY. Red-in-the-face, spit-spraying, crying, shaking, anger.

But in the torrent of these feelings, I try to dig out and hold up the third: an immense pride and relief that these women spoke out. *They are heroes.* Despite so much fear and shame that this horrible scum-of-a-man subjected them to all this time, they managed to push it aside to speak out. It’s not even a question whether they did it for some self-serving purpose. It’s horrible to have to dig up those memories—even remembering my own minor incidents of sexual assault make me want to cave into myself. I can’t imagine how much emotional work it took to share them with the world.

Since the silence was broken, people I respect have stood by and denied the allegations. But so many more have stood with the victims. I can let the despair over the existence of rampant rape and sexual assault get to me—or, I can be inspired by these victims’ actions and honor their heroism by doing more to speak out against the violent force of patriarchy in my community as soon as I see it.

 

since the last time I was in Brussels

 

onion soup and  fries
late night room service im eating as i write this
 
The last time I was in Belgium was right after high school, when my buddies and I took a euro trip across five countries in three weeks. Now ten years later, I’m here for a work trip—to discuss at some meetings how policies between the EU and U.S. undermine consumer/user interests and to figure out a plan to reform corporate-captured trade deals so they’re more transparent and democratic. I think 18 year old me would be nodding in approval if she knew what I’m up to nowadays. 

Mostly because I was so full of self-conscious despair throughout my teens. I knew that the world was deeply messed up, power-wise, money-wise, gender-wise, race-wise, etc., but it felt so overwhelming to wrap my head around and I didn’t know where to start. There wasn’t anything inconsistent to me about enjoying Ayn Rand’s writing, which I thought was a celebration of unique self-determination, and reading Adbusters and becoming disillusioned by unrestrained capitalism. I didn’t know where to direct my anger or concern, how to articulate my criticism or my own ideology. 

But now I feel like I have a much better handle on things. For one I’m more on top of my shit and so more confident in my own skin and voice than I’ve ever been. I’ve come a long way from the emo days when I could barely contain my anger when someone around me would utter something ignorantly hateful (although I couldn’t a few times, once flipping over my desk about someone’s pro-Iraq war comment in Morality class). When my only outlets were to scrawl my feelings about the world in my journal and rant about “the world” at anyone who would listen when I got drunk at parties.  

I’ve found a way to funnel those anger/despair feels into being an activist. In the decade since I was a confused baby adult, I’ve learned a few things—to be curious and skeptical, to avoid blindly clinging to ideologies, and understand the importance of balancing between idealistic optimism and pragmatic cynicism. 

My 18 year-old self might be surprised to know that I’d travel all the way back here as part of my job. But I’d like to think she’d be more pleased that I’ve been trying what I can to fix some of the injustice in this world that filled her with so much dread, and am constantly challenging myself to get better at making sense of them to myself and others. 

nostalgia for the early Web

I just miss it, don’t you? If you’re older than the age of 23 or so and were fortunate enough to have access to the Internet, you’ll remember how magical this new digital frontier felt like, its aesthetic and air of possibility…

There’s a fair criticism that those who feel nostalgia for the early days of the Internet often dwell on how fascinating it was compared to its often polished/siloed interface now, but never think about how very exclusive it really was. It was mostly white, well-off educated people who had access. So in claiming that the Internet ought to somehow be like “the old days,” there’s an implication that it ought be exclusive.

But having said that, I still wish I could browse and interact with the Web from back then. I would pay *good money* to get a copy of what my livejournal or myspace page in its full anigify splendor. I must’ve spent HOURS futzing with their html/css to get it just the way I wanted. Designers would (and probably did) cringe at the thought of everyone designing their own web pages, but there was something endearing about the fact that glamming up your site with flashing buttons and titles wasn’t just accepted, it was freakin celebrated.

So anyway, I got a major pang of this when I came across this museum of old Geocities images called Cameron’s World. It’s just a thematically curated web page of awesome tacky anigifs that once adorned people’s random sites. Check it out and let that wistfulness for the early web wash over you.

hamster

three new things

a few discoveries from my recent explorations…

long stemmed buckwheat, in Big Sur

 

I went backpacking last weekend and fell in love with these flowers, which covered the sunny, drier mountainsides of Big Sur. They’re what sakura would look like as a California plant—with similarly small, pink, delicate bursts of fluffy petals.

~

Gary Kremen, who founded Match [dot] com and was the plaintiff in a lawsuit over a fraudulent transfer of his domain Sex [dot] com (and subsequently won $65 million in the case and later legitimately sold it for $15 million), now sits on the water board for Santa Clara county and his passion now is water purification and recycling.

I found this out during a tour of a new water purification center yesterday. He seemed so passionate and excited about his new venture and his enthusiasm for the topic was weirdly contagious.

I’d like to think if I miraculously became a millionaire somehow I’d also try and do something impactful and super pragmatic like improving public infrastructure…among some other things.

~

I’m reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, and it’s amazing, but also amazingly dense with facts and anecdotes.

Anyway, one thing I didn’t expect her to say was how massive, new infrastructure for renewable energy systems can’t happen without it being a people-driven, cooperative exercise. Of course that wouldn’t be possible without some drastic regulatory changes and new economic incentive programs, but the systems themselves, according to her, can’t be top-down or centralized.

It’s also making me re-think many aspects of trade agreements that until recently I had taken as granted. In sum, I’m not so sure that the so-called traditional trade issues ought not to be questioned or probed in regards to their impact on climate change or what they mean for “jobs”. I’m not taking her critiques and policy proposals without skepticism, though I’m pretty sympathetic to many of her arguments.

We’ll see, I’m still workin on the book.

It's all about REGs.

I *love* a good immersive puzzle. It began with the annual Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt, which I’ve done for the last three years with my colleagues. For that you run around a square half-mile area in the FiDi/China Town/Russian Hill/Embarcadero area while the Chinese New Year parade happens in the middle of your 4~5 hour quest.

Then I heard about the “Escape from the Mysterious Room.” It’s called a Real Escape Game (REG), a genre of puzzle-hunting where they trap you in a room filled with clues, and you only have a limited time, usually an hour, to escape. They hold it at the New People center in J-town, tucked between the floors of anime stationary stores and Lolita boutiques. That one was the first series to hit the Bay Area. It was definitely fun but way too hard (apparently only 1~2% of people got out in time and beat it).

Now there’s a new one—Escape from the Puzzle Room—which is the one I did today. It was GREAT. The crew that I came with, I gotta say, did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of puzzling. They make you work with everyone who shows up (11 ppl in all), and the strangers we got really had no idea what they were doing. oh wells.

Escape from the Puzzle Room

But we won!! (Well, we didn’t actually escape the room, one of our teammates figured out where the key was just as the buzzer was going off. It was close enough and we solved every puzzle soooo…..)

Puzzle hunts are awesome because they make you process information on so many different levels. You have to be a sleuth, and look for clues and find patterns at every moment. You have to remember factoids. You have to be willing to take risks and think creatively. You have to be good at working with others, know how to communicate well, and recognize when and how to delegate tasks or when you step up and support someone else as they lead. And you have to do all that under a ticking timer.

It feels so good to have all of these different parts of your brain stimulated at once in a pleasant frenzy. It’s also a kind of entertainment that’s not based on consumption (of a good nor mass culture), and you come out feeling so accomplished. Win win and win.

Anyway, you should check it out if you’re in the Bay Area, but see if they might also have it at a Japan town near youuuu~

 

film: encounters at the end of the world

iceburg_herzog

I watched Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World this week, a documentary that beautifully captures the indifferent expanse of Antarctica as it peers into the lives of those who’ve somehow ended up there. At times the film was breathtaking, suspenseful, absurd, and meditative. Through intimate human moments that take place in this gorgeous icy frontier, Herzog shows you some of the consequential/inconsequential collisions between humans and “nature”. He guides you through this in his signature narration, delivered with his melodic German accent.

For real though, it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a while that *doesn’t* make me want to punch a wall. And it’s on Netflix.

it's filicological.

oh
fern,
scaley
green spiral
unfurling for 360
million years in quiet
wet forests vivid & outstretched.
they once brushed against the skin
of dinosaurs, ignored as they ran or
walked grazing. then, a 100 mi wide asteroid
struck us. earth dark for countless millennia,
blanketed by dust and death of species but they
survived, when others didn’t. just shrubs armed with
tenacious spores. fractal leaf blossoms peculiar, strong,
and elegant. struck by pteridomania, we encased them in
glass to love and shield from new urban dust that even they
weren’t a match for. so…are we their next catastrophe, that they’ll
again ride out for millennia, outliving us. forever rising, unfolding,

from the ashes?