Monthly Archives: December 2006

Nouvel an

Vicente Huidobro has New Year poems in both Spanish and French. I cannot find them now, however. Still, we can look at some very nice poems and theoretical texts at the Huidobro site hosted by the Universidad de Chile.

It is sunny today, and it could be sunny tomorrow, too. This bodes well for the year in which I will be in serious training for the Aconcagua climb. Everyone already knows I am going to sleep a lot this year, drink a lot of water, reduce my consumption of dead animals, increase my stock in tofu, green tea, miso, and vegetables, go to yoga more regularly, and climb a lot of stairs.

Also at the mundane level, I have decided to rehire my cleaning service, cut some time ago as an economy measure. But time not spent cleaning the house is time spent improving the garden and reorganizing files. This time, I need.

More fundamentally, however, I am going to emulate Moksha and stop apologizing for having agency. I am going to pay attention to what the Free Slave says about disentangling oneself from paradigms. I am going to visualize myself standing at the center of my own life and slightly above everything. As I did before Reeducation, I am going to simply deal.

In Reeducation, I learned that simply dealing was a form of denial (not feeling enough stress), a form of impulsiveness (being able to make a lucid decision and stick to it), and a form of coldness (being able to relax and maintain objectivity). I have since divined that Reeducation was not about increasing personal power and freedom, but about conformity. In particular, it was about conformity to regressive standards of femininity.

Trying to stand aside from oneself, trying to understand alien conceptions of how one should be, trying to defer to regressive and nonsensical standards, makes life very complicated. Things are much simpler if one remains blissfully apart from such paradigms.

Originally, I did not imagine that it was oppressive to be competent. That is something I learned in Reeducation. Having seriously considered the matter, I have decided that my original position was correct.

Axé.

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Traigo queso de vaca fresco

The contrast between where I am now and where I was yesterday is rather stark.

All of the following events have taken place within the past twenty-four hours.
None seem entirely modern.

I

As I wended my way up the steep, narrow cobblestone street to my hostel in Valparaíso, I saw an old man wending his way down. I thought he was just another passer-by, but he was a vendor from the central valley. “I have fresh cows’ milk cheese,” said he. The round, heavy cheese, and the burlap bag it came in, had that good country smell.

II

Today as I arrived in Atlanta, I saw Saddam Hussein hung on CNN.

III

In my own town, I had some difficulty getting home from the airport. All cabs were busy because it being the end of the month, people without cars were riding around in cabs to pay their bills in person.

A porter, however, informed me that if I spoke to the owners of the airport restaurant, they would have one of their family members drive me home for a small fee.

Axé.

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Valparaíso, el viento

I am in Valparaíso and it is wonderful. Everywhere else I have been in Chile has been interesting, and Valdivia has the best fish market I have ever seen, but Valparaíso ROCKS, and it is beautiful. Evidence of its ultra-hip culture can be observed here.

Later, I will translate this poem by Gonzalo Rojas, on Valparaíso.

PUERTO PERDIDO

Todo es estrecho y hondo
en este suelo ingrávido, las flores
crecen sobre cuchillos, boca abajo en la arena
puede oírse un volcán; cuando la lluvia
la moja, se despeja
la incógnita, aparece
una silla fantástica en el cielo,
y allí sentado el Dios de los relámpagos
como un monte de nieve envejecido.

Todo es estrecho y hondo, las personas
no dejan huellas porque el viento
las arroja a su norte y su vacío,
de manera
que de improviso
yo salgo a mi balcón y ya no veo a nadie,
no veo casas ni mujeres rubias,
han desaparecido los jardines,
todo es arena invulnerable, todo
era ilusión, no hubo
sobre esta orilla del planeta nadie
antes que el viento.

Entonces corro hasta las olas, me hundo
en su beso, los pájaros
hacen un sol encima de mi frente,
entonces tomo posesión del aire
y de las rocas temporales
en el nombre del viento, las estrellas azules,
Valparaíso, el viento.

Axé.

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Pleno sur

Back in Santiago, it is warm, fortunately. Southern Chile is prized and one can see why, but I must admit I prefer Mediterranean climates and larger towns. One striking feature of the south, however, is the number of locals wearing mountaineering gear and Vibram soles. This is not something I had seen elsewhere in the Andes. I am assuming it is also a feature of Andean Argentina, where I have still not been (the Aconcagua climb having been rescheduled for the medium term future, due to scheduling conflicts).

In the Chilean lake region, they are trying to sell little vacation houses, with 100% financing and a 24 year mortgage. “Sign up for the house in which you will feel free as a condor,” says the advertisement.

In the supermarket, people are madly shopping for Christmas Eve. I shopped madly also, buying, among other things, a carmenera wine purporting to have been vinted in Tierra del Fuego (I have some doubts on this). Groceries are not cheap, but cheese, avocados, and wine are less expensive than at home, and fish is fresher.

Axé.

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Friday Night Luxury

Today on this Patagonian isle it stopped raining long enough for a hike in the stunning national park, ending on a wild beach with grassy dunes.

I also discovered a very hip bar with wi-fi, of all things, and I am there now. This enables me to write, over a fast connection, on the very same computer I use at home. It is a rather surreal displacement. I am drinking espresso, but I may drink wine and eat fish. I could drink a pisco sour.

All of these options, in addition to wi-fi, a wood stove, and several non-rainy hours in the middle of the day, add up to extreme luxury. And partaking of these luxuries is, of course, a form of singing. The music in this bar is: alternative.

A note on my ever-shifting identity: people here, although they see me face to face, have as much trouble figuring out what I am as some of my more curious readers. In central Chile I was taken for a French person, an American with Chilean parents, a Chilean from a region unknown to my interlocutor, and a Colombian. On the coast, two people thought I was from Spain, and here in Patagonia, it is generally assumed that I am from Santiago. Do you see? Even in person, one has many selves, and who you are depends in part upon where you are. Proust also said that.

Axé.

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Solstice

Today it is raining in northern Patagonia, and I am drinking tea. One might think this is excellent posting weather, but it is not. Computer connections are slow, and people wait in line to use them.

This not being a travel weblog, I am not attempting to make any sort of general report. I will say, however, that the city of Santiago de Chile is in the twentieth century. It has two features I had not seen in some time:  functioning telephone booths, and movie theatres which are not multiplexes and that you walk into from city sidewalks. The day I arrived,  the day of Pinochet´s funeral, the monument to Salvador Allende was covered with flowers, poetry, and letters to loved ones killed by Pinochet and his denizens.  Some of these last are now being formally charged with human rights abuses.

On the other hand, the newspapers have printed many letters to the editor favoring Pinochet. My favorite one said that the fact that Pinochet´s detractors still don´t like him, thirty years after the coup, shows that they are full of hatred, and should have been  repressed.

I have never been as far south as northern Patagonia. As one might expect, it seems like the far north.  Today is the solstice, summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  I expect it to be fully dark just before 11 PM.  The Pacific coast here looks like the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, with inlets, islands, fishing boats, and fjords.

Axé.

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Toda tu vida sirve…

We watched the news last night and I saw an advertisement for an airline sponsored credit card that accumulates frequent flyer miles with every purchase. After explaining how the card works, the announcer sums things up: “Toda tu vida sirve para acumular millas y viajar gratis.” “Your entire life serves to accumulate mileage and travel for free.” Do I hear reification?

The poetry presentation went well, so we are singing. I am expanding my understanding of the cueca, which is a song and a dance. I do not have speakers on this computer, but it seems that we can hear famous cuecas on the site of the Cancionero tradicional.

Axé.

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Orlando Letelier

It appears there may be some traffic when I finally arrive at my destination, since I will coincide with the funeral of Augusto Pinochet.

He will not have a state funeral, but only a military one. Gott sei Dank, as my aunt would have said, and Alhamdulillahi, as we would have said in my Arabic class.

That makes this evening an excellent time to remember Orlando Letelier and many more. Presentes. Ahora. Y siempre.

The Unapologetic Mexican has an excellent post on Pinochet and his nefarious contexts.

Axé.

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On Trolls and Banes

I

I got a trolling e-mail and was disconcerted. Initially, I was just hurt, because it was in fact a hurtful remark. I apologized, thinking, if you have hurt me, then I must deserve it. Then, I realized the remark had been rude. I e-mailed again, saying, look, that was rude. If you really wanted to raise the issue you raised, you could have done it far more productively. Then I remembered, this person actually does know how to be polite. He does not just need a little guidance, he needs to be called on his presumptuous, gratuitously abusive behavior.

As you can see, it takes me some time to process these things, which is why I do not “just ignore” them. Unless I allow myself to process these behaviors and their effects upon me, I find myself simply accepting them, internalizing them. That is not to truly “rise above” them, and what I do now is notice how they actually make me feel, and talk back.

Trolls are irritating, but in the end, I am grateful to have encountered some. Their words and rhetoric have taught me a great deal about rhetorics of privilege, entitlement, male privilege, and whiteness. These often draw upon the rhetoric of abuse, which, as I have been learning, does in fact have a rhetoric.

II

I grew up under two sentences. 1. You do not have the right to be a person, but if you recognize and submit to that, you will be provided for. 2. Forget that you are not a person for any length of time, and you will be left to starve.

These sentences are a major Bane. They create a series of double binds, since if one is not a person, one cannot provide for oneself. Reeducation retaught me the two sentences quoted above, sentences I had long since forgotten. I am to this day uneasy because I am providing for myself. In order to do that I must be, at least to some extent, a person. I must make my own decisions. I cannot leave everything to chance or to someone else. And yet, I always feel I am doing wrong by being a person, by having my own thoughts.

That is another, important Bane. It is one reason why I was so struck by the graffiti I saw on the walls when I was a child: “Freedom NOW!” “Free Huey Newton!” “I am a MAN!” Freedom was coming, and I was for it, and I looked forward to participating in it, as a PERSON.

III

In the new year, however, I am not going to let trolls, on the Internet or elsewhere, drain my energy. I will not do this even when they claim to be friendly, to be “only trying to help,” or to “mean no harm.” I am perfectly lucid, I am quite good at working with serious criticism, and I do not need to “learn lessons” from random snipers. Although I am not a celebrity, I will take a page from the celebrities’ book. Celebrities know that people just will find something to criticize. They have decided long since to simply go about their lives.

Also in the new year, I will live as I did before Reeducation. I will spend more time in town, on the trails, and in the studio. I will be more involved with my local communities. My academic writing will be less cautious than it is now. I will suffer fewer fools, and I will not bargain with anyone about my own integrity. I will live at the center of my own life, and take authority there, whether the trolls and Reeducators feel it is kind of me, good of me, sweet of me, moral of me, or ethical of me to do so or not.

Life, it always seemed to me, was so easy and simple for someone like me. If you have health, youth, and a living, none of which I ever lacked, it is easy to be in the world and to do a number of things. This, of course, was an unacceptably simple attitude to take in Reeducation, but I really do think I am right about it.

Axé.

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Tasneem Khalil

I

Tasneem Khalil is has a new weblog. This is excellent news. I discovered his old site utterly by chance, and was fascinated for technical, literary, and artistic reasons, as well as the interesting and articulate content. Then the site disappeared, and I was concerned. Khalil is a journalist who writes on, among other things, human rights. Had he been disappeared himself? But he is back, and right on time for my own purposes. I am practically out the door, and I may or may not be posting over the next three weeks. And anytime is an excellent time to start reading Tasneem Khalil.

II

I am going to the Andes, and dreaming of the highest peaks, but I do not really intend to do the entire Aconcagua climb. I am not in shape for that. I do not have the money or the time, nor do I possess all of the necessary equipment.

It costs money to climb such mountains because you need some emergency support staff, and some radios, since you will rise to nearly 23,000 feet. There are many routes up the Aconcagua, some of them quite challenging. The route I would take, and that I may take one day, is the easy one, on the northern wall. It is a non-technical climb on a regular trail. The only special equipment you need there are crampons and ski poles.

I do intend to hike on the slopes of this mountain, and to climb on other hills and mountains near it. And the Andes are like the Himalayas, and their peaks are gods. And I am a masked narrator, but not an unreliable one.

III

A lot of people who climb the Aconcagua have sherpas. Perhaps this really is necessary, but who carries the sherpas’ packs? Once when I was hiking in Peru with some Brazilians, and some of the Brazilians got altitude sickness, sherpas rose up out of the trees, we’ll carry those packs for you for $4 a day.

They had been watching us the whole time, just waiting for this to happen. It was very interesting to see who actually hired sherpas: the straight white guys. These were the people in our group who were, at least apparently, in the best physical shape of all of us. But they had no endurance, as it turned out, and no psychic strength.

Axé.

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