09 December 2007

a good day

I say a silent prayer to calm my anxieties and brace

myself for the hour ahead. I am greeted by a whirlwind

of hair and smiles, a couple decibels above

my comfort zone. We’re here to make “safe

girl space” but I can’t seem to intercept

every biting word that pierces these hearts.

We’re here to offer what the city calls “tools

of empowerment” and “youth development,” but

secretly, I call it love. We don’t fit in with the harsh

discipline of your school day. The disconnect is too abrupt;

the chasm too incomprehensible. I’m building a bridge

for you, but you tell me you can’t see. Why can’t you see?

When all I see is darkness, how do I know not to run from the blinding light?

I once heard a joke that all who survive adolescence have

an overabundance of material to inspire quality

creative writing. But it’s not funny anymore when your survival

is uncertain. I loathe to do it, but I challenge myself to recall

those years when the world stopped with a single word

from this week’s best friend and started with the subtle hint of

a smile from tomorrow’s new crush. I long to hold you all in

a human embrace and take you away to castles in

clouds, but your young hearts are already skeptical of

the dreams I hold up to your eyes as they roll.

When all other hands come close to strike my raw and bleeding
corpse, where do I learn that your hand offers salve and gifts?

“I am not the enemy.” I am an insufficient human

band-aid on a festering wound with no distinct beginning

or end. A strong silent friend helped me step out

of my brokenness. I gave myself a voice by being

heard. I gave myself a choice by naming

my wounds – making them real, but no more or less

real than me. I am here to listen. To search through this tangled

mass and get a little closer to finding you. Who are you? Will you tell me?

I only hear my name when I’m being told to shut up; how do I know that you’re asking for my voice? Where do I find this voice that speaks my truth and makes my choices?

I’m diving in, but there’s no such thing as swimming. I wonder

if that means we all drown together or if desperate treading is

the technicality that redeems. But everyday, I come back fighting

the sinking weight in my soul; getting angrier and angrier with

whoever is throwing these babies in the river. The questions outweigh

the answers, so we explore further, deeper, longer…

If we come out limbs intact, it was a good day.

If you are here to help me, why do I still only see
bleeding hearts dragged through broken glass everywhere I turn?

20 November 2007

no, you're rubber and i'm glue...

Trapped within these walls of (scar)

tissue and pulsing contaminated fluid, I



push myself out of this barely breathing corpse.

Repulsed by layers of obesity marinated

in rejection, disgusted by misshapen and stunted

limbs shriveled under cruel judgmental eyes, I

search rabidly for a voice disconnected from

these corroded lungs and these broken vocal

chords crushed with negativity and un-free speech.

My soul, rejecting her lot, seeking to build a more

“perfect” palace and take up residence, commands



purging – calls it growing pains because

beauty hurts.

I reach for a “self” outside of this decaying cadaver but



closer is derailed by tangents

questioning the existential possibility of this reality

to distract from the deep restrained pools of

unreleased tears that drown my soul as she

impatiently awaits her moment of escape from

this grotesque prison of flesh.

I lift my head long enough to learn that the source

of my decomposition is external; in my haste

I’ve somehow placed unwarranted blame and

punished an innocent bystander for

uncontrollable disfigurement.



deep into myself, denying any ties

to this broken and listless shell, forcing the limits of

how far one can hide. Misled by the uncommon

calm of this amniotic sac-like darkness, I relax and

explore the unspoken longings of my heart.

27 September 2007

and for better or worse, this is week two.

I speak with my clenched fists aimed precisely
at your nose
because it is the only way to ensure pre-emptive
protection from potential blows;
in the blurred lines between fear and respect, I lose
my ability to express this thing called love,
I am told that power is won and nothing
is worth earning if it is easily taken or lost.

I refute with my fingers entwined
in my predator’s hair
because forcing the antagonist into submission is the only way
to mask my shame;
in the whirling fury of rabid eyes and gnashing teeth, I forget
my need for acceptance or affirmation,
I am told that building “street cred” is more valuable than
an “education” in the life chosen for me.

I cry out with the flaunting of my curves and
the flirting of my dance
because the catcalls, whistles, and lewd comments communicate
that people are looking at me;
in my coy glance I hide the tears that
spring up from the well of my brokenness,
I am told that no one will care enough to desire a closer look.

I scream to be heard over the aching drone of
everyone else’s complaints
because your sorrows are not tied to mine and
I am alone in this plight;
in the clear echoes that resonate from
the overtones of my piercing wail, I wish someone would teach me
how we are all connected and tell me I can choose to belong -
I am told I am a leader only of the miscreants and the degenerate weak lot.

I spit biting words like knives or heat seeking missiles
locked onto your deepest insecurities
because making a scene means personal attention when
I haven’t yet learned to share;
in the confusing height of intervention, I silently hope I didn’t
share my dark secrets with you when we were friends last week,
I am told that “words can never hurt me” but I wonder
if “frustration” at your cruel remarks is a part of that paradigm.

I speak with my fists.
Why is no one listening?

22 August 2007

a little bit of inspiration never hurt anyone

The other night, as we talked about the daunting challenges of social injustices and the apathy of the people around us, a friend asked me how I still believed in positive change. I realized, despite... well, everything, I have never stopped believing in the resilience of the human spirit, especially in the face of adversity. Today, a humble yet passionate advocate and leader by the name of Greg Mortenson exemplifies the epitome of that unwavering compassion, I would swear is innate in all of us. Tonight, I completed Three Cups of Tea, jointly written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, with tears in my eyes and joyous celebrating in my soul.

In a news world that increasingly champions the superiority of fact over all else, reporting those facts completely devoid of all emotion and forcing a slow and discreet severance between mind and heart, Relin begins this book with a disclaimer - a rush of reality: firmly claiming that it is impossible not to care, explaining the contagious and addictive nature of one man's passion, and clearly dispelling all misconceptions about the range of one person's efficacy in the world at large.

In 1993, Greg Mortenson tried to climb a very big mountain in Pakistan in a effort to honor the life of his sister with epilepsy. Due to a series of unfortunate events, he failed and taking a wrong turn, stumbled upon a small mountain village that took him in and cared for him until he could travel again. He had studied neurobiology and become a nurse in efforts to care for his sister and learn more about her condition; so he used his skills to provide services in the village which suffered from a severe lack of care as well as practically non-existent access to resources. One day, he asked to see the village school and discovered 82 children writing their lessons from memory in the frozen dirt, out in the open. This town of Korphe had no money to pay the dollar a day for a teacher, much less a school building, so they shared with another village. The teacher came three days a week, and on the off days, the students simply reviewed on their own what they had learned. Mortenson was appalled and moved by this fierce desire to learn that reminded him of his sister, and so without a plan or any resources, he promised to build them a school.

Mortenson had no idea where to start, but through random connections (isn't that how it always works?), he found a benefactor who would fund his first school for $12,000. He went back, ready to build, but was side-tracked by various other villages who tried to con him into building his school with them instead of in his promised mountain town. When he finally got back to Korphe , they told him that they had considered his offer, but before they had a school, they needed a bridge that would connect their village across a very dangerous ravine to the main road. Mortenson returned defeated and sulked until a friend of his benefactor told him to just ask for more money. He was granted his request and proceeded to build both the bridge and the school in fulfillment of his vow. Seeing his passion and ability to follow through on his tasks in addition to the great need that presented itself, Mortenson's benefactor endowed the Central Asia Institute to allow Mortenson to continue building schools in rural Pakistan.

His journey has been far from easy. Mortenson faced constant setbacks due to local political corruption and lack of financial resources. His projects have expanded to vocational centers for women as well as installation of plumbing and electricity. His work became increasingly difficult and important after 9/11 when "a village called New York" was attacked and refugees flooded Pakistan, fleeing the undiscriminating violence of both the Taliban and the American military in Afghanistan. Through the CAI, Mortenson provided immediate relief efforts, focusing on the importance of education while also developing long term plans for his programs. Over the course of ten years, he has managed to plant 55 schools, and is extending his work to the rural destitute regions of Eastern Afghanistan.

Mortenson, who grew up as a missionary kid in Tanzania, is a simple guy with a big heart. He has vision and courage to serve a unique need with all the energy he can muster. He literally has a magnetic personality that draws like-minded people into his inner circle and they serve and protect both him and his work with the same vigor and hope that distinguishes his efforts. His cultural sensitivity and relevance puts everyone in his presence at ease and his genuine manner earns him undeviating respect, allowing him to build life-long relationships and invaluable cross-cultural bonds.

I started reading Three Cups of Tea on the L-train, and I couldn't hold back the tears that rose from even the first pages. It wasn't brilliant, moving prose; it was the content. Here is this man who lives an unmistakably extraordinary life. It's so easy to laud him as "one in a million" or as some hero who we can idolize; but that's the beauty of this story. He's just a guy who found a need, made a promise to fill it, and gave his everything to keep that promise. He doesn't asked to be praised; he wants to be an example. And he is; his compassion, drive, and focus are the embodiment of a universal human spirit, one that rises up in all of us and takes us with purpose and intentionality to those wrong turns where we learn how to make things right again. So I will continue to hope and wait for the day when that which seems "extraordinary" becomes part of our ordinary lives.

...but i do believe in sole-mates.

Every American girl wishes she could take the next good looking guy on the street and turn him into the perfect, caring, wise husband of her dreams. And I suppose it's possible that some man could see in a little girl the makings of the woman he falls in love with and marries. Actually, that's always going to be pretty creepy. And yet in this intensely realistic tale of promise and patience, of foresight and trust, of a fantastical, yet practical love that doesn't seem to have a beginning or an end, it just works. Audrey Niffenegger creates the perfect relationship in her debut novel The Time Traveler's Wife, not because they live without problems, but because they have a picture of how it all ends up, and in the end, they love each other and everything just feels alright.

Causality is rendered obsolete, perhaps because its application would debunk the notion of "love" in the story, as the reader tries to piece together this "chronologically challenged" narrative. We're given no explanation for Henry's time travels that break all natural laws. Often triggered by stress, he disappears and appears - naked, because he can't manage to take anything else with him - in unpredictable places and times for an unknown duration. For another unknown reason, Henry is able to visit his future wife, Clare, many times during her childhood. This is where the story get tricky: Clare meets Henry as a child, falls in love, finds him in her present when she becomes older, and becomes his wife. Henry knows that Clare is his wife when he meets the smaller version of her, but she seeks him out and loves him later on because of her initial experiences with his older self. Henry's influence on Clare as a young person greatly influences who she later becomes; while Clare's image of Henry as an older man gives her hope and guidance with the younger, more volatile version of her husband. They both change the person they see in front of them into the image of the person they have in their minds (and have experienced in some form) and this is precisely the concept that I find difficult to label "romantic" and simply digest.

Clare, especially, is put in an incredibly challenging situation. Her life is built around her own patient waiting - for Henry to visit her as a child, for Henry to grow up into the man she knows him to be from her childhood visit, and finally for him to come back from his various inexplicable and incalculable trips. She endures all this through the love she develops for this man who teaches her about life and literature, while even taking great lengths to defend her honor. Clare suffers through the hardships of every relationship because she loves the untapped potential in the man she's dating to become the man she marries. In real life, people with these misconceived notions are scoffed at and talked about with disgust or elitist sympathy during sadistic dining rituals.

Henry and Clare's lives are intertwined in a way that evokes a shudder like one of revulsion from jaded cynics walking in on a conversation about soul mates. It's almost too easy, that this couple survives years of pain and fear, intermingled with passion and acceptance; because, they know how the story ends. Real life doesn't give us the happy ending so that we can pull through with the knowledge that any unhappiness is temporal. Every day, we re-evaluate and choose to love the people we love, to commit to the people we relationship with, to see what they can be but still care for who they are. And it's the choice to share that uncertainty, not knowing where we're going or who we're becoming, that sweeps me off my feet.

behind these lattice windows

Everyone loves the mysteries of a secret world, locked away in some parallel universe that we often neglect to recognize as our own. We love to hear the whispered stories of shielded lives behind walls and screens. We live for the rush that we get when we learn something previously hidden, accompanied by the soft pattering of our hearts as the realization of having gained a special trust sweeps over our bodies and settles softly in the peaceful parts of our souls. And that is precisely the effect that Lisa See creates when a reader is bold enough to delve into her acclaimed novel: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Recounting a lifetime of ardor and emotion, Lily's detailed narrative allows us to enter into a place that shines with a glimpse of paradise that stands guard against the social oppression that makes such a place a necessity. This sacred utopia - in a culture where a woman is worth nothing more than the sons she can bear - is the highly coveted and fiercely protected intimacy between women. Some create small groups of "sworn sisters" within the local community who act as support systems for one another, but even these exhibit loose ties when compared to the bond shared between laotong, "same olds" - a relationship fostered from childhood, formed and revered to be more binding than family or spouse, because it is a relationship of equality and choice in a world functioning on the rules of responsibility and indebtedness.

In an effort to possibly justify or redeem the choices she has made in her life, Lily explores her lifelong journey with Snow Flower, her laotong. Communicating through nu shu - "the only written language in the world to have been created by women exclusively for their own use" - the two young women create for themselves a world of dreams and promises that attempts to shut out their bleak shared realities. As a middle daughter neglected by her family, Lily finds in Snow Flower a genuine human connection as they both plow through life's hardships in search of an affirmation that will establish a self worth innate in their nature as human beings, independent of their bride prices. Lily runs from paradigm to paradigm as she reconciles various manifestations of love in her life: "mother love" that beat her with a stick while she broke the bones in her feet to create the perfect 7 inch "golden lilies" that would ensure her a good marriage; her husband's love, often childish but sincere, that bridges the outside world of the man with the inner sphere of the home; and her laotong love that encourages Lily to recognize and share the deepest most real parts of her self, but also leads to the darkest, most excruciating pains that Lily will carry for the rest of her years.

In this clearly vulnerable account trust, betrayal, and forgiveness, we are called to wonder about the walls of dishonesty and anger we build around ourselves in an attempt to bury our own insecurities, even when faced with the scrutiny of love. How much do we really believe in this idea of unconditional love that Lily expresses in the opening pages? Are we doomed to be daunted by our unwillingness to extend it? Or is the real fault in our inability to trust in its existence and simply receive it? I believe that See, through Lily, documents this life filled with regrets precisely so that we can believe in a life free of them.

21 August 2007


words, sound, expressing.
.....whispered screams;
.....whispers - expressed.
letters, symbols of expression.

safe in my cocoon of verbalized emotions, tangible
ideas, suffocating beneath everyone else's perceptions. a need
to be understood without my own grasp on... shhh.
.....be still.
...............endure the unraveling silence.
.....let the quiet undress you.
...............stand naked before yourself without shame.
.....the words will come when you stop trying.
...............and listen to the calming sound of...

19 August 2007


i answer the inescapable eventual beckon
to sleep, curled up to gather up my defenses. afraid
to invite bittersweet slumber.

dreading the inevitable state of vulnerability
to the foreign monsters who seek to turn my darkest secrets
into paralyzing nightmares. these powerful non-beings hold
the keys to unlocking a past i refuse to recognize. i swing
from impulsive repulsion of the darkened unknown to a subtle
resigned surrender in search of earth shattering truth.

holding out on the hope that i've somehow outgrown
the lurking beasts of my childhood like tattered pjs and tailored booties.


the light is negative, illuminating voids, invoking terror.
each desired caress reveals a cowering shudder,
a gentle shattering of the arms i used to cradle my dreams.

i lull myself to sleep even as i craftily sidestep the pervading
fear of waking. of the unknown. perhaps an uncertain, yet eerily tangible
presence that manages to trump all dormant fears. my mind is
aware of a pressing need: rest for a weary body - tense, engaged
in a war between fatigue and my own subconscious.

18 August 2007

because it's better than "normal"

who would want me?
.....broken imaginations
.....stolen innocence
.....distorted paradoxical images and dreams
dysfunctional, unable, ugly, fat

you redeem me
because life presupposes a propensity for
change. and that is a reality of hope.

constantly receiving promises of painful processes.
insufficient substitute for a cure-all capsule or fix-it formula.
and the burden of brokenness is never blasted away.
perhaps only proportioned to smaller, manageable sizes.

we train ourselves with tools arduously acquired and seldom
comprehended. and just sometimes, we hold our breath, hesitatingly open
our eyes and in the anticipated exhale, it all comes together.

amidst the flurry of functionality and frustration. an almost imperceptible
shift, negligible across spectrums and unnoticed by the untrained eye.

and i am beautiful.

17 August 2007

when did pretending become so real?

i am over-saturated, inundated, ready to explode. hoping
to simply overflow, "belly pregnant with hunger" bursting
from desire. beyond the point of no return. i release without
regret. vomit on paper and call it: art.
is anything produced from our self-destructive
personalities, eternally tainted bodies - sacred? pure? even resembling
beauty? or do we only generate waste from
the natural processes of our existence?

nothing of worth comes from me. i contort my corpse to fill
spaces, to make shapes, to move in ways i haven't
yet imagined. i wallow in the despair of my failure. screaming
with sarcasm, i seek to validate my own selfish existence.

but weren't we made for creation? for life? ah yes. that "we"
eludes me in my singular attempts. but who will be my "we"?
who is worthy? who is willing? who is courageous? empty voids
appear. openings to engage in the risky business
of an uncertain, un-guaranteed partnership. a slightly
cocked skeptical head is the best defense. like primates,
they smell your fear. don't show your teeth
or insecurity. be true to all you've learned: the world is built on
lies. growing up means perfecting the art of faking human qualities.

the unnatural editing and filtering of emotions we don't really
feel and thoughts we're afraid to have. adopting inhibitions we can't
question because we're distracted by forced attempts to provide
constant antitheses to prove our rational selves that disregard
shadows of an existential nature. i abhor this unnatural virtual unreality.

but i did always like playing the clumsy, less
effective or aggressive and often disgracefully
unsuccessful princess peach.

12 August 2007

To Satisfy a Craving

...but not really.

After four days of craving a certain korean comfort food -- one would think that living at home makes a simple problem such as this easy to remedy. one is very very severely mistaken. There were tears and tantrums involved in the process of acquiring the necessary materials and mannerisms to create the dish that would end the yearning in my tummy. Yes, I am 21, but you know how hard it is for me to give up something I've already set my heart on. At any rate -- my mommy finally made me dukboki. Yummy spicy (but not too spicy because that would be unpleasant) sticky gooey fabulousness.

After the satisfied tummy sensations superimpose themselves on the hungry sensations, my mind has a chance to express itself in utmost clarity: "like, really?"

Don't get me wrong: it's good. Perhaps even just as good as I remember.
But there's something missing. And like every other part of my life, I'm starting to realize that it has simply lost its luster. Only to reinforce that stark reality I spend my days avoiding: growing up sucks.

I'm sitting here, honestly trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to recreate - the feeling of being a child? the nonchalance of not knowing how food is made? What image of myself am I trying to invoke?

I think of myself in the third person as a child.
I guess I'm still trying to reconcile the fact that this person - who is still this routy, unmanageable little kid to me - is getting a real job, finding a real place in the grown up world, perhaps even growing up herself.

Food really is everything.

04 August 2007

the only thing we can really make out of nothing is words

as I go about my every day, a subtle
drumming. rhythm. chant.
"don't waste... don't waste..."
speaks softly in my ears.
on my heart.

don't waste time.
moments of temporality that pass
without notice.
without warning.
without sign.
precious memories lost before they are made.

don't waste talent.
numbed by insecurity, fear of failure, and
overstimulating distraction. creativity caged.
confined to cases of concrete idleness.

don't waste water.
life. condensation of our breath on parched lips
begging for salvation. (but when we inhale
all the oxygen, where do the
two hydrogens go?) that fresh cleanliness we take
for granted. pure, sterile liquid giving
moisture and buoyancy to our joints,
limbs, smiles. (if there is a conservation
of matter that matters, where do all the impurities
in my tap water go?)

don't waste food.
don't be so quick to throw out those
leftovers. we live in a new age where
scraps to one could mean sustenance to
another. the
Syrophenician woman claims that
even the dogs will eat crumbs from the
child's table. Have we really come
to regard our neighbors,
brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers,
as less than our designer
cashmere clad pets as they pretend
an attempt to replace heightened intimacy?

conserve energy.
the world naturally conserves matter. according to some law.
there are no laws to conserve that which makes the matter functional.
leave something for that future we spend
our now obsessively planning for. ensure another day
after this one.

03 August 2007

i watched a woman share her story on tv

she hides in herself.
she fakes a smile.

melting into her longing.
lingering in loneliness.

her broken self withers in frustration. willing
to do anything. prepared
to endure anything.
for glimpses.
whispered affirmations of a romanticized
emotion instead of covered
bruises and shameful scars.

to salvage any semblance of a functional relationship?
she's given up on "love" a long time ago.
to please the one she loves.
she knows she can.
enough to do, take, survive the unimaginable.
the unmanageable.
she hides in her darkness.
for a spark.
but her mirror only reflects the indefinite abyss.

31 July 2007

To the Peacocks at St. John the Divine

an overwhelming peace that
startles. so uncommon on this day.
structure. anxiety. pressure. rushed.
instant blanket of relaxation drops. covers.
lost in this purity.
not albino. not lack of pigment.
presence of white. a cloud defining itself against a darker sky.
forced to stand out. proud to provide substance.

contrasted by the brilliance of iridescent satin in
rich royal hues. perched. watching.
guarding and regal from a rusty pipeline.
"this is my domain."
nothing is more beautiful, even if it tried.
both creatures: not necessarily powerful. still
created to stand out in both directions. perfect
balance. never conforming. don't
fit in. but two parts of a
unique whole. completing each other.

30 July 2007

i sat on the floor at borders

Farewell, My Blood

Does a Generation, once stained, become unstained?
Or does "stain" imply a permanence I
no longer believe in?
Because everything passes and we are
all dynamic. Even the most stoic.
Because I still believe in
the nature of man. to love. Even if it skips
a generation, to stain the next
with love.

28 July 2007

How To Find One’s Way Back From That Place “East of Eden”

Every now and then, I forget what love is.
Then, I plunge into a piece of life to emerge weeping and reeling from my intensely close encounter with humanity. And I immediately recall that gut-wrenching passion bound with a self-sacrificing loyalty that passes for a more tangible version of that romanticized emotion.
This week, that artistry was none other than the work of John Steinbeck.

Chaucer claims that there is "nothing new under the sun." Everything that is written has been written before and will be re-written until mankind gives up that false sense of pride that comes from the spark of an allegedly novel idea. This reality provides an imminent danger for a man who attempts to tell a story that has been told throughout generations since the beginning of time, literally. However, in East of Eden, Steinbeck re-creates that narrative, so ingrained in our ancestry - giving new life to those images tattooed on our souls.

Steinbeck is a master of the fine arts. He does not rely on exciting plot lines or flashy word choice. He does not cater to the new generation of overstimulated youth who require a dominant voice or image to get through the constant noise and distraction. Steinbeck's voice is soft-spoken, but firm. A storyteller who knows that his words carry weight and promise, he paints a complete, detailed picture and walks the reader through this parallel universe that resembles our own just enough to draw us in completely.

Recalling the sentiments of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude, we follow the Trask and Hamilton families through births, deaths, and the existential crises that inevitably come in between. Steinbeck explores and re-defines the boundaries of what we consider "family," as well as how we respond to the blood that runs through our veins. We slowly tear apart and rebuild our conceptions of virtue as we decide if any story with substance and complexity can justify outward displays of malice. Steinbeck's portrayal of a brother's sincere pursuit of affirmation leaves the reader at the beginning of an introspective journey through one's own essential struggle with the immense potential for both good and evil that are deeply inherent in all of us. We are candidly reminded that we live every day at the crossroads of surrender to or redemption from an elusive evil that we will never truly be free of. And so we continue, each day, making conscious choices and determining our own destiny, because "we may."

27 July 2007

The Modern Art Conundrum

"Modern art is inaccessible!"
It's almost like a battle cry from Davey's lips, feeling especially snubbed by the art-elite because he can't quite remember the last time he considered himself a part of any "out" group. (Actually, he just chooses not to remember, but who really considers high school to be the "glory days" anyways?) As I make my way through the disconnected forum of the permanent collection of modern art at the Met, I am trying to imagine what it would feel like to take in this exhibit cold.

I am unable to empathize. Each piece triggers the search for some information I've filed away for this exact purpose. I piece together historical events, personal biographies, innovations in technology, anything to contextualize the work in front of me so that I can gather my own sense of it's significance and presence. People argue pretentiously that art is not created to be analyzed, but simply enjoyed. The reality is that most people cannot begin to enjoy something they feel is beyond their reach of understanding. We are rational, logical beings who find comfort in comprehension. Also, it's easier to command a viewer not to think too much when the object being scrutinized has a recognizable subject.

There are two aspects of any modern art piece that allows me to truly enjoy the art. The first is the relevance of its place in a historical timeline. In the Berliner Gallerie's display of work from the DaDa movement, one sees collages similar to pieces we made for Mother's Day in the 1st grade while learning coordination through the use of safety scissors. This means nothing until the patron realizes that this is one of the first of its kind in the public sphere. Before this moment in time, no high profile artist within or outside of any movement thought it would be a nifty idea to cut out pictures and paste them on a canvas to create a new image. This was considered the deconstruction of art as they knew it at the time.

The second characteristic I like to draw upon for contextualization when considering modern art is the placement of the piece in the creative process of that particular artist. When I first stumbled upon Robert Rauschenberg, I was appalled. The idea of old photos and magazine pictures pasted on broken cabinet doors being considered art was hard to swallow. I was especially skeptical about the goat wearing a tire. However, I am a flexible, open-minded human being, so I gave it a chance - and what I experienced shifted paradigms. Slowing taking in an entire special exhibition devoted to Rauschenberg, I relived his artistic processes: the why joined with the how and what simply became an object of my affection. I experienced his frustrations with his limitations and his rebellion of mixed mediums. I grew to respect this visionary who learned how to make others fall in love (for how else does one sell modern art?).

Now, a diagonal flourescent light is no longer random and silly; it is an integral part of Dan Flavin's large scale light installations that explore the properties of light and color in ways that invoke the amazement of an optical illusion. A felt-covered cello is no longer impractical; tears form in my eyes and emotions well up in my throat as I remember Joseph Beuys' obsession with the material that saved his life when he was shot down during the second World War. This life-giving fabric not only contrasts the shine of the classical instrument, preaching practicality over luxury - Beuys also invokes the memory of concentration camps where human hair was actually used in the manufacturing of this textile.

Modern art does not have to be inaccessible; perhaps curators simply choose to make it so. Until art spaces truly become interactive educational spaces as well, the average Joe will continue to shake his head in disbelief and confusion.
And who are we kidding? Even my friends aren't that eloquent under pressure.
His real words: "I dont get it."

26 July 2007

Turning Perceptions: Replacing Inanimate Beauty With Immortal Power

I was walking through the art of Africa and the Americas at the Met in New York City when I realized: this doesn't appeal to me.
The realization bothered me, so I decided to explore the art more carefully to try and understand my lack of immediate interest. What I discovered instilled a deep respect for ancient traditions and the cultures that still honor those sentiments.

The evolution of Euro-centric art is the refining and redefining of the human body - idealized conceptions of beauty seen as objects to be portrayed. One can imagine the timeline of refinement as any scholar starts from the stylized depictions of the body and travels through the more realistic depictions and the corresponding quintessential images. These representations correlate to the social norms or cultural values of the time. Botticelli's Venus exemplifies the robust figure of the Rubenesque form when a full figure represented wealth and health. Da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci exemplifies that strange High Renaissance phenomenon of the high forehead and pudgy porcelain cheeks. Picasso favored disembodiment altogether, causing viewers to think twice as they look twice at what could be and should be various body parts.

This "other" art of Africa and the Americas consisted of subjects, even depictions of people, who were actors with agency and purpose. Instead of focusing on natural forms as they appeared in reality, figurines like the Mayan monkey god and the Incan wind god showed a different kind of fantastical imagination and attention to detail. These statues were worshipped and prayed to for guidance as well as sustenance. They were given agency and a power of their own, even by the hands that created them. There was a bust of an African tribal queen used as a marker for her tomb. She was not objectified; the image was not even an exact likeness of her. Instead, the bust exhibited characteristics that the people believed all queens should have, and she was then consulted in times of confusion or need and thought to protect and guide her offspring. In another tribe, when the chief died, a small statue would be created in his honor and would be given as a gift to his wife or closest relative. This statue looks nothing like a human being, but is decorated with various symbols to serve as reminders of his work and valiant personality traits. This piece of stone is regarded not only as a continuing presence of the chief; it is even referred to by name.

By creating an actor, instead of an object to be desired, these images invoke a deep respect for nature, life, and humanity in a way that seems to have somehow become lost along the way. The creator even often is subject to the creation. It takes on a life, mind, agency, control, social influence of it's own. The artist no longer owns the work: the subject's identity is more important than the artist's name or signature. Perhaps this speaks to a sense of communal permanence over the individual desire to be remembered and to leave some kind of personalized mark in the world. I walked away from that wing of the Met with a new appreciation for non-Western art. It struck me as totally imaginative because it does not simply take images from real life, but rather is more intricate, infused with raw creativity and vision.

25 July 2007

When New York Expeditions Don’t Meet Expectation

Our entire modern history of literature, arts, and film don't lie... all the time. New York City truly is an impressive place.
The city is still cold and unloving. Everyone is still trying to make it. The rich are still rich; and the poor? Still poor. But at least they get the title: "starving artist." What a world, where a label like that can invoke pride, even when it's just a fancy way of saying "dirt broke." But that's exactly it: New York City is an entirely different world unto itself. She has her own personality and could care less if you like her or not, because she has enough lovers to endure beyond the most biting criticisms. Thus emboldened, I continue.

New York has all the things that anyone who loves cities would love about cities. There is never a shortage of cheap authentic or rudely overpriced eateries, work to be put off or events to provide sufficient distraction, and people. Bright lights and endless crowds are usually comforting to people seeking anonymity and freedom in new urban spaces. I was drawn to the rich abundance of art and culture that pulls me to these lively urban centers, but all the factors that set New York apart as a unique world made me recoil in disappointment. In the same way that students push blindly through commuter schools, just waiting to get out, people in New York (not necessarily New Yorkers) run around as if for their lives and not from them. Granted, the impersonal feeling comes from not only the fact that New York is a commuter city, but that most people are tourists - literally just going through. Any normal human being would lose the impetus to reach out and meet new people in such a temporal environment with little hope for any sense of permanence. And so we have it: a city of brilliant lonely people, living a fast life, conditioned to retreat if triggered by any breed of fear, and so completely certain that they live in the best of all possible worlds.

And who am I to argue? I take the occasional dip in their pool when I need my modern art or open mic fix, but I'll stay in my city out here in the Bay where people aren't afraid to ask for your name. And that's an understatement.

14 July 2007

If I had to describe myself:

I believe in social justice and the importance of social welfare. This is a direct result of my background in academia - focusing on sociology and religious studies; my religion; and my personal experiences with various disenfranchised groups. Through traveling and meeting people from various parts of the world, I have gained a deep value for learning about and from other cultures. I know that I am privileged. I also know that I have many talents and gifts that I feel I can contribute to the world around me, and in a more dynamic way in places where resources are scarce. I am obsessed with learning. I want to eventually go into the field of education, but I desire to first have more world/life experience.

I would like to give up ties to academia and my intellectual identity; I'd like to learn to relate personally to people without necessarily a relationship or connection based on cognitive understanding. I want to learn what people's needs are and how they can be met on a global scale. Academia is a place where we exchange ideas with one another. The American University has been an institution that encourages extensive debate and discussion about various, often controversial, issues in our society. We constantly analyze and asses the who and the what and the how. But even that reaches a point of saturation. We find ourselves repeating arguments that cannot be further developed within the context of this intellectual community. I desire to apply the ideas I've developed in the real world. I am dissatisfied with just talking. Frustrated with academia. I want to commit to something bigger. I want to see who I am away from my cultural distraction and discover my identity based on what I can let go of and what I cannot live without.

I was really moved by my experience both in Turkey and with Turkish people in Germany. In Berlin, the second largest population of Turkish people outside of Turkey, they are marginalized; and frankly, no one has anything good to say about them. That was really hard for me because it just is so unfair how the Germans, and all of us for that matter, have this distorted image of what Islam and its values are. Several times, I would have to challenge my students to think beyond the stereotype that "Muslim men beat their wives and their culture upholds that practice." It was really painful to see how the western world judges peoples we don't understand, because we don't care enough to learn from them. My best friend had a Sufi Muslim host mom, and they would sit for hours talking about religion. He would say "Jesus" and she would say "Allah" and they would just meet each other on this plane of understanding and love. Her practice of discipline and calm compassion really challenged me to rethink my own images of faith manifested in my life.

I think most people see international volunteering as "us helping the world"; but I really see it as me learning from the world. Particularly places in the world I would/could not really encounter and engage with otherwise. I want to use the skills and gifts I have to contribute to something bigger than myself and my limited community. So many truths are lost in cultural translation and I want my life to reflect a possible synthesis of seemingly binary worlds. Like Queen Noor al Hussein of Jordan's Memoir Leap of Faith, I want to provide a way of communicating, sharing, and understanding for different peoples - drawing from similarities and virtues to find a common ground of compassion.

We talk a lot about the simple life. We live in a world where we stack up achievement upon achievement, climbing multiple ladders without stopping to think what building the ladder is leaning on or leading towards. I would really appreciate, even though I know it will be monumentally difficult, that kind of slowing down and listening to the world around me.

10 July 2007

I have a new Hero

Her name is Lisa Halaby aka Queen Noor al Hussein (literally "light of hussein" which is super cute because her husband was King Hussein and he gave her the name) of Jordan.
She's an arab american woman who married the king. it's so hilarious. she calls her autobiography "memoirs of an unexpected life." It is truly a beautiful story.

This woman, who discovers the arab world through her career, who is part of the first class of women to attend Princeton University, who grows an enormous heart for her husband and his people and just learns to love them and see them - she really humanizes the leaders of the arab world and speaks to the stark contrast between the extravagance of royal life and her previously so simple lifestyle.
She really paints a beautiful image of her husband and his country. Her work is a testament to her husband's love and devotion and dignity and all those good things that kings should have. It really is just a thrill and pleasure to read and I love her, deeply.

AND Queen Rania of Jordan, her daughter in law, is currently on the cover of vanity fair for her work with children/orphans. It's astonishing to see all the amazing things Queen Noor does with the power that she has and all the ways she really influenced development and re-construction. Things that we take for granted in our countries, and yet really celebrate the Jordanian culture and speak to the deep richness of their lives through the arts and other things. And how she really cares for them through providing basic healthcare and a desire to balance the economy and.... oh everything. AND she has a wonderfully real and honest perspective about the arab leaders and their decisions through the second half of the 20th century.

I highly recommend.

06 July 2007

poems from the park

After all that is dissipates
we hope that which is left is calm.
Perhaps the peace we seek is a
stage in itself, not the final place
of rest beneath it all. Perhaps

in this world built on fantasies
taken at face value and lives
based on arbitrary assumption
or lies - the imaginary foundations
are all we really stand on.

We fear the confrontation
with the absolute truth. But
maybe we fear what we already
know - there is nothing there at all.


I remember days when love was
simple, but images too complex,
ideal for me to desire.

The days were long and weeks
eternity - and even then, a year
was longer than a promise could

What was this love I wanted?
Did I doubt? or simply desire
perfection? We made, bought, and stole
time. Hoping to trick or
outrun our attention spans.


Nothing is carefree.

delusions of self-sufficiency.
affirmations of existence.
crises of independent thought.

I am free to live and relive my mind.
to excavate and explore new
frontiers of the human condition
to find: I need you.


I tumble, but every hill has
a plateau. for better or worse.
maybe if I turn it off, it won't
hurt. But if it hurts, I forget.
I cry to scream. I scream to
numb my senses. To block out
the world and enter into aural
nothingness. my sound's existential.


I run at the last moment.
when I know it makes a
difference in the world. when it
drags someone else down.
It isn't real unless someone
else hurts.
But it's not like anyone
believes in love anymore.
We'd rather regret emotion than
label it.


Broken beauty. Oxymoron.
of my Id. Is a larger whole
more valuable than a smaller more?
If it can't be shared, how will its
existence be validated? How
many voices ratify abstraction into
substance? Is it achieved or effortless?

Who determines the glamour of subtlety?

If I am what you see - can I determine
how you see - me when you glance
my way and enter into a power
play we can't understand or
control. we're oblivious until we

realize we can win. so we fight
to never play again. we're so
sure that our insecurities can
only withstand (up to a limit)
if we come out on top, barely
grasping the upper hand.

14 February 2007

Distilled Love

we live in a world of broken hearts
half-hearted shoddy romance
romantic notions of far away places
to replace the "here" with an elusive version of "there"

somewhere out there is a fairy tale ending
so i sit... quietly... and wait...

but in this land of shattered dreams,
out knight in shining armor does not exist.
he's taking a kleine Pause and was abgelenkt by billboards of half-naked / half-baked women
wooing him to join their consumer oriented enterprise.

we buy our tangible representations of love
with the blood money we received when
we sold our souls.
waiting does no good.
this is what we call "life."

we break promises and constitutions because
we don't know what else to do.
our bodies roam the dark streets looking for
answers while our tired minds are
too terrified to get out of bed...

a shining light is too easy a metaphor for the
way you stumbled into my bedroom

you are a mischievous adolescent - climbing
through my window, leaving a path of
disheveled bushes and muddy footprints on my freshly
mopped and shined linoleum paneling.

Romance is dead.
you do not offer me songs.
your love does not fly on angel's wings
where i cannot follow.
it does not hide itself with the buried
treasure in the ocean. in my backyard.

you love me now.
you love me real.
you love me.
"simple love" may not exist, but if this i love,
i've known no purer form.

evaporated by the heat of the flames of my
discontented and aggressive emotions.
filtered through the grains - ground close to dust by
repeated self manipulation and mutilation.

you show me a promise of reconstruction.
putting the pieces back together as much as our
human hands can aimlessly attempt.

you are the beginning of a promise that
cannot be broken because it is a deal with my
redeemed soul and the God of the prevailing justice.