Manism

Standard

“That’s the problem with classrooms, you can’t tell if they’re on the fucking internet.”

There’s nothing to explain except for the luciferous stare that emanates from every male eye as they take the fast train to self-destruction. There’s a big lump in every man’s throat when they walk into an empty house, and there’s a later experiment that gets tested. It’s primary hypothesis is that there are only so many women in the world that want men as their partners. What are the rest of the men supposed to do ?

Herein lies the rub. These men are subjected to find love in the oddest of places : a pub bathroom, a hardware store, or a prison cell. Men like each other’s company, but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go to obtain the coveted physical intimacy that they lack now that women are on the up-and-up in Western societies.

“It’s so fucking good. Style, everything. It’s fucking crazy !”

It’s bizarre and demoralizing to assume that the men who are left to fend for themselves on this earth are merely byproducts of feminism. They are the lost and forgotten few, and they’re no less human than the women who champion their own cause. Surely, not all of them are chauvinistic pigs.

 

“Manism” as defined by the urban dictionary : The law giving men the right to act as they please.

 

This is the epitome of chauvinism : Believing that the group one belongs to, be it of sex, creed, or color, is automatically superior to another’s.

Can feminism be chauvinistic ?

 

There’s Betty Friedan, the second-wave feminist that loved to hate on men. And there’s raunch culture that Betty Friedan could’ve never imagined. Girls Gone Wild, CAKE, Playboy… Did you know that  Christie Hefner ( Hugh Hefner’s daughter ) is the former CEO of Playboy ?

 

Enough about chauvinism. Let’s spell it out loud and clear : feminism is no more righteous than the Bush administration if the core tenets of it are to hate the other sex and not view them as Human.

National Marooned Without A Compass Day

Standard

Alexander Selkirk might have a few words of advice on finding a sense of direction. We know that the sun rises in the east, and that moss grows on the north side of trees and rocks. Tides come and go. Wilderness camp taught us which way the wind blows.

In honor of National Marooned Without a Compass Day (November 6), we ponder the classic question: What would you do if you were stranded on a desert island ?

Would you stay and build an empire, or would you try to get back home at all costs ?

Certainly, a good book would be comforting (Robinson Crusoe is a personal favorite). Perhaps some music to listen to beneath the stars: Sinatra swooning from the gramophone, the waves crashing near your hut. Being deserted isn’t so disastrous after all. As light filters in from the slats in the roof of your straw abode, count the tallies next to your pine needle pillow. Just 49 days ago, you took everything for granted.

Do you dream of distant lands with “wild caught” shrimp dinners and tropical drinks with woody notes? Or do you savor the rare solitude, because your company, your family, and your crew can’t survive without your solid leadership? You are a rock, you are an island.

Beyond the obvious hardships of being stranded, there is a curious joy in discovering the unknown. We are reduced to our hunter-gatherer instincts, foraging for food like our bodies were built to do.  We remember minute details of our former lives, like the initials carved into the doorframe on move-out day, or the smell of mom’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. These are the things we miss, but they’re also the things we learn to live without. For what is life but an extended memory test?

Peter Pan or Miley Cyrus ?

Standard

short to long
The day I decided to cut my hair short was Friday the 13th. It was a full moon, the door to my subconscious was fully open, and somehow I knew that today would be the day. I made the appointment and took the bus to the salon, where an apprentice would be chopping off my locks. I described what I wanted : “edgy, but not too edgy” and watched the loose strands fall away. My hair no longer holds emotional significance for me–it’s a waste of time in physical form. When I left the salon, mes cheveux were short, straight, and ready to stun everyone that knew me when my yarn-like tangle hung down to my waist.

I decided to cover a shift at the coffee shop even though I was coming down with a cold, because it was better than having to go home and listen to Riot Fest, which was conveniently located at my intersection. I took to the haircut like a pampered dog takes to water–hesitantly, with no goal in mind but to let myself grow accustomed to it with time.

During my break, I spotted two acquaintances (who I had contacted minutes before) imbibing themselves in the bar across the street. Coincidence ?

I went over to say “hello” and saw that one of them had shaved his mountain-man beard that same day. There was clearly something in the air inspiring people to change their outward appearance. I sensed a distance that could only be explained by my new, androgynous haircut, and welcomed the coldness for all it was worth. If anything will show you who your real friends are, it’s a new haircut.

As time went on, I debated between calling it the Miley Cyrus or the Peter Pan. Settling for the former helped me to joke about it. You know what they say about humor : there’s a grain of truth in every joke, and laughing is a release for discomfort. That’s why comedians love to make fun of themselves. It’s their way of making sure they say it before anyone else does.

Insecurity plagued me like a tapeworm, eating away at my self-confidence day by day. But I stuck with the cut, because every change in appearance leads to an inner adjustment. Haircuts bring out different sides of our personalities, and mine is only just beginning to surface. It’s been almost two months since I crossed the short-hair channel, and I must say that the grass really is greener on this side. Less time spent on styling means more time to daydream, create, and inspire. Oh, and productivity. There’s that, too.

If you are or have been contemplating making the cut, I have three words for you : Just do it.

Little Puerto Rico

Standard

How much do you really know about Puerto Rico ? The island is part of the United States, but few people really understand the culture or the territory that comes with it. There are many similarities between Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries like Mexico and the Dominican Republic, but there is one underlying difference : the Northeast Corridor. To discount this incredible region of biodiversity would be to miss the defining characteristic of this geographic location.

I live in Humboldt Park, which is little Puerto Rico of Chicago. It’s all about street culture: street art, street food, and street music. Cumbia and tango blast from the neighborhood joints on the weekends, and it’s not uncommon to hear music coming from jukeboxes as families picnic in the fields of the park.

You should not be afraid of Humboldt Park. It’s a convenient location to get close to nature, play a pickup game of soccer, or go swimming in the playa (much cleaner than Lake Michigan). The historic boathouse is the symbol of Puerto Rican culture. See the kids go in one day and emerge as adults 12 years later; the Puerto Rican community is strong and nurturing, propping up all the children to be proud of their Borinquen culture. Plus, Humboldt Park is just a hop, skip, and jump away from the loop, with an awesome view of the skyline as you hike through the greenery, the weeping willows framing your view.

Try some plaintain in the park, say “hello” to the old grandpas playing cards on the corner of California and Division, and frequent some of the local haunts, like Hunter and Tail and Bullhead Cantina. This is a place to celebrate diversity and let go of your apprehension about people who don’t act and look and think like you do. Just embrace the difference and see what’ll become of the time you spend here.

Waiting vs. Doing

Standard

Today I ventured to the Apple store to fix my computer, which has been on the fritz for the past couple of months. I had a talk with the Genius (who said he was embarrassed to wear a name tag with the appellation) and learned that computers need to be shutdown at least once a week so that they have time to recover. Much like humans, if they don’t get that down time, they’ll start acting wacky. 

Comparing humans to computers is just one sign that time is moving quickly. Can you keep up ? If not, the doers are going to be getting all the worms while you’re contemplating what to wear tonight.

 

There are the waiters, and there are the doers. 

 

Then there are all the people in between who wait in between doing. Tasks take up energy, and sometimes we need to reboot in between each process to accomplish the goal we set out to complete. Self-care and a balanced lifestyle (sleep, diet, socialization, fitness, etc.) make for a high-functioning body & mind.

 

And don’t forget the soul. Putting passion into daily tasks makes you remember them more–it’s been proven–and can eventually lead to a more purposeful life. Instead of finding meaningful things to do, sometimes it can help to give meaning to the things you already do.

 

Are you a waiter, a doer, or somewhere in between ?

The Rat Race

Standard

Some of you may be wondering what happened to the regular posts on this blog. Just another blip on the radar, just another grain of rice growing in the fields of China, just another pixel in a wide-screen television broadcasting the latest sporting event. To be honest, the rat race had me wrapped up tightly in a chokehold. I was–and am–a slave to the system, whether I like it or not. 

Creative flourishing led into a period of intense creative stagnation, which covered me like sludge from the sidewalk as I stood dripping like a pole in the alleyway. It was an all-encompassing dirt, the kind that never quite washes out. Several thundershowers later, the pepper is flowing through my blood again, albeit without direction.

Inspired by My Ishmael, Daniel Quinn’s sequel to Ishmael, I’ve been considering the way we define success. Many people work part-time, some people work full-time. Most people work enough to get by, while others work enough to support their consumption habits. In a world with hundreds of thousands of different cultures and paths, who’s to say that you should work more if you have enough food? People think we should look to the gods, psychics, or gurus for answers to how to live, but the knowledge is in us. We just think of human nature as fundamentally flawed, but it’s not. It’s the system that’s flawed, and we conform to it because we aren’t presented with other options. 

Taking the GRE last week left me with an overwhelming desire for regression. To renounce all my possessions and work on a farm, living off the land and permanently muting the monotonous city soundtrack. To call this a regression is to apply our cultural norms to an alternative lifestyle–I’ve been brainwashed. Such a drastic decision would take a rebirth and a strong resolve to revolutionise my lifestyle. But why instigate change when things are comfortable ?

They say never to get too comfortable in any relationship or job. Ambition is healthy for the spirit. It is. To strive is to struggle, then thrive, in less-than-perfect surroundings. The question is, how long can we remain complacent living in a world where we have to trade our time for bags of food that are kept under lock and key in storage houses ?

That food used to be free. 

Trade in one situation’s problems for another situation and its set of problems. Or, find solutions. Community gardens, co-ops, and vertical agriculture all seek to eliminate urban food deserts. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I live in a food desert. The West side of Chicago has a beautiful park, but no grocery stores in sight. What comes next ? Indoor trellises with veggies and fruit snaking their way through the gaps ? Petitions ? Start-ups ? 

Living in an up-and-coming neighborhood has its perks. There are no obnoxious drunk people lining the street, the park is incredibly lush and well-preserved, and the culture is purely Puerto Rican. People have each others’ backs, and the bus drivers cut you a break when you need it. But after Riot Fest, we all realized that there would be less of the neighborhood spirit to go around once events started to happen more often. Give it five years, and Humboldt Park will be booming like Williamsburg. It’s a matter of time, evolution, and the rise and fall of civilizations. Maybe this place will find a sustainable way to live in this city, some method forgotten centuries ago. The machines are quieter here, so all you have to do is listen.

Natural Healing

Standard

Nature is nurture. Neither of them beat each other in a test, because humans made that test up, and nature will always trump humans. When I was fortunate enough to have a forest in my backyard, I figured out the age-old secret : flora and fauna are the soul’s free green medicine.

We lived in a shabby two-story house in Dunlap, IL, and I remember thinking how big everything was. The carpet in my bedroom was Pepto-Bismol pink, and I loved it. My sister was in a photography class, and once she used me as a model for a photo shoot in the forest preserve. I jumped at the opportunity and begged her to do it again constantly. One day, I was left alone at home for what I was told would be 10 minutes. But when you’re a kid, 10 minutes seems like forever, and there are bigger worlds out there than the virtual one glaring at you from the TV screen.

So I opened the forbidden patio door and ran out in to the forest, taking in all the fresh smells and rolling in the brown leaves like a feral child released from captivity. Then I ran to my neighbor’s house, because I was locked out. Even though I got in trouble later, exercising my spirit was worth it to my pea-brained, selfish, spur-of-the-moment being. It wasn’t so much about getting to the trees as it was being able to take it all in and let it all out simultaneously.

To this day, I still see the forest before the trees. Hiking, canoeing, taking nature walks, and galavanting through sand and stone are the times when I feel most at home. Indoors, I am restless. Unless an outstanding book or movie catches my attention, I’d much rather be outside in the city listening to music, although the latter is unnecessary. Because who needs headphones when nature’s symphony is all around us ?

Reporting from an Abortion Rally in Oak Park, IL

Standard

Have you ever seen a plastic miniature mold of a dead baby fetus ?

Because I have. The abortion rally on June 26, 2013 in Oak Park, IL drew a crowd of about 30 people outside of Dr. Cheryl Chastine’s office. Dr. Chastine’s work as a physician spans from family practice to abortion procedures. She also travels to perform abortions at a Women’s Center in Wichita, Kansas throughout the year–the very same building in which Scott Roeder murdered the 67-year old physician George Tiller in 2009 for providing 3rd trimester abortions. It is primarily Chastine’s work in the gynecological milieu that has caused such an uprising amongst the pro-lifers of America.
The rally was to begin at 11:30 AM, but people posted their picket signs outside as early as 10:15. With no clear demarcation between sides, I was forced to judge books by their covers (or, in some cases, their neon yellow t-shirts) in order to discover their ideological leanings.
Nora, a student from the University of Chicago, became involved with the cause a year and a half ago when she signed up for the Planned Parenthood action program. It made her angry to know that some people want to ban Planned Parenthood’s plethora of services for women. She gradually started working with the Illinois Choice Action Team to support Dr. Chastine’s work and make a stand.
“We’re grateful for her. She’s a hero, not a monster. These protests are actually a disruption to her life.”
Dr. Chastine has had issues renewing the lease on her Oak Park building due to the negative publicity it has attracted in recent months. Some say that she may not be based out of Oak Park much longer.
Brian, Nora’s classmate, works at the Lumen Cristi Institute in Chicago.
“I’d call the ACLU if they fired me for being here,” he said.
A student of the Divinity School at U of C, Brian brought together two of his passions : theology and activism. But were others able to do the same ?
Directly beside Nora and Brian stood Eric Schneidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League. Eric’s father and founder of the league, Joe Schneidler, hoisted a picket sign of a mangled fetus in silence while Eric spoke animatedly about what brought him to Oak Park despite the scattered showers.
Before working at the PLAL shop in Aurora, his hometown, Eric channelled his energy toward the efforts of the Gift Foundation, a Christian-affiliated non-profit focused on fundamental marriage issues. In 2002, he realized that his past had brought him to a turning point, and he became the communications director for the PLAL.
Eric’s parents got involved in Roe v. Wade because they were shocked that unborn babies were not getting
“… the legal protection they deserve as human beings. They are fully unique, developing, individuals. Pro-choice people will come to me with evidence from an embryologist. For every embryologist, I’ll find you a guy that flunked out of embryology school.”
Among the societal ills listed by Eric Schneidler is a flawed culture of sexuality that is no longer life-giving. A change in ethics and morals, he said, is the only way to move forward as a society. He drew an analogy between the abolitionists of the 19th century and the pro-lifers of today, who he claims are fighting for human rights and social justice for all.
Concerning the recent filibuster in Texas, Schneidler said : “America’s a republic, so I feel a kinship with the people [in Texas].” About State Senator Wendy Davis’s speech, he said : “That lady will have her own conscience and consequences to deal with.” Schneidler may or may not have been alluding to the biblical judgment day.
Is it possible to reconcile religion and science, rational thought and passionate sentiment ? Pro-choicers and pro-lifers are people who whole-heartedly believe in making the world a better place. Their views are informed by cultural narratives and personal experiences that nobody can pinpoint perfectly. Change, it seems, lies in the delicate balance between dialogue and action. As long as constituents continue to question their policy makers, steps will surely be taken. Whether these are forward steps or backward steps are for each individual to decide.

This post was also published in Thought Catalog. You can read the original here.

Festival Fanaticism in Chicago

Standard

Festival season is upon us. Now that the sun has come out and the snow and rain have stopped falling, we Northerners have left our homes to bask in the light of day. While some will shed their extra pounds jogging along the lake, others shed their skins and join the crowds at one of Chicago’s many festivals this summer.

From the Taste of Randolph, to the Blues Festival, to Midsommar Fest, the list never ends. The one I can’t wait to attend is the 2nd annual Wavefront Music Festival. From July 5-7, Montrose Beach will blow off the tops of not only Chicago house heads, but people from all across the map. Chicago’s music scene sells itself, but stores like Gramaphone Records and others have been selling tickets like hotcakes to eager gophers ready to get their groove on at Lake Michigan.

This is a massive shindig with the hottest, most talented electronic musicians planet Earth has to offer. Mainstream mavericks like Nicolas Jaar and Cedric Gervais will be spinning alongside newcomers like Nadia Ali and Fehrplay during the July 4th holiday weekend. Rain or shine, the sand will be shaking beneath your feet for 3 days straight.

Music lovers across the world now have something else to talk about that doesn’t involve where to get neon headbands and slated sunglasses. Some of Chicago’s finest will be performing alongside international talent, including Derrick Carter, Michael Serafini, Frankie Knuckles, Ralphi Rosario, Mark Farina, Jamie Principle, and Gene Farris.

For more information about this year’s lineup, visit the official Wavefront page.

Irvine Welsh at Lit Fest

Standard

When I met Irvine Welsh at Lit Fest in Chicago, the stadium was not packed. I can’t imagine why, considering the man has written some of the best fiction I’ve ever read, including Crime, Acid House, and Trainspotting. We watched Jennifer Day ask the standard questions and corrected them in our heads, thinking we could’ve done the interview better, banter and all.

Welsh told us he moved to Chicago to escape the monotony of London life. Dealing with high-end publishers is so New York, and he and his wife wanted a change of pace. Chicago, Welshit seemed, offered a reprieve from the non-stop hustle of places like London and New York City without the confetti and cake of Los Angeles. With all the Irish influence in the city, he felt right at home.
After spending hours in pubs making his liver beg for sweet mercy, Welsh realized he had to get down to business. He said that some writers have the great task of reconciling their socialite tendencies with their creative sensibility, which requires them to isolate themselves for days on end with people who don’t exist. These fictional characters become a part of them–he even creates a soundtrack for each character to inspire him to write from a particular perspective.
Welsh’s next novel will focus on the serendipitous encounter of an overweight artist and a personal trainer in Miami. The trainer will sequester the artist in order to monitor her caloric intake, and the two will learn loads from each other about life, love, and all the rest. Sounds satirical, no ?
Welsh quipped about frequenting pubs for “character building”, but his most accurate remark was about the quality of life in America, establishing him as a social critic and a classic Chicagoan. Progressive taxation, he argued, is a must for a society that wants to have healthier workers and higher productivity. Take that, Tea Party.
In his book Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt argues that progressive taxation leads to a more trusting society that is egalitarian. The crux is that when benefits like health care, unemployment, and time off are similar across the board, people trust each other not to screw each other over for a raise at work or a better deal on car insurance.
A slice of the proverbial pie is available to any and all.
This opportunity makes social reform easier to propose on a grander scale. So the higher our taxes, the more likely we are to lead harmonious lives. Associating higher taxes with happiness is unheard of in modern American culture. Maybe what Welsh means is that it all makes for a fitter, healthier, and harder-working community and that should be Big Brother’s number one priority.
Regardless of whether or not we agree with what Welsh said, it’s important for us to have people with diverging opinions in our country, especially when these people are literary boons and social critics. It’s been years since an author spoke out about anything for fear of jeopardizing their sales.
Irvine Welsh waxed poetic on the formation of the world’s most egotistical, innovative, and productive nation, pointing out weakness to a public with a keen literary sensibility. He also told me that his favourite brand of whiskey is the Scottish Highlander. For his courage, his insight, and his sense of humor, he deserves to stay in America.