Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Malala Day!!

Today is the first international Malala Day, celebrating the courage, bravery, persistence, and life of Malala Yousafzai. By now, we should all know the story of this amazing girl. If for some reason you don't, here's a very brief summary: the Taliban tried to deny her and the other girls in her village an education, but Malala fought back. On her way to school on October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. Miraculously, she survived. Malala has become an international figure of peace, an inexorable advocate and fighter for education for women, and an all around awesome inspiration to DO LIFE.

As someone who thinks GURLS ARE THE BEST THING THAT HAVE EVER HAPPENED TO THE WORLD and also thinks that LEARNING IS SOOOOOOOO AWESOME AND IMPORTANT AND IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN WAYYY MORE OFTEN , and as a gurl that wants her gaddamn education without no one tellin' her how to do it, I'm really in love with Malala. I am so proud of her. Thank you for being alive, Malala. Also happy belated birthday!!! Yeeee!!! ~~~Seventeen~~

HAPPY MALALA DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Your Logic is Flawed

There have been times in my life when I've been walking down the street and I've thought, Gee, that person sure is attractive. I look at them for a moment, perhaps we make eye contact, and then we pass each other and continue on with our respective days. Sometimes during fashion week I would go up to people and ask them timidly if I could photograph them for my blog--this was the norm during that biannual event. It never crossed my mind, should I find someone physically appealing or good-looking, to say "You are hot" or "Omg I would kiss you" or "Damn" or "Look at that ass" or "Gimme a smile" or...

Because why would it? It doesn't make any sense. In most cases, people don't really choose to be physically attractive; that's kind of where genetics comes in. Of course, the way one presents oneself is a contributing factor, but that's beside the point. Telling someone that they are attractive, or pointing out that you find part of their body attractive, is not in any way productive. Perhaps, one might kindly approach another person and say, "Excuse me, Waffle [in my world this word replaces all gendered titles, everyone is just Waffle], I was walking by and I realized that I find that you are very beautiful so I wanted to tell you that I think you are very beautiful. That's all, please continue on your day, I didn't mean to disturb you." That might be acceptable. Although, really, still unnecessary, because it doesn't really matter that you think that Waffle is beautiful. Their life and yours could go on without you telling them.

But for some absolutely baffling reason, there are certain people in the world that insist that it is their civic duty to tell every person they see that makes their neurons jump a little faster (note: I don't think that's scientifically accurate) exactly what they are thinking. This is terribly confusing to me. I've tried for a few minutes to think of a comparable example, but I can't think of one, because IT MAKES NO SENSE. The bottom line is that there is simply no need to express your thoughts on every human being you pass. It calls unsolicited attention to the subject, and calls negative attention to yourself as well. Any decent human being strongly dislikes a catcaller. Any time someone gives me that up-and-down look on the street or the subway I make a vomiting noise and put on my most disgusted face possible (involuntarily, mind you) and proceed to mumble to myself about "human garbage" and "fucking idiots." One time I was walking down the street with two friends and some random guy said something to us about the way we looked, and I turned around, flipped him two birds, and yelled "FUCK OFF." I do not tolerate this type of bullshit, nor is it my--or anyone else's--responsibility to. It should not even be a thing that we should even have to think about. And yet, it is a pervasive issue in society, especially for women, and those identifying as women, and those who identify as androgynous, and genderqueer, for transpeople, for those who don't identify at all... It's making our streets unsafe and our citizens uncomfortable and sad and angry. All because some jerk decided to open their mouth, when it could have EASILY stayed shut. The amount of energy it takes to not say something is in most cases drastically less than the amount of energy it takes to say something. So really, there is absolutely no reason at all that anyone should be shouting things at other people unless it's a friendly "Hello!" or "Howdy!" or "Greetings!" or "Watch out for that car!" because anything that does not engage the recipient of your comment in a meaningful way is not worth saying. "Hey baby," "Damn gurl," and "Oh shit" DO NOT COUNT AS FRIENDLY GREETINGS. Use your own fucking common decency to differentiate between what positively engages another human being and what is a thought that should stay inside your head. If everyone said everything we were thinking always, IT WOULD ROYALLY SUCK. And you know what royally sucks, not in the conditional? Catcalling. Street harassment. So you know what else? You should stop doing it. Be honest with yourself. If you've done it before, acknowledge your indecency and forgive yourself for your misguidedness and/or ignorance. But now, there's no excuse. No one can pull the "I didn't know it was insulting" or "I don't understand why it's a big deal." Because I just told you. If you continue to harass people on the street, you are a grade-A jerkbag and a top notch fartface. There's really nothing else to it. So just stop.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Frivolity of Human Rights

Henry David Thoreau once said: “I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government” (Thoreau, 1). The concept of anarchism has, over the years, garnered a reputation for endorsing the abolition of all government. In one sense of the word, that is true; it calls for getting rid of the form of governing that is and has been exercised for centuries, one driven by repression, oppression, force, and conformity. In another sense, it is false. Anarchism calls for a society unshackled from the chains of repression, oppression, force, and conformity, and instead one governed by natural laws that do not hinder in the name of order but support in the name of morality. Striking the balance is, of course, extremely difficult, especially when it comes to structuring the economic system. Money is inextricably linked to power, and governance (especially as it stands today) is about power dynamics. The application and execution of anarchism in modern society is contingent on our ability, as a species, to acknowledge and understand our collective responsibility to one another and to work together to rebuild our world to reflect more sustainable and compassionate values.

Traditional economics is classified by goods and services, means of production, and property ownership. Goods are defined as “[products] that can be seen or touched” (Antell and Harris, pp. 3-4), such as food, clothing, and electronics; services are said to be “useful work that cannot be seen or touched” (ibid.), like cooking, sewing, and building. The means of production are the tools and places used to produce goods and services, such as “factories, farms, shops, mines, and machinery” (ibid., 18). As a capitalist country, most of the United States’ means of production are private property, meaning they belong to the capitalist class—those that “can live without working” (Huberman and Sweezy, 24). The crux of the capitalist system is that it exploits the weak for the benefit of the strong: “It is therefore to the interest of the employer [business owners or capitalists] to pay as low wages as possible. It is likewise to his interest to get as much work out of his laborers as possible” (ibid., 24-25).

The majority of the population, the working class, earns wages in exchange for labor. The capitalist class earns profit from the difference between the value of the raw materials that the laborer converts into a sellable product and the value that said product is sold for. Therefore, the capitalist class’s financial benefit is exponentially greater than that of the working class. This desire to keep business costs down and business income up is called profit motive (Antell and Harris, 24). Capitalist societies are often not entirely run by private owners; government ownership is exemplified through public schools and colleges, the postal service, many public transportation systems, housing projects, and public libraries and parks. But in the grand scheme of an enormous society such as that of the United States, the few publicly owned aspects have nowhere near as much power as the many privately owned aspects. 

Noam Chomsky’s (a contemporary anarchist) essay “Neoliberalism and Global Order” delves deeply into the structure of capitalism to dismantle the golden throne upon which modern society places it. He cites the Washington Consensus, which is a collection of market-oriented principles that have been designed by the United States government. The principles are as follows: to liberalize trade and finance, let markets set prices, end inflation, and privatize. Through these methods, the United States was able to obtain half of the world's wealth by the end of World War II. In fact, influential planner George Kennan urged us to “'cease talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization' and [we] must 'deal in straight power concepts,' not 'hampered by idealistic slogans' about 'altruism and world-benefaction'” (Neoliberalism and Global Order, 21). This is the mindset of the ruling class: human rights are frivolous, and money is worth more than peoples' lives. Most politicians aren't quite as blunt, however: when the government talks about “stability,” they are talking about maintaining the wealth of the upper classes, which is of course comprised of the politicians themselves. Capitalist countries' agendas have one goal, which is to fulfill their self-interest. As of 1995, 95% of the United States' transactions were speculative, because the rich wanted their money now, despite the fact that many economic experts warned against using this approach. This resulted in immense wealth for the few and extreme poverty for the many. But the poor did not matter, only the wealthy did. Business Week published a headline in 1994 reading: “The Problem Now: What To Do With All That Cash,” while the government continued to cut workforces and make more employees part-time workers so the companies did not have to provide them with security or benefits. Chomsky reports that “'at least twenty companies in the 1993 Fortune 100 would not have survived at all as independent companies, if they had not been saved by their respective governments'” (ibid., 38). The government has no problem giving corporations a leg up, but when it comes to the citizens, it’'s out of the question. It is very clear that the so-called democracy that is set up in the U.S. is a deception, and that the priorities of the government are ridiculously skewed. 

Infamous anarchist Emma Goldman renounces the notion that anarchism is impractical. She says that the picture of practicality is to leave the behind old (what does not work or is useless) and build and sustain the new. By that logic, she argues, anarchism is completely practical. It is only so vehemently rejected and unpopular because it is deeply misunderstood. She writes: “How is the ordinary man to know that the most violent element in society is ignorance; that its power of destruction is the very thing Anarchism is combatting?” (Goldman, 3). According to Goldman, anarchism is liberty unrestricted by man-made law, not all law. It follows the laws of nature: cooperation, equality, compassion. Man-made law, on the other hand, uses violence to enforce rules that are often antithetical to the intentions of nature. The state supposedly diminishes crime. The average citizen is not the one who declares war, nor is the citizen responsible for capital punishment; the government has the authority and distance from the heart of the issues to cause much more physical damage than any one person could ever do. 

Whereas organization and control are prioritized in modern society, Goldman believes that “the individual is the heart of society” (ibid., 4). We are forced to become cogs in the wheel, and those that do not are shunned into homelessness and poverty. What is society but a collection of individuals? What is the sea but drops of water? Without each individual, each drop of water, the world would literally not be the same. Therein lies the power of the individual, the secret potential lying dormant in each breast. The power we should be encouraged to gain is the command of the self and therefore a truer sense of self within the whole. This results in a greater willingness to contribute to the whole. Instead, we are taught to strive for material wealth, because wealth provides power, and that is often the end of the sentence. But this coveted power is merely the ability to subdue, exploit, and degrade. It is a useless and toxic goal. As Goldman writes, “The state is the altar of political freedom and like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice” (ibid., 7). She says that there is another way. We must adhere only to the laws of necessity—dictated by nature itself—and find solidarity of interests. This will lead to social harmony. When we can learn to cooperate with one another and do not create unnecessary hierarchies amongst ourselves, work will become enjoyable and worthwhile. This aspect of anarchism is in line with Hinduism, in that the latter teaches to not work for the fruits of labor, but rather for the sake of work itself and the pleasure derived from it. All people have differing interests and capabilities, and there is more than enough natural variety among the human race to perform the necessary tasks. 

The ideas of Noam Chomsky are similarly in line with Emma Goldman’s in many respects. While anarchism is often dismissed as “utopian, formless, primitive, or otherwise incompatible with the realities of a complex society” (On Anarchism, 2), Chomsky was able to outline its two main goals. They are to free society from political power, and to have an alliance of cooperative laborers and administration of things that are of interest to the community. He does, however, concede that there are several conditions on which the plausibility of anarchism rests. It is only possible if the identity of workers shifts from the ‘lower classes’ to everyone that is able to work and contribute to society. This segues into the concept that there is no need for superior power or special privilege when private property or ownership does not exist. Marx-Engels theory believes that authority cannot be abolished or else the proletariat will not have any leverage over its oppressors. However, this just creates a new power structure, which conflicts with anarchist ideals. Mikhail Bakunin said: “Formal liberty…[is] an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest” (ibid., 7). By this he means that so-called freedom administered by a body of power is not freedom at all, because it had to be granted and can be taken away by the same body of power. The only restrictions that should exist are those that are determined by our individual nature. The argument that chaos would ensue should society become anarchist is baseless. Most human beings commit acts of violence to gain something, whether it be material wealth or social power; when these two things no longer concern us, why should guns be raised at one another? Why should fists lash out?

Chomsky also itemizes a list of qualities or ideas that an anarchist must have or subscribe to. Anarchists must oppose private ownership, especially that of the means of production and wage slavery. They must believe in freely undertaken labor, for labor is the means of life. In modern society, we have lost the satisfaction (really any connection at all) to the sources of our food, shelter, clothing, material possessions, and almost everything else. We no longer know the pleasure, pride, and fulfillment derived from creating something from nothing with the aid of nature and our fellow human beings. We are so far disconnected from this notion that we doubt its truth, but most that reject it have never tested it for themselves. Chomsky argues: “Control of production by a state bureaucracy, no matter how benevolent its intentions, also does not create the conditions under which labor, manual and intellectual, can become the highest want in life. Both, then, must be overcome” (11). Anarchists must also oppose alienated and specialized labor. Ideally, everyone will contribute to everything, which diminishes hierarchy. Lastly, the anarchist must believe in the abolition of capital and wage labor because, as Karl Marx said, wage labor turns humans into “a mere appurtenance of the machine” (ibid., 10). Spontaneous revolution is questionable; long-term education and discussion is a better route to achieving the goals set forth by anarchist theory. 

While the practical application of anarchism in the modern world is often doubted, there exist many examples that may serve to combat this skepticism. Bluestockings, located in New York City, is a radical bookstore, activist center, and fair-trade café that operates on a collectively-owned volunteer-powered basis. It opened in 1999 and is still operating today. Bluestockings’ website describes how its workforce is structured: “[we] have a variety of roles falling along a spectrum of time commitment and responsibility, rather than a hierarchy of authority” (Our Structure). Volunteers generally contribute one weekly three-hour shift (although some may wish to work more time either in the store or on special projects), staffers do one weekly six- to eight-hour shift, and members of the collective (“a group of passionate individuals who bottom-line store operations together” (ibid.)) work 10-30 hours a week. Janelle Kilmer, one of the current collective members, was able to join the collective about a year after she began volunteering.  The original owner, Kathryn Welsh, had to sell the store a few years after opening it and it was bought by Brooke Lehman, whose contribution was treated as a loan and was paid back once the money had been made. Bluestockings has been financially self-sustained ever since. The store stays afloat through volunteer labor, maintaining regular customers, offering events to the public almost every day, and providing a safe and open space for the entire community, all without compromising its integrity. 

While Kilmer admits that being a collective member requires one to be in “a very unique financial position to be able to dedicate enough time here, either on unemployment, have really cheap rent...or have a partner or parent that helps support you,” it is not impossible. There are hundreds of volunteers that dedicate their time at the store, with only the promise of free coffee and tea, a 15% discount off merchandise, and the warmth of a welcoming community to tempt them. Most people would be shocked by the notion that volunteering still happens and that people are willing to spend time and energy on activities that do not directly benefit them or offer them any sort of financial compensation. Despite general disbelief, non-hierarchal, unremunerative, and undiscriminating environments can exist and be sustained. Bluestockings has a safer space policy, which is a set of general guidelines that Kilmer describes as “requiring people to respect one another, to be courteous of different types of people, to not make assumptions, to not be violent or disruptive or insulting people. Then the idea is that if somebody does do that, they would be called out on their behavior and then asked to stop, or asked to leave for a short period of time. ... We’re more into holding people accountable but also keep in mind that people make mistakes, and also keeping in line with the idea of transformative justice, that you want to allow people to change and not shame them or ridicule them or not allow them another chance.” This policy is one that would do extremely well to be emulated on a larger scale, preferably in all areas of life. Common decency, responsibility, respect, and kindness should not be considered far-fetched, utopian concepts. 

The arguments for anarchism, when viewed through a compassionate, sustainability-focused lens, far outweigh the arguments against it. Oppression and autocracy are often justified by citing human nature, efficiency, complexity of modern life, and a slew of other things. Human nature is used as a crutch, an excuse, so people don’t have to take responsibility for their words and actions. Our words and actions have been, over time, so manipulated by society that we cannot know what human nature is in these unnatural conditions. We can, however, know that our capitalistic, selfish, and narrow-minded ways are inherently and quite literally unnatural. As the film director Tom Shadyac said in his documentary I Am: “An ocean, a rainforest, the human body, are all co-operatives. The redwood tree doesn't take all the soil and nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn't kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share, we call it: cancer.” Our current lifestyle, especially in this country, is cancerous. It breeds malignancy and destruction within our infrastructure, the corruption of important communication and homeostasis, and, coincidentally, has a tendency to result in death (both literal and metaphysical). The answer is simple--all that is left to do is pursue it.

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Works Cited
Antell, Gerson and Walter Harris. “Chapter 2: Types of Economic Systems,” Economics for Everybody. AMSO: New York, 1994.

Chomsky, Noam. “Notes on Anarchism,” On Anarchism. New Press: New York, 2013.

Chomsky Noam. “Neoliberalism and Global Order,” Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order. Seven Stories Press: New York, 1999.

Goldman, Emma. “Anarchism: What It Really Stands For,” Anarchism and Other Essays. IndyPublish: Virginia.

Huberman, Leo and Paul Sweezy. Introduction to Socialism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1952.

I Am. Dir. Tom Shadyac. Shady Acres Entertainment, 2010. DVD.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” 1849.

"Our Structure." Bluestockings. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. <http://bluestockings.com/about/our-structure/>.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

SKINGRAFT

I never posted these either...I even interviewed the designer on my dinky phone and I don't even know where the sound clip went. I m krown bloggr. 

Anyway, here are the photos from SKINGRAFT S/S 2014. 

[Photos by me.]



























Don't you love when I'm not assigned to sit front row but I do it anyway?

Katya Leonovich

Wait this is so funny it's been like a million years since this happened and I STILL have not posted the photos. ....Here they are.....

(The show is Katya Leonovich S/S 2014.)

ALSO: I interviewed the designer, check out the video at the BOTTOM of the post. 

[Photos by me.]


















Sunday, March 23, 2014

How To Be A Natural Babe

~I AM A NATURAL BABE~
u make me feel lyk a natral womunnn

o heh how r u

i m bug

i look lyk rokstar yes?

that is fire on my head

HELLO

Ever wonder how I can do such kickass things with my hair WITHOUT PUTTING ANYTHING IN IT AT ALL? I'll tell ya. But first, an introduction.

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The best way to do anything is not to fight nature, but to work with it. That's why I stopped using shampoo and conditioner and I started changing the way I take care of my body from the outside and the inside. I learned how to conquer my fear of acids and bicarbonates (okay, fine, I was never afraid of bicarbonates). I embrace my past fears (see above). And now we all work together in a beautiful little circle of ~natural goodness.~ I also became vegan, which deserves a whole essay unto itself, but I'll go into it a lilabet. My scientific knowledge extends to basic biology and chemistry and nutrition, with a few factoids here and there, so you don't have to believe me if you don't want, but I suggest that you do because the facts make sense and "nature never wears a mean appearance" (Ralph Waldo Emerson "Nature").

ARE YOU READY FOR BITCHIN HAIR YEAH I THOUGHT SO 
I'm going to assume that over the years you've tried out different shampoo and conditioner brands, maybe switching it up every once in a while. I've had a lot of different hairstyles over the past few years, and I would always dread showering because it meant that there was a slim chance my hair would do what I wanted it to without a lot of manual manipulation. I now blame this partially on the fact that I used store-bought hair products that totally fucked up my scalp's zen. Shampoo is, by definition, a detergent. That word makes me think of a washing machine. Imagine washing your hair with laundry detergent. Doesn't sound like such a great idea anymore, does it. Human heads naturally produce oil (I think it's to protect our scalps or something? Remember, I don't know the hardcore science I just know the basics), but when we use shampoo we strip that natural oil right off our nice lil heads and it goes whooshing down the drown. If you have oily hair (anyone who knew me in middle school can attest to the fact that my bangs were basically oil city), you're probably thinking, "Damn, that sounds awesome." But the thing is, you don't usually shampoo your hair and get out of the shower. You put in conditioner afterward. Conditioner puts other (i.e. not humanly-produced) oils back on your scalp, and then your scalp is like, "yo wait what I thought I was naked but now I'm being smushed by this weird stuff that smells like sea breeze...I gotta get this shit OFF of me" so it starts producing all of its oils like crazy to try and combat these foreigner weirdos, and then you have oily hair so you take another shower and the evil cycle is perpetuated. 

When I bleached my hair, I felt really bad for my little hair follicles that had to suffer so dramatically, so I decided to go "no poo," a method which I will explain to you. You can read other people's articles about no poo if you want some more info. 

Baking soda is a bicarbonate. It is actually sodium bicarbonate. That means its chemical makeup is sodium, hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. That's it. Those are all familiar words. No trizoxythelene sulfate and monoethylate norexizene (I bet if I weren't about to tell you that I made those names up you wouldn't have questioned whether or not they're real) to be found. Baking soda is a natural cleansing agent and is the weakest alkaline/base (pH of 9) so it's a-OK to use on and in you (it's a regular ingredient in lots of recipes). For every cup of water, mix in a tablespoon of baking soda. Put it in a squeeze bottle or some sort of container (they sell empty squeeze bottles at CVS in pretty colors), and shake it up. This is your shampoo. I've found that my baking soda doesn't actually dissolve in the water and maybe it's 'cause I'm doing something wrong, but just shake it before each time you use it if this happens to you too. Once your hair is wet in the shower, use some of the baking soda "shampoo" by massaging it into your scalp (when your scalp is clean, the strands will follow suit). It won't feel like much is going on, but it totally is. If you want, wait a few minutes before you rinse it out and spend the interim singing.

Apple cider vinegar is--you guessed it--a type of vinegar obtained by crushing apples to get the juice out and then is fermented. Hippocrates (yes, that Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine," c. 400 BC) loved the stuff and used it for basically everything. I use it for lots of things because it has so many benefits, but the initial reason I bought it was to put it in my hair. Apple cider vinegar (ACV from hereon out for efficiency) is special in that it's a mild acid on the pH scale, but when it goes inside our bodies it has the effect of an alkaline/base. That's sort of irrelevant here because your hair resides externally, but it will be useful info in a little while. Since baking soda is a weak base and ACV is a weak acid, they balance each other out and neutralize the pH of your hair/scalp, because I definitely don't want a basic or acidic head. The ratio for ACV to water is the same: one tablespoon to every cup. Put it in a squeeze bottle, shake it up, put a lil bit on the ends of your hair (for me the ends of my hair and my scalp are in the same place), let the ACV chill there for a second, and then rinse it out. 

There may be a transition period of a few weeks to a few months of your hair adjusting to the ~naturalness~ but I didn't have a transition period at all. When I get out of the shower my hair feels a little funky in the sense that it feels kind of thick and weighed down, but then it dries very nicely and is soft for a day or two and then it gets really easy to manipulate and play around with. This is probably also due to the haircut that I have, so I can't say much regarding non-pixie hairstyles. I also only wash my hair every three or so days, sometimes more. I'll wash it when it starts to feel a little itchy or if it just looks stupid.

As I mentioned earlier, I began vegan a few months ago and I'm feeling like a rockstar. I'm sure that all the nice vitamins and minerals and healthiness that I consume on the regz definitely make my hair healthier and stronger and maybe even grow faster.

Okay so the moral of the story is: don't wash your hair often, don't use chemicals/artificial stuff on or in your body, sleep a lot (bedhead woooo), drink lots of water (hydration for them follicles), and become vegan. whoa what

Enjoy your weekend!

ALSO: If you have a minute to spare, please check out the fundraiser me and a friend/teacher have organized to raise money for me to become a certified yoga teacher. You'll be helping a sistah fulfill her dreamz so if you can find it in your heart to either share the fundraiser with people you know and/or donate even just $1, however much you can comfortably give, I'll send you love forever and ever!!!!! Just go to THIS LINK:

www.youcaring.com/TTtuitFund

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Quasimodo of Lowell

In honor of this beautiful man's birthday, I present to you an essay I have written about my dear friend, Jackyboy K. 

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A wise man once said, “When I come to Paris in March and get drunk and pass out you may all stomp me to death in the gutters of St. Danis and I will rise going Hm he h eee hee hee he ha ha and be Quasimodo.”1 This man was the late and great Jean-Louis Kérouac, better known as Jack Kerouac. Yes, the same Jack Kerouac that hitchhiked across the country dozens of times and wrote a novel in three days straight while purportedly hopped up on Benzedrine. The same man that was married three times by the time he was 47, at which age he died of an internal hemorrhage caused by a lifetime of excessive drinking. This is the man who has inspired my literary career, who changed my life with endless strings of incomprehensible complete-sense nonsense. A photo of him cradling a kitten holds a four-by-six-inch space on my bedroom wall, and eight (and counting) volumes of his work line my bookshelf at home, making my personal collection 8.25% Kerouac, 91.75% everything else (I calculated that. The percentage is exact).

I've known Jack since the summer of 2011. I will henceforth refer to him as Jack (and perhaps on certain occasions Jackyboy) because we are soul mates and soul mates are always on a first-name basis. When you meet a soul mate, you don't realize it at first. The relationship is fairly neutral. They're just an ordinary friend. But there comes a time when the raw emotion overwhelms you and it becomes achingly clear that this person was meant for you. That there is some tangible, invisible, visceral cord binding the two of you, stretching across time and space and dimensions. That is how it is with me and Jack. When I read On the Road, I wasn't impressed. I was injected with a bit of wanderlust, maybe, but I didn't get it. And because I didn't get it, I didn't get it. I was a member of a sad part of the population that thinks that Jack was a reckless alcoholic womanizer that lived fast and died young, and finds nothing admirable or inspirational about him or his work. It wasn't until I went to a Richard Avedon exhibit at the Gagosian gallery the following summer, which featured several portraits of Allen Ginsberg and his partner Peter Orlovsky, that I was flipping through the exhibition's book at the front of the gallery and stumbled across Allen's (yes, the rule applies to soul mates' close friends as well) poem “Who Be Kind To.” Later that month I stopped at the library and found an anthology of letters written between Jack and Allen between the years of 1945 and 1969, the year of Jack's death. From the moment I left the library, that book and I were attached at the hip. I carried it around with me for weeks. I had to renew my hold on it three times. I carted it all around, whipping it out to show to friends, asking them if they knew who these men were. Most people said they'd heard of On the Road. End of conversation. I'd shove the book dejectedly back in to my bag, silently taking note that this person didn't get it, that there was an intrinsic disconnect between us. When I finished it, I sat on my couch on a Friday night and meticulously typed out every quote that I had dog-eared, culminating in a six-page, single-spaced document. That was the beginning of my love affair with Jack.

The first and inexplicably important thing to note is that Jack is not so much an author as he is a lyrical musician of sorts. His writing is not meant to be read for plot, nor his sentences dissected. His works are like jazz compositions—the reader has to feel them out, ride the rhythm of his syntax and effortlessly absorb the semantics of his word choices. The most common misconception I've found to be believed among the anti-Jack cohort echoes what Truman Capote said about On the Road: “That's not writing, it's typing.” And you know what I have to say to you Capote? Eff you. People like you make me angry. You make me sad, because you're missing out. It's not that you're inferior or stupid (although, Capote, only jerkwads publicly insult people), you're just not getting it. And that's an honest-to-God bummer. Fear not, however; I have reason to believe that the cause of this fault lies not (entirely) in your court, AJCs (Anti-Jack Cohort). I think the discrepancy is rooted in the fact that we are taught, and subsequently communicate through, the Language of Thought. We use dictionaries and spellcheck and we proofread and edit, and before we speak we must be certain that we are right. We rely on facts and data, and we can affirm and disprove each other's statements using facts and data. This is a fair and valid method of communication. The problem is, Jack speaks the Language of Feeling. Dictionaries and spellcheck and facts are completely useless weapons against the cavalry of ostensible absurdity that is Jack's writing.

The beautiful thing, though, is that it's not nonsense, it only seems that way to us, speakers of the Language of Thought, for we are hindered by the rules and restrictions of our dialect, and the society in which our dialect prevails. In Tristessa, Jack wrote: "I realize all the uncountable manifestations the thinking-mind invents to place wall of horror before its pure perfect realization that there is no wall and no horror just Transcendental Empty Kissable Milk Light of Everlasting Eternity's true and perfectly empty nature." Who would have thought to say Transcendental Empty Kissable Milk Light of Everlasting Eternity? I don't think anyone could have. But if we understand what he's saying, we feel it. We know exactly what this looks like. It's synesthetic; if I focus, I can experience the milky white light, and it's...transcendental...and...empty. Try to explain it in a more conventional way and the impact can never be as great, nor as deep. There’s something inherently more tactile, visual, and emotional about the way Jack writes. It’s transportive, almost as though I am Jack and I am the Milk Light and I am the realization, simultaneously. When he said, "Then she was running down the street with her $2, going to the store long before it opened, going for coffee in the cafeteria, sitting at the table alone, digging the world at last, the gloomy hats, the glistening sidewalk, the signs announcing baked flounder” in The Subterraneans, I, too, am digging the world at last. There’s a rush of relief that floods my body when I register what it’s like to sit at a table after coming in from the rain, being chilly but not shivering, just cold enough that my jacket is comforting but not overwhelming; sitting alone, looking around, wide-eyed, absorbing, being aware of how dismal everything is and seeing the unfettered grace of being conscious enough to comprehend the gloom.

I’m often told that Jack’s work is something that most people are into as teenagers, but grow out of soon after teenagerdom ends. After Kerouac we pick up Nietzsche and Tolstoy and Dante and we never look back. That’s just how it goes. Jack is like our training wheels—we learn from him how not to be, so that when we grow up we can look down on others in disdain when they romanticize the Beat Generation, scorning their sad preoccupation with immaturity, recklessness, and youth. How unfortunate it is that they couldn’t move past high school. To understand the misconception here, it is critical to note the stark contrast between myself and Jack. I am a vegan straightedge homebody, if I were to categorize myself. My idea of 'experimenting' is trying the oil cleansing method on my face; my average Friday or Saturday night consists of me reading on my couch, or maybe, if I'm feeling up to it, I'll go to a yoga class. Undoubtedly, I am the inverse of everything that he is. And yet, I love him. Why? How? Wherefore? Because, as I said, the plot lines of his novels don't mean much. He may have climbed Matternhorn Peak with Gary Snyder, but the point of him writing The Dharma Bums wasn't to tell people that they should really go out and climb Matterhorn, too. It's the way he tells his ridiculous stories that matters. How he writes “Leave me alone I am so delicate”2 and I can't help but feel like I need to hug a crumbling flower. But it's also because he says things like, “But the bushes and the rocks weren't real and the beauty of things must be that they end.”3 He doesn't go off an existential tirade and renounce the world in a flourish of artfully worded cynicism. Jack reminds me gently that we're floating in the middle of nowhere and we won't figure out where we are until we touch down at home base once more, but it's a-OK because there's a beauty to the cycle of life that we are a part of, and it's best if we try to accept as much of reality as we can confirm is real, instead of digging our heels into the ground, fighting death to the last second. In other words, pain is not suffering; it is the resistance to suffering that is painful. When Jack began to vomit up blood on October 20th, 1969 all he said to his wife was, “Stella, I'm bleeding.” He had to be persuaded to go to the hospital. He had been killing himself for years, and he knew it. But he didn't fight it. I'm sure he and his friends and family wished he had, but that wasn't the way things played out. He contributed to this world all that he did, and then he left. No heel-digging, no suffering.


There's a reason that On the Road is not one of my favorites—and probably why it took around seven years for anyone to publish it—and that I loved Maggie Cassidy, a book about teenage Jack growing up in Lowell, MA, courting his high school sweetheart (Maggie). The beauty of The Subterraneans is that it's exactly what he was thinking, no editing, no bullshit, and that's what makes it so real. It's time that the myth is debunked that Jack's writing was about THROW EVERYTHING OUT THE WINDOW GRAB A CARDBOARD SUITCASE AND HITCHHIKE TO FRANCE ON BENZEDRINE, because (a) that is completely inaccessible to about 99% of the population, and (b) that actually sounds like a terrible experience. I don't love him because him and I have any particular hobbies in common (I had to slug through pages and pages of baseball play-by-plays in Dr. Sax); I actually doubt we would have been friends had we known one another. (A quick pause to recognize the sadness of the previous statement.) I love him because there is so much urgency in his writing, so much honesty, so much unfiltered this-is-what-I'm-thinking-and-thus-who-I-am-take-it-or-leave-it. And that's how he changed my life. He taught me that there's simply NO TIME to be vacillating and tiptoeing around going "hmm haww should I do/say/think it hmmmm I dunno!!!" and he knew that, and that's what part of it's about. And if I hadn't learned that, I'd be in a paralyzed ball in the corner of a white room twitching and crying. He taught me to free myself, to say “Fuck it, and fuck you” to everything that tries to hold me back from realizing my true self, from reaching as high and/or as far as I want.

I have been called out for writing LIFE, in the same vein as REALITY, both of which supposedly indicate that Jack insists that we must, as my caller-outer said, cast off the veil of habit and [insert cardboard-box-benzedrine-France line here]. An understandable misconception, yes, but a misconception nonetheless. I wrote LIFE because once you've tapped into it, once you really get what Jack and his work are about, you can't help it. You really mean it. You feel like you have to make sure everyone knows that you don't just mean "life," as in "a bug's life" or "life is good,” or something mundane like that, but you mean the entire, urgent, honest, pure, everythingness of existence, that life. And in your urgency to make sure people know which life you're talking about—you feel that it is your obligation, as a human bean, to say exactly what you mean or else you would feel as though you were lying—you capitalize everything, hoping that our language's limited characters can somehow convey the difference.


I often wish that people would take the tilde seriously. This ~ is our good friend, Tilde. That little symbol conveys so much meaning that we miss out on by not using it for communicative purposes. When bracketing a word, such as “the ~future~” the tilde invokes a sense of gentle sarcasm, useful in adding a note of lightheartedness to an otherwise serious word or phrase. If used at the end of a sentence: “please help~~~~” the symbol expresses exasperation, as if one is waving one's arms around helplessly. This note about tildes may seem out of the blue or unnecessary, but it's another lesson from Jackyboy. He has helped me realize, as part of the whole cut-the-bullshit-there-is-just-not-enough-time-in-this-life-for-conventions ideology, that we have so many amazing symbols that we use for punctuation or in math or as accents in other languages, but we don't use them except for punctuation/math/accents because conventions tell us that we cannot do this. Theoretically, I cannot write ?????? in a serious piece of writing, such as this one, because we have restricted ourselves from doing so, and in order for my work to be earnestly considered I must adhere to these rules. Look again. Those question marks tell you a lot, possibly even more than words could depending on what I'm trying to say. They convey infinitely more meaning than any well-intentioned “Oh my God!” or “holy shit!” The ?????? is unsayable, accurately conveying how indescribable a deep, whirlwind, neuron-buzzing confusion is. But those goddamn conventions, man. They tell us, “Nope, if you intend to be taken seriously you have to follow all these rules, and you have to make everything clear and concise, and also you can't use tildes or ampersands or all caps.” ...Alright then. I guess I'll have to go join a knitting circle. People don't understand Jack's writing because while everyone else lauds the MLA handbook as the Gospel of the Written Word, him and I are thinking, “What the hell?? Why all these rules when adhering to them overcomplicates things and makes life harder? In reality, things are quite simple and we humans are responsible for constructing the skyscrapers that stand in the way of attaining, acknowledging, and fully expressing our—and life's—true essence.”


You see how honest-dishonest I am? You see how good-bad the world? You see how we must shelter ourselves from the cold-warmth?” —letter to Allen Ginsberg, December 16th, 1948


I won't hate you if you give Jack's work a second (or first, or third, or twentieth) try and genuinely don't...gulp...like it. I promise. At least you made an effort. But if you refuse to read any of his writing and continue to dismiss him as an invalid literary figure, I will give you a dirty look. Perhaps even a succession of angry glares. Lacking knowledge is not a sin in and of itself, it's when we have knowledge that we choose to ignore that it becomes an issue. So give him another chance. Who knows, you might just find a soul mate.

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1From a letter to Allen Ginsberg, December 10th, 1957
2From Tristessa.
3From The Dharma Bums.