Instagram*, Hidden Costs, and the Price of Doing What’s Right

A recent photo I took using Instagram that may now be sold by the company.

It’s been a hard week to be living in a foreign country without the support of family and close friends. Not someone who is easily shaken up, I was a bit surprised at how much I’ve wept since the shootings last Friday in Connecticut. When I’m on the phone with people from home I’m okay, but in those moments of aloneness and silence it’s hard to keep it together, even in the office. What I posted on my Facebook was about all I could muster on the topic publicly:

No, no, no. Tears are not enough, but they come. Words are not enough, but let’s speak them anyway. Prayers in the language of any religion or from none can never hurt, let’s lift them. Holding on tight to each other, let’s try it. Demanding laws, debating cause, all of it, anger and grief and love and compassion, feel it, remember, go forward and make it better. Continue reading


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A Number of Disturbing Events

a poem comprised of quotes from the third and final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney

what are our priorities?
various forms of chaos

isn’t there a risk?
the answer is yes

they have to understand
this can’t go on,
that’s why we’re going to keep on pressing

attacking me is not an agenda

I like American cars
that’s not what you said
that’s the height of silliness

research is great
it hasn’t worked
I’ve made a different bet

you keep on trying to airbrush history here

go back
we can’t go back

I’ve met some of these people
I met a young woman
someone was just weeping

I’m still speaking

the same rules
year in and year out
wrong and reckless
digging our way out
back to our shores

keeping faith
would do us harm

I will fight for your families

because of our character
we have come to the end
I’m optimistic about the future
on the other side

this nation is the hope of the earth
it’s a silent one, and they’re winning

horses and bayonets,
the hope of the earth


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Live from Occupy Wall Street – May Day 2012

I have always enjoyed the fact that my birthday falls on May Day. In my younger years, I felt that it carried both reason and resonance, setting the tone for a life I hoped would be marked by the hippie spirit of the pagan flower and fertility rituals that inspired the holiday. That is, I believed that being born on May Day meant I had some affinity–perhaps hidden but running deep– with nature, peace, and music. My reasons for all of this were vague, symbolic, and somewhat sentimental. Accompanying these beliefs were hazy daydreams of walking barefoot through tall, fragrant grass, being able to approach and befriend wild deer and foxes, and circle-dances with blossom-laden maidens. I also harbored the secret pride of having a birthday on a special day, one marked on calendars and remarked upon by friends, but not big enough to usurp the attention from myself, a fate for those poor fools born on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or another major holiday.

Once I hit college and began to understand history as more than the excuse for commemorative holidays, and collective action as more than the wave at a football game, I found another reason to celebrate my birthday as auspicious and meaningful: International Workers’ Day. Originally memorializing the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, where police violently dispersed a public assembly during a general strike, the holiday has become a worldwide event for the working class to voice their frustrations, hopes, and demands. Demonstrations and strikes on International Workers’ Day are usually hosted by labor, socialist, communist, and anarchist groups. More recently, immigrant groups in the U.S. have rallied around May Day to call for immigrant rights, workers rights, and amnesty for undocumented workers, protesting Arizona’s anti-immigration bill and other draconian immigration reform legislation. So I added justice, resistance to oppression, and social equality to the list of principles enshrined in my birthday, and by proxy, I hoped, in myself. Continue reading


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These Days

That will be $207, the woman at the counter says, and what a discount. Divorces use to run a lot higher, but with the economy what it is these days (and love what it isn’t) the rates sure have gone down, plummeted really. Why, I paid $650 when I divorced Tom, and that was contested (not by us, by the children, and their lawyer was a real piece of work, charged them $300 an hour and that was with the “children under the age of 12” discount), she tells me, and I got the house and the dog and even one half of the hot tub, that being one of the marital assets we purchased together with our shared bank account.

I recommend buying a hot tub, really I do, because you would not believe how it helped me unwind as I was going through those ugly divorce years, even though it was a little hard to keep the water in, it being only half the tub. We do have hot tubs on aisle 19, if you’re interested, and I promise it will be a purchase you would not regret. Tom always said that a hot tub is a good investment, because they tend to appreciate in value since they are always cleaning themselves, the water swishing and sloshing around as it does. I adored that about Tom, how he thought things through quite seriously, made such rational decisions that took account of both the present and the future. But I guess that’s just how men are, evolved to think like that– it’s evolutionary psychology, really. Have you heard about evolutionary psychology? It’s highly scientific and explains just about every disappointing fact about human nature: why homicide exists, why some people have attached ear lobes, why some people are cowards, why men cheat…

Honey, that’s another thing I got from the divorce: advice. There’s a booming advice market, these days, and aisles 86-95 are devoted to self-help, specifically. I found out that Tom couldn’t really help having the affair with Celia (she was our cat groomer, did the cat’s claws in all different colors), because it was just hard-wired in his biology, a remnant of the caveman days. Well, I figure if it’s backed by science, there’s just not much I could have done, though Tom did hint that if I had just watched what I ate a little more (our diet pills are on aisle 270), invested in some of those new skirts with the see-through backs (aisle 532), and kept the leaves out of the hot tub (nets on aisle 900 but chain saws for the trees solves the problem permanently, and those are on aisle 1002), then maybe we would have had a shot, and Celia wouldn’t have seemed so attractive.

Bless her heart, she can’t help the fact that her bust-to-waist-to-brain ratio is so ideal, I know that now, but at the time it did seem unjust and I was tempted to take it out on her in an extra-legal fashion, but I just came here instead and went straight to aisle 2474, for a limited-time-only, therapeutic murder simulation with our state-of-the-art holographic technology, and you’re in luck because that offer is still available. I can give you a discount of 20% if you pay now, the first of 12 easy installments of $29.99 (sales tax included). These days, you can never underestimate the power of a virtual homicidal experience to prevent a real-life catastrophe.

It was just lovely chatting with you today, and I hope you enjoy your purchase. No returns on divorces, of course. Here, don’t forget your receipt. You can write some of this off (taxes, dear, always pay your taxes).

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Pick a Side: Kony 2012 and the problem of “Good” vs. “Evil”

We all know who Joseph Kony is now. Does it matter how and why? And what does it say about us that it took Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video to get us here? 

Social media and identity

A few days ago I watched Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video and felt a strong reaction swell within me– partially cerebral, partially emotional, complicated, complex, and even contradictory. I wondered how I’d fit this reaction on my Facebook and Twitter. I’d have just a sentence or 140 characters in which to express myself. I’d place a hashtag to send the small fish of my thought into a teeming ocean of ideas, most likely to be lost and ignored. And that’s the problem: Kony 2012 makes us believe that activism is just a click away. Nothing more is required of us than to be “aware,” to accept the message without question, and to pass it along without truly engaging with the ideas presented. Continue reading


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Show Me Where It Hurts

The foundation of a house in the Lower 9th Ward left as monument and testament to the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina









Three weeks in a row, after we
have made the obligatory trips
to Café du Monde and the French Quarter,
I drive visitors to the Lower Ninth Ward
to see the empty lots and abandoned homes. Continue reading


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2011 in review

Happy 2012, everyone! WordPress sent me this cool report about my blog in 2011. Any interesting fact: most of my visitors are from the United States, but they’re followed closely by followers in Finland and Tanzania! Cheers to my Finnish friends :)

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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