1/31/2006

Where the Wild Things Are

I have just finished giving a bath to a recaptured and tagged tiger. He's actually a rescue from this morning, having been found wandering near my office. I figured we should just leave him be, after all, he likely belonged to someone, but my daughter felt sorry for him and my husband went to retrieve him. He's a quiet fellow, doesn't say much, but seems grateful for having been rescued from the torrential rain we've been having. He's sitting on the dryer now trying to get warm again. His tag says he's Made in China, but I think he'll be living with us for a long while.

That is, until my daughter gets a notion to save another stuffy from being run over in the street on a rainy Tuesday morning.

1/24/2006

Mostly Cloudy with Some Sun Breaks

A continued hiatus from the Symbols and Stories thread...reasons soon to be revealed...

ODLP seems to have returned to blogging for a bit, which is nice to see. Much like the sun valiantly filtering through the dispersing mist, his 'net presence warms me. His was my 'entry drug' here - I tracked him down when I'd heard rumors he'd been hired on at my old Alma Mater. His list The Village helped me find other FilAm writers and artists of all stripes, many who I've actually backchann'd and met F2F. Amazing Amazing thing.

Like Bino whose Jan 13 post on Filipino Voice was the most indepth I have read in a long time. Among his many points, he asserts

in literature, it has become even more important to tell the story of the filipino-american.

and just previous to this

the other side of the world of immigrant nostalgia is the born-in-the-u.s.a ethnic america. a filipino writer does not have to go back to a world that is unfamiliar (his parents') and write instead about the world where he grew up: america. unfortunately, while there is hunger for these stories, we haven't seen the daylight of these books.

His thoughts are so incredibly validating to me. I don't know how to emphasize this enough. As invisible as many Filipino diasporic artists have felt, I /know/ that Second Gen like me and Third, perhaps even Fourth Gen FilAms feel as if their stories have been overwhelmed by the immigration/cultural adjustment stories of the Firsts and 1.5's. Many of us lack the language needed to express ourselves adequately, sensing an internal Other that has no Tagaolog, Ilocano, Pangasinan, Visaya, Waray to speak. There are shadows of movements, body habits, food cravings that defy the measurements that would balance garlic with vinegar with missing vegetables. There are the unspoken, but hard emotions that come from years of cultural and linguistic translation, burdens of our parent's and grandparent's dream, and survivor's guilt for leading and sometimes not leading the life of plenty they travelled so far to gain for us.

It has been easier to be silent, to simply move forward, hobble with one foot forward and one foot back, keeping eye and ear silent, framing our essential Filipino nature as something past, something not ourselves, carrying a nostalgia that is not our own for a place we have not been. In comparison, our Manangs and Manongs, even the younger 1.5's who've arrived in the last 20 years seem to have the dance down, can be of two minds with alacrity, can express the yearnings with tools and experiences as foreign, and therefore more authentic, than we could ever muster. We have believed the media - that our faces do not matter enough to appear but briefly on TV, that our stories look too much like other minority stories, that we have come to the party too late, wearing outdated clothes of grievances already worn and revealed by other people of color.

To be Second, is to be like the middle child or the middle generation, caught between the older and the younger who somehow have this rapport that defies the middle. My parents and my children tell each other stories yet neither experiences the weight of the words, the responsibility to live up to the stories. Theirs is a honed, instinctual relationship, un-nuanced, and holding the best of the best. Lost generation - how do we find ourselves when we live in relation, in comparison, in between, and often in negation?

We give up being heard, give up expressing, give up shouting into the clamor, and turn away, moving off, and reinforcing the appearance of aloofness, of being the negation somehow assumed or imposed. Until someone turns from within like Bino and asks finally What is your story? The question then is, will you wait, Bino? Will you wait for us while we learn who we are, will you help us find the way to tell you what we know?

Because in silence, we have forgotten how to speak, never learned, never viewed ourselves, and in forgetting, turning back and looking at all that we know, we are overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin, not understanding how to be understood, not sensing how to express what seems to come so naturally to you who have gone before us. We have no mentors we can trust - we know what will sell on the market, but do not wish to sensationalize our experience; we know that to go beyond simply making personal art requires a critic to promote it, but what critic understands the world we live in that resembles, but is not like, what has gone before?

On Jan. 15 Joy Harjo spoke words that come close to expressing the difficulty I have remembering and focusing on my art without despairing the obstacles along the way:

I imagine that I am dreaming after I wake up and pull on my earthly skin. I pull it up over bumps. I am in reconstruction. I've had to re-remember and remind myself that my manner of construction of art comes directly from dreaming, from within dreamtime. That’s how my poems came, my songs, how they are born and come forth. Those years at UCLA and teaching in that kind of atmosphere did not value dreaming, though none of the academic constructions would exist without dreaming. The buildings wouldn’t exist without dreaming, nor would the humans who work there, nor would the various programs exist without dreaming and intuition. Reason and logic is a very small part of it, but necessary, like a ruler, compass and protractor are necessary when constructing buildings. I am being forced to strip myself of false notions of art and the purpose of art, of how art is born, where it comes from, its path and have to reconsider my attachment to certain ideas about the process.

i've had to deconstruct to remember myself again. (A different take on that term!)


It takes strength to dream and strength to remember. To realize I am a reconstruction in motion, that no part, no past is without purpose and therefore must be honored and expressed in well measure with all the rest.

Addendum: The next section of my draft notes is on Filipino Colonization, and given, I hope, the preceding commentary, it's pretty apparent that trying to distill Filipino Colonization and match my experience to history is a bit more mindbending than the earlier sections.

1/23/2006

Splat

A break from the Symbols and Stories draft for a brief *splat* of thoughts before they slip completely away...

Compassionate Activism

Is performed by who? Artists
For what reason? To serve

Which arts? All of them: performing, healing, martial, literary, fine, material, cultural, social...
For what service? Empowerment, social justice, social change, celebration, continuity of heritage, protection, expression, literacy, equity of/on all levels...

To what end? Peace

1/21/2006

Names have stories

Part 2 of Draft notes for Symbols and Stories: Rewriting our past to decolonize our future (working title)

The name I write under is not the name on my driver's license, my social security card, or my water bill. The name I use at work, at church, or visiting friends is different from my writing name. My 'real' name is a dull affair, really, a terribly EuroAmerican name that's likely best for an author of sci-fi or pop romance. It is a deliberately made name, created in a moment when I wanted to shed all semblance of my old life before marriage and create a new one far, far apart from my parents.

When I started sending out work in '97, I realized that people might not take my work, my stories and poetry about being a person of color, seriously if my name was so apparently...well...white. So I rewrote myself taking the name Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor.

In the Philippines, a child is given their mother's maiden name as their middle name, and when a girl marries, their maiden name moves to replace their mother's maiden name. In my case, then I would have been Rebecca Mayor Saxton. Unfortunately, Mayor is often mispronounced in the US and can sound just as Euro as Saxton. It didn't feel to me to be enough of a shift. I needed my name to not only shift the consciousness of my readers, but my own consciousness of my self and my writing.

I also wanted to honor my maternal ancestors, Agutaya and Mabanglo, but I realized that their names were their mother's married names and so on back in time beyond what my geneology research could find. So I centered on my mother and my grandmother's once again, shifting the convention slightly to create a hypehnated name, a nod to my biPacific nature, to Celeste Mayor who remained in the Philippines even when her sons were able to immigrate to the US. And to Anita, my mother, and Maria, my grandmother, who made the transPacific journey to begin a new life. A life I try to capture in my writing.

Next: Filipino colonization experience

1/19/2006

Every place has a story

Draft notes for Symbols and Stories: Rewriting our past to decolonize our future (working title)

(insert Bach quote "where are you from?")

Every place has a story. Every story is rooted in a place. And the roots of my story, at least part of them, are here, in the Palouse, sunk deep into the soil that rolls around making hills and valleys. I came because of the Physics program, the solid part of the dream to be a shuttle astronaut or at least work for NASA. Somewhere around Calculus III, I fried my brain. Then I toasted it in Linear Algebra and scattered the ashes sometime during Thermodynamics.

But the land here has a tenacity - brush grass clings windblown on the hills above the Breaks. Camas bloom hazy blue and thicken their roots beneath. Basalt columns tower then crumble with time and wind. And somehow even as I gained and lost and regained love, suffered crippling, undiagnosed depression, dropped out of college, worked as a secretary and slowly started seeing myself as a writer, my roots buried deeper and deeper until my toes were tangled with bindweed.

Sometimes you've got to burn a few fields before anything can grow properly.

Next: Names have stories...

1/18/2006

Withdrawal Pangs

I got hooked on Farscape long about Christmas time. I'm one of those late blooming fanatics who catches onto the cool things waaaay past the norm. I didn't see Star Wars (the original) until it's second run late in 1977, but I've been ardent about the series ever since. So when my husband tried to catch Farscape when it first came out, I watched a couple of epi's and thought 'meh, what's with the blue chick? And really, is this what SF has come to - muppets?'

Then I saw said blue chick again on a epi I came across while channel surfing and folding laundry. Blue chick is psychic, see, and she has to confront her inner demons...I'm hooked.

Thankfully my cousin had the complete first season (UK version with more footage) and we just finished the series last night...with Zhaan (the blue chick) on board Moya with Chiana and Rigel, Aeryn's out trying to pluck Criton and D'argo of space, and Crais has captured the baby Talon for his own...

So, short of plunking down the buckaroos for my own set of Season 2, I've signed up for Netflix and hope to have at least the first disk of the season in my hands by..say..not soon enough.

Part of the reason I'm so hooked on the series is Zhaan...besides being a cool character (sentient plant, psychic, herbalist, priestess, kick-ass warrior-gone peaceful), she's played by Virginia Hey my new favorite person in all the world. Turns out, her serene portrayal of Zhaan comes from her use of Reiki during scenes. She actually projects the same energy as she would during a healing session /while/ she's doing a scene. Totally mindboggling.

I'm familiar with moving energy for healing or in martial arts, but to use it in the performing arts, and by extension fine and literary arts...it makes sense, but it's something I never really thought about or used. So, it's something I'll be investigating, letting it sink into all the other research on Filipino philosophy and it's application to Compassionate Activism.

1/17/2006

Girl Scout CookieTime

Yep, it's that time of year when parents across the country wonder to themselves - what have I gotten myself into? My daughter is supposed to sell /how/ many boxes of cookies so she can go to camp?? Wouldn't it be easier if I just shelled out the bucks instead of begging coworkers and strangers at the mall to buy the blasted sugar bombs?

It's been a problematic thing for me from the start - by nature I'm a pretty quiet person unless I'm up teaching a class. I hated doing retail, loathe anything that smacks of sales or marketing, mostly because it just didn't /fit/ very well. I'm more likely to say if you don't need it, for gosh sakes, don't buy it, no matter how pretty. I was terrible when I had my jewelry business - I'm prone to flattery, so if a customer liked what I had, I would either undercut my price or just give the pair of earrings away.

I suspect it's a carryover from that old fashioned Filipino hospitality that makes it dangerous to compliment a host at times - mentioning that a particular vase is pretty may produce an awkward moment where the complimentor, meaning well, must now decide if it really /does/ fit with her decor at home, while carefully avoiding offending the host who has decided that the vase should be hers.

Last year I volunteered to help with the sale and ended up sole Cookie Mom(tm). This meant herding not only several second and third graders from site sale to site sale, but coordinating their parents, some who were worse than stage mothers, others who were so clueless as to be worse than useless. In between there was the headache of balancing books and boxes, plus the Doomsday reporting for the whole affair. We did okay moneywise, but I was pretty worthless the entire time and I swore to never do it again.

So this year I'm 'just a mom of a Brownie' who's troop has decided that 200 boxes will get them to do the fun stuff they want to do this summer.

And if you see a Girl Scout out there and you see her mom or dad hovering nearby, buy a box of cookies from the gal and a give a latte to the parent. They both deserve it.

1/16/2006

MLK

Non violence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At the place I work, the office is closed just 5 days a year, and today is not one of those days. Instead we get something called PTO - personal time off - which we can use to take 'odd holidays' off, like MLK or Veteran's day or even Columbus Day. PTO can accumulate quickly and it rolls over year to year and such. In general, it's a pretty equitable arrangement, except since the office isn't closed folk usually don't take these 'odd holidays' saving hours instead for vacations and sick days (which are all in the same pool of hours). We're given the sense, then, that these holidays aren't as important as the 5 designated, and that they can somehow accumulate to trade for 'something better.'

I think our director knows this isn't really ideal as he usually sends a little holiday note on MLK day (and I think Veterans day), something a bit patriotic, the tiniest recognition that there should be something more than 'business as usual.' Today his email served to just irritate me, like a burr under my blanket saddle, a reminder that I could be doing something different with my day. Although, honestly, I'd likely sleep the majority of it, or do odd chores, or catch up on my email if I actually took the day off, ideally I'd be home working at this Compassionate Activism project I've got mulling around my head.

It's not a new concept, and not even likely a new term for it, but I roll the term around my head a lot these days, trying to understand what it is I'm trying to grasp. It's reactionary in many ways, to the escalation I see in a type of activism that is confrontational-in-your-face sort. It's the sort of activism I don't want to see stop, necessarily - change is happening because of how people are speaking out - loudly and persistently protesting the assumptions being made especially by the current US President et al. But it's also not a kind of activism that I come to easily because I sense it is also missing something important.

Tracking along with it has been my exploration of Babaylan and my attempt to grasp a sense of Filipino Sensiblity...there are the seeds of possiblity for a compassionate activism in all the things I find, a way to make societal and personal changes in a manner that acknowledges that the dominant is also suffering as a result of the oppression of the alternative, and that the 'gains' and 'successes' seen hide a series of unmet needs and unaddressed fears the dominant possess. This is not to say that the alternatives have it all and are just being put down because of it - it just means that the old paradigm of becoming as close to the dominant ideals is a no-win situation for the alternative.

My thoughts are by no means fully fleshed out - more research and meditation are needed.

MLK practiced compassionate activism, though, and rode the wave of changes made during Civil Rights. He paid for his commitment ultimately, and in a sense, his life is a warning that the practice should not be taken lightly. For his commitment, I celebrate his day even as I work at my desk.

1/09/2006

Trivia

Won a radio trivia contest this morning...Can you answer the question?

Dan Rather auditioned for playing the voice of /this/ cartoon character. Who is it?

(sorry...can't share the prize...already sharing with the Hubby who helped get the right answer. Will reveal answer in 24 hours)

***The next dayDudley DoRight!