Sunday, June 29, 2014

"A Way of Seeing" (Abayomi Animashaun)

"A Way of Seeing"
(Abayomi Animashaun)

If at night you enter a forest with a lantern—
Flame, risen and warm against the glass—

And the mast of that ship within you is blown,
Caught, and alive with wind,

Pull your oars in from Reason’s sea.

If later within that lantern,
The flame thins and dies,

Owls from the deck’s dark corners will emerge,
Singing like your dead grandfather,

Playing flutes like his wives,
Drunk and dancing upon the stern.

"A Way of Seeing" by Nigerian poet Abayomi Animashaun appears in the current issue of Passages North. His 2010 debut collection is The Giving of Pears, where he explains that "In writing these poems, I saw the page as a sort of living room, where I could go to have a party."  He writes in The Adirondack Review: "One finds it a wonder how poets become so absolute in their rejection of other poets’ methodologies, especially when the doors to poetry are infinite." He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Stonewall, June 1969: "The liberation is underway"

"We are the Stonewall girls
We wear our hair in curls
We show our pubic hair ...
we wear our dungarees
above our nelly knees!"

(Chant at Stonewall, June 1969)

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn. For those of a particular and increasing age, the Stonewall Inn riots, in New York's West Village, June 27-28, 1969 seem an improbable long time ago. 

The police who harassed the bar crowd that gathered to observe the memory of Judy Garland (she had died on the 22nd and a memorial service held on the 26th) were met by Stonewall patrons who refused to show I.D. one more time, including Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender activist. What happened afterward has been called by many names -- a riot, an uprising, a beginning -- but it began, as many historical events do, at a point when the ideas of the past collide with the idea of a future.

Allen Ginsberg, never one to miss the action of whatever kind, was eventually drawn to The Stonewall Inn to make the scene. As it was reported in Lucien K Truscott IV’s controversial Village Voice account:

“... Allen Ginsberg and Taylor Mead walked by to see what was happening and were filled in on the previous evening’s activities by some of the gay activists. 'Gay power. Isn’t that great!' Allen said. 'We’re one of the largest minorities in the country –- 10 percent, you know. It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves.'
Ginsberg expressed a desire to visit the Stonewall ('You know, I've never been in there') and ambled on down the street, flashing peace signs and helloing the TPF. It was a relief and a kind of a joy to see him on the street. He lent an extra umbrella of serenity to the scene with his laughter and quiet commentary on consciousness, 'gay power' as a new movement, and the various implications of what had happened.
I followed him into the Stonewall where rock music blared from speakers all around a room that might have come from a Hollywood set of a gay bar. He was immediately bouncing and dancing wherever he moved.
He left, and I walked east with him. Along the way he described how things used to be. 'You know, the guys there were so beautiful –- they’ve lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago.' It was the first time I had heard that crowd described as beautiful.
Outside the Stonewall Inn, June 27-28, 1969

We reached Cooper Square, and as Ginsberg turned to head toward home, he waved and yelled 'Defend the fairies!' and bounced on across the square. He enjoyed the prospect of 'gay power' and is probably working on a manifesto for the movement right now. Watch out. The liberation is underway.
As David Carter has pointed out: 'Ginsberg's characterization of the change that the Stonewall Uprising had brought about was so trenchant that when the early gay activist Allen Young interviewed (him) for the literary magazine, Gay Sunshine, the only question that (he) asked him about Stonewall was the circumstances behind Allen's statement.' Allen's reply:
'I wasn't there at the riot. I heard about it, and I went down the next night to the Stonewall to show the colors. A crowd was there, and the place was open. So I said, the best thing I can do is go in; the worst that can happen is I'll calm the scene. They're not going to attack them while I'm there. I"ll just start a big "Om". I didn't relate to the violent part. The trashing part I thought was bitchy, unnecessary, hysterical. But, on the other hand, there was this image that everybody wanted to make that they could beat up the police, which apparently they managed to do. It was so funny as an image that it was hard to disapprove of, even though it involved a little violence'." ...

Whatever happens next in the national discussion of same-sex marriage is anyone's guess (in 2011 one opponent called the law's passage in New York state a victory of "the last of the low-hanging fruit"), but more arcane lawsuits and loud accusations of Supreme Court politics are sure to follow.

The passage of legislation permitting same-sex marriage is in a slow-motion, stately procession -- state by state the national (and legal) mood is changing, even as the road ahead still seems a long one. It will be a different world to imagine that what was once too scandalous to speak openly of in a court of law will one day be the subject of that court’s august deliberations.

(1969 Stonewall photo from the Columbia University archives)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Carbon footprints in the sand: the environmental impact of pixel vs print

The twenty-four hour news cycle and the web have their unintentioned benefits (the specter of Ann Coulter commenting on the un-American nature of soccer can be out of one's consciousness within 24 hours, thank goodness.) The permanence of the printed word, too, itself continues to inspire hope in some unusual corners -- the information on the web can't be piled up for later reading-and-tossing quite like newsprint: you have to go look for what you want on the web. but on the other hand, the jury's still out on the environmental impact of pixel vs. newsprint.

The New York Times  ran an article in its Paper Cuts blog about the ongoing question of the web's environmental impact versus newspapers' "dead-tree existence" -- Nicholson Baker finds that electronic server farms may have a broader ecological impact than the processing of ink and newsprint -- and existing research figures suggest a somewhat-frustrating draw about the relative impact of each.

Until the web can be piled up like the Sunday paper in black, smudgy drifts next to the Barcalounger, it seems like newsprint will survive in some form far more messy than Kindle, and more reliably necessary than cable news. Here's an excerpt from the Jennifer Schuessler article, which can be read in full at The New York Times.

Dave Eggers, the fledgling press baron behind The San Francisco Panorama, the much-ballyhooed (and drop-dead gorgeous) newspaper released in December by the McSweeney’s gang, has been making the rounds with his full-throated argument that the future of the news business can be written not just in pixels but with old-fashioned paper and ink.

“There are a lot of things that newsprint can do uniquely well that the Web cannot,” Eggers recently told The Chicago Tribune. “The two forms could coexist, instead of the zero-sum situation that we seem stuck in.”

As it happens, The Panorama includes an apologia for its own glorious dead-tree existence, in the form of an essay by the novelist Nicholson Baker considering “the strange possibility that the transferring of information digitally is more environmentally destructive than printing it.” (Alas, and perhaps to the point, Baker’s article, along with most of The Panorama, is not available online.)

Baker, who is on record as loving Wikipedia and Google but not the Kindle, visits the Otis paper mill in Jay, ME., which was once the world’s largest but was shut down forever last spring. The shuttering of Otis may seem like good news for trees. But the biggest threat to the Maine woods, Baker suggests, isn’t logging. It’s the kind of low-density development that comes when the logging stops.

As Don Carli, a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Communication, put it to Baker, “Hamburgers and condos kill more trees than printed objects ever will.”

As Baker reports, some 18 paper mills closed in the United States in 2009, with more than 34 paper machines permanently shuttered. Meanwhile, the growth rate of the huge server farms needed to fuel the Internet and related gadgets is “metastasizing,” as Carli puts it to Baker.

The carbon footprint of data center server farms — roughly equal to that of paper mills today — is set to double in the next five years. And those server farms are often powered by coal, which tends to be harvested in far less sustainable ways than wood pulp. ...

Right now, there are no good accountings of the environmental impact of pixels versus paper. Until we have a better understanding, Carli said, let’s stop green-bashing the print media.

“It may provide more benefit to the environment and society than you realize,” he said. “Print itself doesn’t have a larger footprint than digital.” Without better measurements, “you can’t really make a case either way.” ...